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A healthy economy needs to grow. In fact, economic growth is so important that we use rising GDP (Gross Domestic Product) numbers as our main measure of success. In today’s pressing economic environment, global leaders are looking for ways to stimulate growth as the only way out of this global crisis. But are these initiatives on the right track? Is growth what we really need?

It sounds like heresy to suggest otherwise. Yet the growth we’ve experienced since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution has depended on the availability of cheap fossil-based fuels which are a finite resource. And more recently, growth has too often required going into debt to finance new growth The economic collapse in 2008 exposed the fallacy of debt-financed growth, which many of us are still struggling with today as home values fall back to reality.

The very concept of limitless growth stands in apparent conflict with the limits of a planet which has only so much room to grow and so many resources to fuel more growth. Infinite growth within a finite system cannot work, a simple enough concept for economists and policy-makers to fathom, yet this hard logic is disregarded in our race for more growth and the prosperity we think it brings.

Does growth really bring prosperity? This is the question we will be grappling with for the next generation. In Bhutan, prosperity is measured by a “Happiness Index” which takes into account factors besides money which bring well-being to its citizens. I think we in North America will be looking for new measures of wealth in the future, with values such as “free time”, “playing with our children”, “enjoying hobbies and pastimes”, “developing personal skills” and similar ideas which are not dollar-dependent.

This video, Who Killed Economic Growth?, is written and narrated by Richard Heinberg and produced by the Post Carbon Institute. It serves as a trailer for the narrator’s new book, The End of Growth, published by New Society Publishers.

The notion of growth, even “sustainable growth” needs to be looked at in a new light. Our task now as a civilization is to learn to live together, find ways to share and build local economies, but economies that do not depend on cheap fossil fuels or require going into debt, or “borrowing from the future”.
This is the reality we are finally awakening to. The end of growth. The cultural shift we need to make is huge, but it is attainable because there is no other option.

We can live without growth, but only if we learn and embrace the values of sustainable living.