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Could Economic Growth Kill Us?

Mark Buchanan, Bloomberg

Now that the U.S. presidential election is over, attention has turned to the challenge of keeping the world’s largest economy growing. The underlying assumption is that growth is always the proper goal.

What if that assumption were wrong? Given our current economic malaise, and the obvious needs of the poor in developing nations, growth may be the only sensible aim in the short term. But what if, in the very long term, economic growth had some natural limit, beyond which it actually became detrimental to the survival of the human race?

This idea has been treated as heresy every time it has been raised, first by Thomas Malthus two centuries ago, and again by the famous Limits to Growth analysis initiated in the 1970s by the Club of Rome think tank. Yet heresies have at times turned out to be true. And this one has some pretty good logic on its side.

The argument takes many forms, but for me the most convincing centers on energy. Nothing in physics is more fundamental. The “E” of Einstein’s famous E=mc^2 is the vital quantity behind all action and motion. It is never created or destroyed, it merely changes form. The energy in Hurricane Sandy hasn’t vanished. It has transmogrified into destroyed buildings, felled trees and vast quantities of heat — released by rains — spread across the eastern U.S.

Energy Use

Every organism, from a tiny bacterium to an elephant, relies on a steady flow of energy to maintain its physical function, warding off the cold equilibrium of death. Homo sapiens is no exception, both individually and collectively. Humans use a constantly increasing amount of energy to keep themselves warm and to fuel increasing economic activity. Over the past three centuries, in the U.S. and globally, energy use has increased at an average annual rate of about 3 percent or so, which means we now use roughly 10,000 times as much energy as we did 300 years ago…

(11 November 2012)

Occupy Wall Street campaigners buy-up debt to abolish it

Matthew Sparkes, The Telegraph

The Rolling Jubilee project is seeking donations to help it buy-up distressed debts, including student loans and outstanding medical bills, and then wipe the slate clean by writing them off.

Individuals or companies can buy distressed debt from lenders at knock-down prices if it the borrower is in default or behind with payments and are then free to do with it as they see fit, including cancelling it free of charge.

As a test run the group spent $500 on distressed debt, buying $14,000 worth of outstanding loans and pardoning the debtors. They are now looking to expand their experiment nationwide and are asking people to donate money to the cause.

David Rees, one of the organisers behind the project, writes on his blog: "This is a simple, powerful way to help folks in need – to free them from heavy debt loads so they can focus on being productive, happy and healthy.

"Now, after many consultations with attorneys, the IRS, and our moles in the debt-brokerage world, we are ready to take the Rolling Jubilee program live and nationwide, buying debt in communities that have been struggling during the recession."…

(9 November 2012)

Shift Change (new movie)

At a time when many are disillusioned with big banks and big business, and growing inequity in our country, employee ownership offers a real solution for workers and communities. Shift Change is a new documentary (to have its world premiere on October 18, 2012, in Oakland, CA) that highlights worker-owned enterprises in North America and in Mondragon, Spain. The film couldn’t be more timely, as 2012 has been declared by the U.N. as the “International Year of the Cooperative.” Take a look at the preview and please share your comments!

SHIFT CHANGE – preview from Mark Dworkin on Vimeo.

(18 October 2012)

Small towns attract Spanish job seekers (video)

Al Goodman, CNN

Why are Spain’s city workers migrating to smaller towns in search of work? CNN’s Al Goodman reports.

Video link here

(20 November 2012