Largely ignored or summarily dismissed by politicians, economists and policy makers of the time it did, however, resonate with a small section of society. In New Zealand, for example, it helped spawn the World’s first green political party – the New Zealand Values Party. In it’s 1975 election manifesto the Values Party made an audacious claim;
“The real tragedy of New Zealand life is not that the Government is ignoring the country’s problems – it is perpetuating them.”This, of course, was not particular to New Zealand. It was of concern world-wide. It (the political reality) is also one of the major reasons that community workers must understand the problems of continued faith in growth as the means to social progress.
Since those days during the 1970s some economists have begun to realise that growth is neither sustainable nor desirable. Yet the mantra of “growth at all costs” continues to pervade political and social policy thinking. Community workers, too, can become ensnared in the trap.
As community workers we set up job creation projects, we assist people to write their Curriculum Vitae, we mobilise communities to oppose new casino developments and a myriad of other projects. If we do so without understanding that the underlying basis of modern economic society rests upon a fragile shell, then all we are doing is creating false hope.
We must face it. Growth:
- no longer creates jobs,
- promotes environmental disasters (e.g. the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010),
- stimulates financial collapse (e.g. the 2007-08 monetary crisis),
- is the fundamental cause of global climate change,
- exacerbates the gap between rich and poor,
- concentrates economic wealth and power,
- tramples upon indigenous peoples rights,
- despoils natural wonders and ecosystems,
- promotes a false sense of well-being via consumerism,
- gives rise to resource wars,
- rewards innovation in technology at the expense of human well-being.
When the above is understood it becomes clear as to why community workers must understand the problems associated with continued growth.
Those most affected by the down-side of growth are, and will be, those with least influence, those with little or no economic pull, those who are marginalised and those who have already been dispossessed by growth’s land and resource grabs.
In short, the very communities that community workers most care for and work with and alongside.
- Douthwaite, Richard. The Growth Illusion, 1999.
- Hamilton, C. & Deniss, R. Affluenza, 2000
- Heinberg, Richard. The End of Growth, 2011
- Meadows, D & D. Randers, J. Limits to Growth: The 30-year update, 2007
- Monbiot, George. Heat: How to stop the planet burning, 2006
- Randers, Jorgen. 2052: A global forecast for the next 40 years, 2012
- Schumacher, E. F. Small Is Beautiful, 1999
- Shiva, Vandana. Making Peace With The Earth, 2012
- Trainer, Ted. The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World. 2010.