Sunday, June 03, 2007

Why is Growth Good?

Growth is at the basis of life. Organisms grow and organisms die. To persist their genes, organisms must leverage their genes beyond themselves. OK, we all know this and this sounds perhaps a bit grandiose..."So what?" You may ask....Well, if this is at the basis of us, then we may easily conclude that growth is good. Biology concludes this easily, but some thought may bring it into dispute, if controversially.

Beyond the hard ethical debate of when too much population growth is bad, and then what to do about it, there is the ever present, day to day reality that faces many of us - unchecked urban and suburban growth. My county is receiving 100 new people a day. What was once open land, wooded forests and rural roads is giving way to sprawl --- housing developments of ever larger houses on ever shrinking lots, crowded schools that are beyond most rational approaches of management, water restrictions, longer commutes, constant streams of traffic and the smile of the "friend" from the boom towns of the past that ends as quickly the stage coach departs. Try to get away from it all and visit a State park, and you are greeted with Disney World-like crowds. In fact, even admission fees to State parks is rivaling commercial entertainment. So much for our tax dollars at work.

Logically and physically there must be an upper limit on the number of people that this planet will support. More pointedly, there is an upper limit on the number of people that this planet will support with a "high quality of life." Even if technology can overcome many of the resource constraints that we face, at a certain point space limitations will drastically affect us, baring a miniaturization scheme from Slapstick. Then consider what disparate and incompatible cultures living in close proximity will yield....

I wish there were some studies about this or at least some greater public dialogue particularly in how to create an environment that is essentially steady state or optimizes the quality of life for everyone. Even over 150 yrs ago, some wondered what this all will amount to..

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending , we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;

Getting and spending , we lay waste our powers:


Hopefully we are waking up and not treating this world like our personal playground but rather like good stewards would. Yet, too many, especially those with disproportionate power, seem to believe that the world is theirs to extract as much individual value as they can often at the expense of everyone else, and like the monkey grasping the fruit in the clay pot, their greed will not let them release any "treasure" even if it means their ultimate destruction.

If we are already losing the biodiversity of our planet, what will more population and development growth yield? Is this merely alarmist? Will everything simply work its way out, laissez-faire? It will, but we may not like the resulting state.

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