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Fairy tales of eternal economic growth

Written By: - Date published: 8:13 am, September 24th, 2019 - 67 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, Donald Trump, economy, Economy, Environment, science, uncategorized, United Nations - Tags:

Greta Thunberg is visiting the United Nations and was offered an opportunity to speak.

For a young person her composure is superb and her statements are simple yet deadly accurate descriptions of the situation the world is in.

The Independent has the details:

Greta Thunberg has told world leaders they have stolen her ”dreams and … childhood with your empty words”.

The Swedish teenager was speaking at the opening of a United Nations climate change summit, attended by about 60 countries, in New York on Monday.

“Yet, you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

The 16-year-old climate change activist added: “People are suffering. People are dying.

“This is all wrong,” she began. “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.

“And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”

She almost met her nemesis.

If looks could kill …

And there is something rather icky about right wingers attacking her for daring to speak the truth.  Like Dinesh D’Souza:

Someone with that dumb a take should have their twitter account confiscated.

And as the world burns it is hard to go past this sign’s rather direct criticism of the world’s current leadership, or its use of profanity.

Greta has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.  I cannot think of a more deserving recipient.

She is clearly not doing this for the kudos, but because she wants a world to grow up in.

And she is right that the idea that we can have eternal economic growth is a fairytale.  As a species we really need to learn to live in balance with nature, not consume it. If we want a future.

67 comments on “Fairy tales of eternal economic growth ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    "…The right wing is going hard after Greta Thunberg…"

    I love the way a bunch of the most powerful are scared of a bunch of meddling kids losely led by a sixteen year old school girl.

    • The Fairy Godmother 1.1

      Remember the story of the Emperor who had no clothes. The truth was told by a little boy. The leaders should be scared of Greta.

      • Poission 1.1.1

        The leaders should be scared of Greta.

        She did look very scary in that transformation from Joan of Arc to Linda Blair.

        • Incognito

          I believe that was an honest assessment of reality (AKA instinctive reaction to something or someone generating intense feelings of dislike) without the usual veneer of media training and social conditioning.

  2. Pat 2

    "And she is right that the idea that we can have eternal economic growth is a fairytale. As a species we really need to learn to live in balance with nature, not consume it. If we want a future."

    and then

    "Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford have released a 32 page 'Economic Plan' pulling together the strands of the Labour-led Coalition Government's policies into a 'Business Growth Agenda' style summary."



  3. Sanctuary 3

    LOL from the " if looks could kill" file…

  4. Stuart Munro. 4

    Ongoing economic growth is possible because most growth is fictitious. The finance sector, real estate inflation which for some reason isn't called inflation, and imposing deadweight capital costs like the Quota Management System, are all mischaracterised as growth.

    Should this or any other government invest seriously in developing and rolling out sustainable technologies, that too would be characterized as growth. But Greta is spot on about the irresponsibility. Who the f**k do any of our governments think they are to run the reckless policies they do, like mass immigration, intensive dairy, and so forth. Naturally this is not welcome news to our toxic self-styled elites – who will water down or ignore it as far as possible as usual – truth is not flattering to their naked self-interest.

    • greywarshark 4.1

      Capitalism has found out a trick to benefit those who plug into the system. The idea to get you to do things that you find satisfying even if they are bad for you, and which you want to repeat, while business interests make money from enabling the thing, and then make money from repairing and dealing with the likely fallout. They catch you coming and going. That's why encouraging precautionary behaviour is so spotty; depends which type of behaviour appears to be more profitable, and to whom? 'We are all prisoners here, of our own device.' (Hotel California – I suggest look for meaning in the involuntary thoughts that come out of human creativity, stream of consciousness.)

      Example: That is why the bars stay open late when there are big sports matches even though it will lead to trouble, 3am fights, knifings, rapes and leads to personal dissipation of spectators and also players; but excess means growth in profits, and careless spending, and the general public cope with the short and long-term aftermath, unless there is profit in some part of that.

      Television as it presents today, highly coloured, large screens, dominating people's leisure space swamps us with stories that encourage excess, with no serious thinking about the content and meaning, attention on the trivial, style and status. Capitalism feeds on that, and easy-oasy sliding out from the full frontal view of how society is operating – we prefer cliches to acceptance of what is, and dream bubbles to joining together in respectful community to do good human things. We need to take an interest in and enjoy each other's company in the flesh, or through honest, positive-seeking chat, discussion and shared local activity. The real, experiential and less of the image, which can now be frankensteined, is what the present calls for; and taking time to look up and out and serve someone with less than us, going for greater simplicity cutting down on complexity and share human goodness around; that's anti-capitalism.

