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Seminar Slams Folly of Perpetual Economic Growth

Seminar Slams Folly of Perpetual Economic Growth

“In order for perpetual economic growth to be possible, the world would need to be flat and infinite. So our government must think that the world is flat,” says Lewis Verduyn, coordinator of the ‘Adapting to Our Rapidly Changing World’ seminar held in Alexandra on Saturday.

The seminar, hosted by the Clutha River Forum, attracted people from throughout the lower South Island, from Dunedin, Queenstown, Lumsden, Wanaka and Timaru. All were keen to examine the critical issues facing humanity at all levels of society, internationally and locally.

Organisers introduced the seminar with an enlightening YouTube video “Who Killed Economic Growth” by acclaimed author Richard Heinberg.

Guest speakers were David Beach (Neptune Power) on energy, Kennedy Graham (Green Part) on economics, and Dr Steve Earnshaw (Transition Towns and Timaru District Councillor) with Dugald MacTavish (Hampden Community Energy) on community sustainability.

During the presentations, the speakers tackled oil decline and alternative energies, climate change and biosphere collapse, economic breakdown caused by exponential debt, and how local communities can adapt in positive ways. Dugald MacTavish said the Hampden community was “trying to become more resilient by turning around a history of loosing local job opportunities and services”.

The energy discussion included Neptune Power’s innovative marine turbine project off Cape Terawhiti near Wellington, and the urgent need for revenue decoupling regulation for power companies to promote energy efficiency and smart technologies, and also to stabilize and reduce power prices. It was mentioned that energy efficiency is recognized as the largest, cheapest, faster way to reduce climate change impacts.

Later discussion focused on the core issues behind perpetual economic growth and rising debt, which according to official figures is US$211 trillion in the US alone, or fourteen times the GDP of the US.

It was suggested that money was created as debt and that “interest ruins the medium of exchange”. Lewis Verduyn said:

“The interest component of debt invokes the exponential function, requiring a perpetually growing economy to repay debt. But the natural capital needed for this repayment does not grow exponentially. Inevitably, the debt will grow to be greater than the available natural capital. A monetary system designed to be ever expanding is unsustainable and illogical.”

“The New Zealand government only creates 2 percent of its money interest free, and the rest is borrowed from private central banks or the bond market. Why do governments choose to borrow money at interest when a government can create all the interest-free money it needs itself?”

“This vicious mechanism of debt growth is responsible for the society we have and for our collapsing biosphere. Somehow, we need to reintegrate our monetary system with a belief system that promotes life, not destruction. Such interest-free banking systems already exist.”

Dugald Mac Tavish suggested that “Since human values underlie our systems perhaps our environmental crisis is actually a crisis of attitude or ethic" he said.

Central Otago poet laureate, Brian Turner, added “To me the era of conspicuous and excessive consumption was never going to last. I’m convinced that strengthening one’s localities, one’s regions, in the interests of our families and friends, and of the wider family of life on earth, is the best and most responsible thing we can do.”

Another seminar with the same theme ‘Fronting Up to Our Deteriorating World’, will be held in Dunedin on 13 October, in the Castle 1 Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, 7.00-10.30pm.


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