New growth model a U.S. imperative

Angelo S. Lynn, former publisher of the Yates Center News and now publisher of the Addison Independent in Middlebury, Vt., took a look at the economic events of the past year with the help of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and others and wrote the following editorial in one of his March editions:

Finally, we’re getting it.
Thomas Friedman cites Australian environmental business expert Paul Gilding’s description of “The Great Disruption” as an event which began in 2008 “when Mother Nature and Father Greed hit the wall at the same time.”
The Great Disruption was caused by an economic system based on unsustainable growth, he concluded.
“We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have the money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...”
The lesson?
Our economy and the basic model for growth must change. From now on, growth must be sustainable.
Friedman then quotes others who argue that the current system of growth has made businesses and nations rich by depleting the earth’s natural stocks: water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land and by not generating renewable flows. Such growth, physicist and climate expert Joe Romm argues, is a Ponzi scheme. “We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate ... Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”
Friedman observes that our society’s decision-making has passed from the hands of financiers and shareholders who profit from creating bubbles such as those in the dot.com and real estate booms to those of scientists who are now beginning to drive the dialogue — a dialogue of hope.
“We must have grow-th,” Friedman writes, “But we must grow in a different way. For start-ers, economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, wherein buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible.
“Let’s grow by creating flows rather than plundering stocks.”
What a simple concept. What a pity that it has been ignored in favor of all-out consumerism when we have been told over and over again that the best way we can serve our country is to shop till we drop.
Fortunately, there are signs that the philosophy of sustainability is catching on. With the economic downturn, governments are retooling their economies and investing in clean power and new technologies. The transition won’t occur without a lot of economic dislocation and pain, but there is hope that the age of plunder and greed is behind us and a new age of reason is on the horizon.