    • Pat 4.2

      Financial services are estimated to be around 20 % of GDP in advanced economies and the fact remains they require increasing demand to maintain growth and that demand increase requires underpinning by the real economy (debt is only a short term 'solution' that must be reckoned with despite the current propensity to disregard it)

      There are only two ways to maintain growth….increase the numbers consuming or increase the consumption of the same number (or a combination)….everything else fails.

      There is no such thing as sustainable growth nor a disconnect between growth and resource use.

      • David Mac 4.2.1

        In business there are 3 ways to improve a fiscal position. your 2, get more customers and get more from the customers you've got and also 'cut overheads'.

        "There is no such thing as sustainable growth nor a disconnect between growth and resource use."

        What if that resource is flowing water, the sun, wind etc? I can see a growth/resource disconnect.

        • Pat

          "In business there are 3 ways to improve a fiscal position. your 2, get more customers and get more from the customers you've got and also 'cut overheads'."

          Care to explain how you see that working in economic terms?

          "What if that resource is flowing water, the sun, wind etc? I can see a growth/resource disconnect."

          I suspect all you see is an increased efficiency (or productivity increase)…not the same thing at all

          Growth is in aggregate

          • David Mac

            In economic terms, if it doesn't cost as much to run NZ the same thing happens to our bottom line as if we were growing.

            We can grow without taxing resources. I think solutions usually lie around creating and nurturing viable and ethical opportunities.

            There's a busy creek on my boundary. If I could give someone 4k to provide me with a 10 year warrantied turbine to chuck in the creek and a sparky 1k to hook me up, I'd be all over it.

            My power consumption won't need a half a dump truck of coal anymore. A Kiwi SME can research, develop and build the turbines. Devices that will produce power in any flowing waterway in the world. I think that's the sort of innovation Jacinda has been talking about in NY, makes sense to me.

            Growth that's not fueled primarily by profit margins Pat, there's room for us to get much better.

            • Pat

              Interesting,,,sadly we dont operate as single entity…we are part of a global economy. We already produce more than we need to meet our basic needs (not however our wants) , therefore ''taxing; our resources less means little if we are still 'taxing' resources of other countries….everything is relative.

              There is indeed room to get better but there is not room to keep growing….slower growth just means more time before collapse…sustainability means using resources at below the rate of replacement, and…

              ALL resources are limited

      • Stuart Munro. 4.2.2

        "There is no such thing as sustainable growth"

        Tell that to the trees in my garden.

        Growth sustained by increasing the biomass of the local ecosystem is sustainable, unless it is heavily subsidized by oil based inputs. Extensive pastoral farming, agroforestry, habitat enhancement – all these we can do.

        But while we privilege activities like finance and real estate they will reap rewards in excess of real world resource constraints.

        Capitalism need not be ditched – only tamed.

        • greywarshark

          Population growth – Headline in today's Press 'NZ closing quickly on 5 million milestone'.

          When we have insufficient housing and inadequate infrastructure and are ruled by governments in thrall to local and international financial players, I suggest that we cannot handle further population growth of this sort. It may be a population milestone; it will also be a millstone for those trying to bring the country to a standard that matches past standards expected of a modern, developed country.

          • Stuart Munro.

            Yeah it's madness.

            We have a few short decades to prepare for Pacific climate refugees, and get our country on a sustainable footing – but no, they're flooding the place with cheap & cheerful low wage workers to gratify our worst employers.

            The worst thing a democracy can do is shit on its own people like this.

          • woodart

            quite correct. millstone is far more accurate. also depressing to see that half the population is now jammed above taupo. its very noticeable now how much more road traffic there is above taupo.I now try and stay in the rest of NZ, where its not so ruined,er, overpopulated.

          • Janet

            I am tired of my country being in a state of constant "renovation." It,s long past time to consolidate.

        • Pat

          Try planting more and more trees in your garden and see what happens

          • In Vino

            The trees do NOT grow sustainably. They grow, flourish, age, die, collapse, and decompose. Stuart Munro ought to have known that. The trees exist sustainably as a species, but individually they are not sustainable. Yet we want to pretend that our profit-gouging systems are sustainable like the trees' system. Fat chance.

