Today’s CO2 concentration is higher than it ever was in the history of this planet. The reason is the ongoing industrialization since 250 years. The strange idea of absolute economic growth led to a situation, where mankind starts to pay the price for decades and centuries of exploitation. Workers have been exploited, populations have been explioted, plants and animals have been exploited, resources have been exploited, and nature as a whole has been explioted. We are at the point where the system breaks down because of exploitation.
It’s important to note: Exploitation is the unavoidable side-effect of the belief in absolute economic growth.
Relative exonomic growth is very easy to conceive of. If A grows, B shrinks. We are living in a limited system. There is a limited amount of air, of water, of earth ect. In order to let something grow, something else must loose. Take a lawn with a tree in the middle. The lawn is green and full of different sorts of grasses and flowers. The tree is impressive in its height, you would not want to cut it. But if you look beneath the tree, there is no grass and no bushes. A tree is something big, and that means a lot of small things have died for this bigness. That’s nature, that’s relative growth.
Absolute growth is a fiction. It suggests that a tree can grow without taking away resources from many small plants. It helps the big trees to claim their space, as an idea it is one of nature’s strategies for relative growth. Absolute growth would mean more air, water, earth etc. in the atmosphere than before. It’s clear that all growth takes away somewhere else, but nevetheless the idea of absolute growth has been extremely successful. It’s hard to accept that a stupid idea should be so successful.
The fiction of absolute growth helps the big trees, because it legitimizes their growth. It claims that a big tree can become bigger without taking anything away from: a) neighboring trees, b) little plants, c) future trees and plants. Why do the little plants believe in this fiction, it’s so obvious…? Because the utopia of absolute growth has aspects of a religion, the most important being the aspect of salvation. It suggests that growth will spread until it reaches everyone. This gives hope to the ones who don’t have any other chance than hope. Whereas relative growth doesn’t allow to postpone justice to some distant day of salvation.
Relative growth is reality, it’s the opposite of what a religion needs, because it implies the eternal state and repetition of the present resources and struggles. And it implies struggle… There will be no alternative to our eternal struggling for a place in the sun. You can’t live without killing. It sounds strange, but we have to accept to be killers to get rid of the most dangerous of all religions. The religion of absolute growth will have killed far more people than any other religion, the christian, the islamic, or the different variations of socialism, “stalinism” in the soviet union and “national socialism” in nazi germany.
To live means to kill, and to grow means to take away. Only when this is clear for everybody can we start to deal with our existing problems in a secular and reasonable way. Because the next question then is: do i want to grow, if that means taking away, do i let this person grow, if that means taking away? Do i want to make children…these are not rhetorical questions. It’s all open, yes, i want to grow, even if i take away from others, that’s ok, as long as it is open to everybody what i’m taking. I want to go away from a rhetorical strength to a real strength, by being rhetorically sharper than the neoliberal attitude that assumes some kind of sweet absolute growth in order to let things grow that would never grow without such ideological backup.
If the delay of salvation is gone along with the idea of absolute growth, every growth has to pay its price immediately. That has a lot of advantages. It becomes possible to judge on the singular case. To put it simple: the price of every growth becomes visible – and EVERY growth has its price. So better see it immediately, because then you can judge about the situation and not about some ideology of salvation.
Don’t postpone the price of growth. All growth is relative.