10 August 2009

Economic growth is all about production and consumption. Economists and politicians love a growing population of consumers because it adds to economic growth. A greying population would slow our growth and so the current 4.6 million on this island is not enough, we need 6.5 million in the coming decades. Now this cycle of growth is vicious and self-perpetuating. In 2030, the government will say 6.5 million of us is not enough, we need 9 million on this island to keep the economy growing. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Spend, spend, spend. Consume, consume, consume. Grow, grow, grow. I remember reading in ChannelNewsAsia last year where SM Goh Chok Tong was encouraging Singaporeans to spend to starve off a recession:

"If all of us go into a power save mode, then the economy will really go into a recession! This is what economists called the Paradox of Thrift. If you have sufficient savings and can afford to spend, you should continue to spend on life's little pleasures.

"Take your family to the movies, shop, dine out at restaurants and hawker centres, go for your regular foot massage, indulge yourself at a spa, take a taxi, donate to charity and so on."
Here's the twist: what are the limits, if any, as to how much we can spend and grow before we turn into an incurable cancerous tumour on this planet? The New Scientist article below addresses this question and our leaders and policymakers would do well to pay attention to this for a truly sustainable Singapore - not the pseudo-sustainable-growth-economy that Mah Bow Tan keeps talking about.

New Scientist
07 August 2009

...According to leading ecologists...few of us realise that the main cause of the current environmental crisis is human nature.

...All we're doing is what all other creatures have ever done to survive, expanding into whatever territory is available and using up whatever resources are available, just like a bacterial culture growing in a Petri dish till all the nutrients are used up. What happens then, of course, is that the bugs then die in a sea of their own waste.

...Epidemiologist Warren Hern of the University of Colorado at Boulder, even likened the expansion of human cities to the growth and spread of cancer, predicting "death" of the Earth in about 2025. He points out that like the accelerated growth of a cancer, the human population has quadrupled in the past 100 years, and at this rate will reach a size in 2025 that leads to global collapse and catastrophe...

...The problem..is that it fails to recognise that the physical resources to fuel this growth are finite. "We're still driven by growing and expanding, so we will use up all the oil, we will use up all the coal, and we will keep going till we fill the Petri dish and pollute ourselves out of existence,"

Full Article: Consumerism is 'eating the future'