            • Pat

              the trees do indeed exist sustainably….provided sufficient minerals/water…..that isnt to say they dont die and are replaced but the point is their existence is limited….not only by time but space and resources

              • In Vino

                Come on. Pat. The individual tree always dies.

                • Pat

                  yep they do…some sooner than others as do humans but there is a limit to the number of trees an area can support….there is no unlimited exponential growth of trees (or anything else)…that is what we with our economic model seek to disprove…it is folly,

                  we think we can innovate our way out of basic physics…though if we are honest (which we are not) we would accept we cannot

            • Stuart Munro.

              Trees can be grown and harvested sustainably – but not infinitely. They are constrained by demands for space, water, nutrients, sunlight. The economic oversimplification lies in not accounting for those constraints, and others, like a viable community of educated and motivated workers to maximize the benefits recoverable from this silvicultural hypothetical.

              • In Vino

                Yes, no argument now. More reaping sustainable benefit, and less greedy profit-gouging.

                Again , fat chance, I fear.

                • Pat

                  Sadly by following the growth model as long as we have we have created a world where that which currently exists cannot be sustained….and therein lies the problem

                  • Stuart Munro.

                    Really I think the 'growth model' is not a model, but a narrative. It has been used to sell the retread of classical liberal economics, but there is nothing in NZ policy over the last few decades that actually argues a growth strategy, which would have looked more like Lee Kuan Yew or Meiji, who he was copying, or Muldoon, who barely understood it.

                    The question to me is, how come no one ever calls bullshit on this growth narrative? We are definitely not being governed for growth. That's a lie.

                    • Pat

                      'growth' is very much the strategy…..its even written in statute…think Reserve Bank Act which requires RBNZ to target inflation between 1 and 3% pa.

                      And what is recession if not the antithesis of growth? The economic model promoted (nay demanded) within advanced economies is growth at all costs for without it the whole structure begins to unwind,

                    • Stuart Munro.


                      It's like Christianity – growth is the religion, but the bureaucracy is serving bureaucratic ends at odds with the mandate. JC never licensed a Vatican or any of the other corporate entities that ostensibly operated in his name.

                      We've been importing real estate speculators by the truckload – though they generate technical gdp growth, they actually impose constantly increasing deadweight costs across the rest of the economy, raising the opportunity cost and decreasing the frequency of startups, which would be a real priority under a genuine growth model. Likewise the low paid foreign workers will not readily accrue the capital to acquire the dairy farms they work on, much less be capitalized to innovate them meaningfully.

                    • Pat

                      Agree its like religion but not in the way you suggest…its worth noting that the bureaucrats apply the policies provided (with varying degrees of competency) and those policies have been largely unchanged for decades…further its important to view the parts in relation to the whole…not say NZ in isolation as we are a very open trading economy highly susceptible to outside influences/impacts.

                      The imported property speculators are simply a source of capital investment to fuel growth….a lazy and problematic source I agree, but the goal remains growth.

                    • Stuart Munro.

                      "but the goal remains growth."

                      Yeah I'd say if they were serious about growth they'd be markedly more objective in evaluating their conventional "wisdom". As it stands they've been cheerfully failing, and the trading rhetoric is just another outsourcing of responsibility:

                      "We're too lazy to meaningfully address our perennial economic issues, and were rather hoping you nice foreign chaps would do it for us, the way the UK used to…"

                      You can parse that from:

                      "Other countries are better at making electric cars and mass rapid transit systems. Let's trade."

  5. patricia bremner 5

    Pat, They are encouraging innovation, by repaying up to ten thousand dollars of start up investment, and allowing changes up to 51% to achieve that before they lose the tax refund. This is part of a necessary shift to high value products in food and tech.

    Large changes begin with small planned steps. The PM is also representing us well on the world stage, discussing world issues with other Leaders. I personally am pleased we have a Leader promoting ideas rather than playing 'buddy' golf. By the way she walked to her UN meetings doing a pod cast on the way, so no limo and communicating through FB.
    Unlke Scomo, who is hobnobbing with Trump, and promoting coal, Jacinda is talking meeting encouraging. Trump did turn up to the UN after all. Australia absent.

    • Pat 5.1

      see 4.2

      and count up the number of times 'growth' is used in the 32 page report….they are as delusional as the worst of them.

