Peak oil and the ignorance of crowds

crowd looking up

As our civilization proceeds down the slope of the post-peak-oil curve, global trade will become more and more expensive, so our economies will naturally localize. The energy-efficiency benefits of localized economies are obvious to us, but there are also social and even psycho-social benefits that aren’t often contemplated. I had the good fortune to work with respected crowd-behavior expert … [Read more...]

Growing up from the need to always grow

economic growth

In the Western World, growth is our mantra.  Our schools, our religions, our governments, our businesses, all our institutions bombard us with the same message that to be all that we are meant to be means we have to grow. Growth in and of itself can be a good thing, but unfortunately the growth that can be our doom is material growth, which has limits. So instead of thinking for … [Read more...]

The answer to climate change

this is climate change screen

When I give these climate talks, by the end people are typically agitated and full of questions. “What technology is going to fix this?” “How are we ever get people to agree on a solution?” “I’m just one person, what could I possibly do that would make an impact?” My answers often catch people a little off guard: I try to instill that more important than any technical fix is a cultural change, … [Read more...]

The economy isn’t coming back

recession space

Presently Americans wait with bated breath, watching sales numbers and unemployment statistics, grasping for signs that an economic recovery is underway. We search for signals that indicate we’re growing, that there will be a job for everyone who wants one, and that the United States will resume the prosperity and standing in the world it once had. We wait in vain. The economy isn’t … [Read more...]

Faith communities, foodsheds and the future

Holy Nativity Garden

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. -- Joel 2:26 We are the transformers of Earth. Our whole being, and the flights and falls of our love, enable us to undertake this task. -- Rainer Maria Rilke For the past six years I have been writing profusely about the challenges the earth community is encountering in the … [Read more...]

5 reasons why the US will never again see economic growth

Photo:  dno1967b/Flickr.

Former Treasury Secretary and current Obama Economic Adviser Larry Summers is right to blast the austerity programs that have provoked massive protests in Europe while failing to halt the decline of EU economies or stabilize the shaky Euro. Yet Summers is wrong when he wrote recently in the Washington Post that in the U.S. any non-austerity or stimulus programs will be able to come up with … [Read more...]

Degrowth offers alternative to global consumer culture

super sale sign

If everyone lived like the average American, according to the Global Footprint Network, the Earth could sustain only 1.7 billion people -- a quarter of today's population -- without undermining the planet's physical and biological systems. Over-consumption in industrialized societies and among developing world elites causes lasting environmental and human impacts. In his chapter, "The Path to … [Read more...]

Manifesto for a post-growth economy

sunset with kite

Editor's introduction: Gus Speth has been a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advisor to presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the head of the United Nations’ largest international assistance program, and Dean at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “Right at the time I should be settling into a rosy retirement,” Speth says, “I find I am … [Read more...]

A Labor Day without jobs

Labor Day Parade 1909

Even if you recognize that Labor Day wasn't always just a day off from work to spend on cookouts and watching sports on TV, you may think of it as another bland holiday dedicated to celebrating something people don't care much about. Namely, work. A little history reminds us that labor leaders pushed through the holiday to further their cause and pressured President Grover Cleveland to sign it … [Read more...]

The dark side of the “Green Economy”

protesters reject greed economy

Everywhere you look these days, things are turning green. In Chiapas, Mexico, indigenous farmers are being paid to protect the last vast stretch of rainforest in Mesoamerica. In the Brazilian Amazon, peasant families are given a monthly “green basket” of basic food staples to allow them to get by without cutting down trees. In Kenya, small farmers who plant climate-hardy trees and protect green … [Read more...]