The World Economy Is Based On Growth

Following on Mark Robinowitz’s concern about the lack of serious action to address climate change and plans for Eugene to continue growing on top of farmland (EW 12/29), people need to understand how fossil fuels differ from wind and solar energy. There’s a reason why in spite of James Hansen’s first explaining climate change to Congress in 1988, we are now burning more fossil fuels than ever.

Fossil fuels are very good at doing countless things for which electricity (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear etc.) is less well suited. Whether it’s mining, metals processing, manufacturing, aviation, shipping or agriculture, it is not at all clear how wind and solar will replace fossil fuels.

Compounding matters, the entire world economy is structured so that it must continue growing or it will collapse. Thus our leaders constantly strive for growth, growth that will not continue on this finite planet.

We must come to terms with the reality that we will stop using fossil fuels as they deplete, and that growth will stop at that time. People won’t like it, but geology and the laws of physics don’t care how people feel. The sooner we accept this, the more likely we can construct a truly sustainable world that we will find tolerable, rather than an unpleasant one forced on us by reality.

Robert Bolman