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Economic Growth

Economic Growth Drives Material Throughput
Economic growth inevitably involves material throughput. It is this intimate connection between our current model of economic growth and ecosystem destruction that is at the core of sustainable scale problems. Economic growth involves selling ever more products and services, to ever more people, each of whom consumes ever more of these goods and services. Each of these major drivers of consumption – population, technology and per capita consumption - is viewed by decision makers as a positive and desirable contributor to economic growth. It is these very same drivers that disrupt life supporting ecosystems, and threaten ecosystem collapse (see the Importance of Scale). The many attractive and beneficial consequences of economic growth make it difficult to acknowledge and accept that there are also significant harms inextricably linked to the growth process.

The Downside Of Economic Growth
High levels of public concern for the environment are an indication of a broad recognition connecting economic activities and a deteriorating environment. There is little public or political recognition, however, of the potential magnitude of these negative impacts, our current status with respect to exceeding sustainable scale boundaries, and the related consequences (see Importance of Scale, and Areas of Concern). Acknowledging this intimate connection between economic growth and the potentially dire consequences of exceeding sustainable scale is essential to dealing with this critical challenge.

The Psychology of Scale
Making the connection between economic growth and unsustainable scale is a shock to the psyche. It is a bit like learning that someone close to us, a spouse, a best friend, or a business partner, is actually doing us serious harm. A common reaction is denial. But if the evidence of the harm is reasonable (consider the material in Areas of Concern and associated links), the problem is too powerful to ignore for long. Investigating the situation reveals the harm, while real, is not intentional, and can be avoided (see Attractive Solutions).

Support for Economic Growth Broadly Institutionalized
Economic growth occurs within a context influenced by public policies, economic theories, and prevalent social ideas and values (see Causes of Scale Problems). How any harm done by economic growth is viewed, is also influenced and shaped by these same powerful forces. For varied reasons, each of these major influencers of economic growth is oriented toward promoting even more growth and ignoring or minimizing what could be potentially catastrophic effects.

Links Between Growth and Justice
A striking characteristic of modern economic growth is the enormous disparities in the distribution of benefits it provides. This is a justice issue of global proportions. Sustainable scale challenges cannot be resolved in isolation from this issue of distribution, as mainstream policies for redistribution of wealth presuppose an economic product that is growing forever.

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