It has almost become commonplace now for prominent environmentalists like David Suzuki to declare that economic growth cannot continue in a finite world. Even Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May has been heard to quote Paul Ehrlich's old line that "growth is the ideology of the cancer cell". The problem is, however, that they do not follow this insight through to its logical conclusion. What does economic growth consist of? If population growth is a critical ingredient of economic growth, then what drives population growth? And if migration to affluent countries promotes population growth in both the nations of emigration and the recipient countries, must not any credible strategy to fight economic growth involve tightening borders and restricting this flow?
"We have come to believe that growth is the very definition of progress. You talk to any businessperson or politician and say, 'How well did you do last year?' And, within a picosecond, they will talk about growth in the GDP and the economy in profit, jobs or market share. And, anything in a finite world cannot grow forever. We live within the biosphere, that cannot grow- it's fixed." David Suzuki
At long last there is a growing consensus among environmentalists that growth must not simply be managed, but stopped, before nature does it in a more ruthless and arbitrary fashion. Nevertheless, while it takes little insight or courage to identify and attack the problem in broad terms, it requires bold persistence to follow that commitment to its logical conclusions and ruffling politically correct feathers in the process. Unfortunately, not many anti-growth advocates are so audacious. So far there seems to be seven subsets of anti-growth consciousness that must be treated as stages toward total comprehension of the issue.
1.Those who recognize that economic growth cannot continue in a finite world.
2.Those who realise that economic growth must not only be stopped, but reversed. There must be “de-growth".
3. Those who understand that global population growth is a critical component of economic growth.
4. Those who understand that population growth in affluent nations or nations of growing affluence is more dangerous than population growth in undeveloped countries.
5. Those who understand that immigration has become a key driver of population growth in many affluent nations like the United States, Canada, Australia and the UK.
6. Those who understand that mass migration to affluent nations is a spur to global population growth. Open borders are a fertility stimulant to countries of emigration and relieve the pressure upon their governments to pursue sustainable population levels, while affluent nations with immigration-driven runaway population growth lack the credibility to lobby for lower birth rates in developing nations.
7.Those who understand, then, that reducing mass migration to North America and similarly affluent regions is crucial to any effective effort toward pro-actively reversing global economic growth, if for only the reason that migrants from poorer nations greatly magnify their ecological footprints upon arrival. At the same time, we understand it is the practical and moral obligation of affluent countries to address the “push” factors which drive migrants of poorer nations out of their countries.
Lamentably, the great majority of environmental leaders who have “gone out on a limb” to denounce economic growth, or even to declare that it must be reversed rather than simply stabilized, will not go out any further. Perhaps they reason that their constituents are not yet ready come with them----or that corporate donors will de-fund their organizations if they did. It is clear that from the investigations of Washington Post, Johann Hari, Christine MacDonald, Michel Chossudovsky and Cory Morningstar---to name but a few---that corporate foundation money has played a decisive role in taming environmental NGOs and channelling them down paths that our less consequential to the corporate bottom line. But whether it be for mercenary reasons or simply deference to political correctness, Canadians remain puzzled why David Suzuki, for example, can tell Australians on their public radio that their country is over-populated, but is apparently unable to say the same thing in Canada about his own country on the CBC. If Dr. Suzuki—and other prominent green voices---are sincere in their determination to see economic contraction, then they must climb up all of the steps outlined above. They must take special note of Herman Daly’s ninth policy proposal for moving toward a steady state:
"Stabilize Population. We should be working toward a balance in which births plus in-migrants equals deaths plus out-migrants. This is controversial and difficult, but, as a start, contraception should be made available for voluntary use everywhere. And while each nation can debate whether it should accept many or few immigrants, and who should get priority, such a debate is rendered moot if immigration laws are not enforced. We should support voluntary family planning and enforcement of reasonable immigration laws, democratically enacted. A lot of the pro-natalist and open-borders rhetoric claims to be motivated by generosity, but it is “generosity” at the expense of the U.S. working class—a cheap labor policy. Progressives have been slow to understand this. The environmental movement began with a focus on population but has frequently given in to political correctness." http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/556
January 5, 2010