How Economic Growth Has Become Anti-Life
It is very rare that mainstream media publish even commentary that tells us the brutal truth about the folly of our worship of economic growth. The commentary featured on today’s Wall of Fame was published last month, but it is exceptional; I don’t want you to miss it. Nor do I want Vandana Shiva to go another day without our appreciation and applause.
Dr. Shiva was well-schooled in physics and the ethics of science. Perhaps her lack of formal training in economics explains why she can see so clearly the failings of our economic beliefs.
Shiva delivers a one-two-three punch in this op-ed published in the UK Guardian:
1. “…gross domestic product (GDP), which is supposed to measure the wealth of nations, has emerged as both the most powerful number and dominant concept in our times.”
2. “Limitless growth is the fantasy of economists, businesses and politicians.”
3. “However, economic growth hides the poverty it creates through the destruction of nature, which in turn leads to communities lacking the capacity to provide for themselves.”
She goes on to offer a very brief history of our love affair with GDP, and explains succinctly why it has veered us off course:
“…’growth’ measures the conversion of nature into cash, and commons into commodities.”
“A living forest does not contribute to growth, but when trees are cut down and sold as timber, we have growth. Healthy societies and communities do not contribute to growth, but disease creates growth through, for example, the sale of patented medicine. Water available as a commons shared freely and protected by all provides for all.
However, it does not create growth. But when Coca-Cola sets up a plant, mines the water and fills plastic bottles with it, the economy grows.”
Continuing this Coca-Cola water-mining example, Shiva offers an observation that rarely finds its way into print:
“But this growth is based on creating poverty – both for nature and local communities. Water extracted beyond nature’s capacity to renew and recharge creates a water famine. Women are forced to walk longer distances looking for drinking water.”
Read her commentary for the full story and to understand how she draws this conclusion:
“The dominant model of economic development has in fact become anti-life. When economies are measured only in terms of money flow, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And the rich might be rich in monetary terms – but they too are poor in the wider context of what being human means.”
I'd like to thank Vandana Shiva for her tireless crusade to acquaint us with truths like these, and I thank The Guardian and Natalie Hanman (editor of its Comment is Free section) for doing what every news organization ought to be.
Photo Credit: Suzanne Lee
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