  6. michelle 6

    Unlike many of our politicians and world leaders Greta speaks from her heart (some of our politicians don't have a heart its all about money like Greta said ) she cares about our planet and many could learn from her.

    • Anne 6.1

      Here we have a young girl with a couple of handicaps and just look what she is achieving. How inspiring can that be.

      The Nobel Peace prize for an incredible young lady.

      • Rosemary McDonald 6.1.1

        "handicaps", wot handicaps?

        Who actually uses that word anymore???

        • David Mac

          Yep used regularly, horses, racing cars and global activists that are uncomfortable flying.

          To refer to blindness etc as a handicap, yep, the words of a buffoon. I don't think Anne was using the word like that.

          • greywarshark

            What you aren't serious? Blindness is a handicap! I am dropping in my sight acuity (actually that reminds me I must go and see my optometrist) and the last thing I want is to go blind. I admire people who are, and find the aids and inner strength to cope with it but it definitely is something that is a handicap.

        • Anne

          Well, I'm probably older than you Rosemary. What about concentrating on the sentiment expressed rather than over-reacting to an expression you consider outdated. I don't so end of story.

          • Sacha

            Thunberg is inspiring, but not much of it is because she's an aspie. Though even showing the world we can express strong feelings is a good contribution.

            Language moves on and the H word is now up there with the N word in some circles. I'd like to see anyone say they do not personally believe the latter is outdated so it's OK for them to keep using it.

            • Rosemary McDonald

              Seriously unfair to expect those handicapped by advanced age to keep up with these new fandangled notions of what constitutes ''acceptable" terminology these days. I guess it would be way too much to get them to desist from the verbal head -patting as well?

              Nevermind. They won't get it.

              • greywarshark

                'Handicap' is that the point of discussion. It is a simple word describing something in plain language. Can we stop building man and woman traps over the use of ordinary words please?

                The N word is a slang word laden with so much negative stuff that it is better left alone for those who want to 'own' it to use to describe what most black people will know well.

                • Anne

                  Thanks grey. The so-called pc brigade are getting to the point where their sanity in this respect needs to be brought into question.

                  I'm reminded of the nonsense 3 or 4 decades ago concerning Enid Blyton's children's stories. It was claimed for example that Noddy was a homosexual (the term used at the time). The idiots had them all banned from public institutions and they were taken off the market. Sanity finally prevailed and they are as popular as ever.

                  • David Mac

                    I think it's to do with culture fashion. At the moment our personal comfort with particular language has little to do with how it may be received. It is fashionable to first consider recipients.

                    Ask a modern blind person how they feel about being handicapped and they may well respond. 'Handicapped? I'm enhanced, I can hear the train 20 seconds before you do."

                    It's about offending others, whilst I tend towards 'So what?' If not offending is as simple as choosing another word. it's a tiny price to pay.

                    • David Mac

                      The offending that generally seems to bite are the words about something we have no or little control over. Ethnicity, age, gender etc.

                    • Anne

                      To put it simply David Mac, Rosemary McDonald chose to take it the wrong way. Well, that's her problem not mine.

                      I'm sick and tired of word fashionistas telling me what words I can use and what words I can't use. Just because they choose to change the centuries long meaning of a word to suit their purposes is no reason why the rest of us should follow suit. And then try to infer "inferiority" in some kind of way? I say pfft to them.

                      I'm now handicapped…. having developed ongoing moderate to severe arthritis which has limited my ability to lead a normal physically active existence. And if someone wants to call me a cripple they can. I don’t give a damm.

                    • In Vino

                      I agree, Anne. I am/was a teacher of language, and laugh to scorn those who try to burden words with their own personal emotive loadings. They are often not very strong in their own language skills.
                      The handicaps of age are starting to hit me as well. But must I be constrained to avoiding the word ‘handicap’ and forced to use ‘disability’? What a load of rot.

          • woodart

            over-reaction and outrage are the default setting for too many.

    • Gareth 6.2

      I was stunned when during her UN speech she said "My message is that we will be watching you" and the audience laughed at her.

  7. greywarshark 7


    What's their main argument? That the sea will wash it all away anyway so let us get our bucket-machines ripping into it while its in a nice pile. Also it's legitimate business and we have a market for it, so it ticks all the capitalist boxes.

  8. Ad 8

    Our Prime Minister has a clear view that a key solution to climate change is precisely through international trade. In particular trading in technology solutions for major electricity users.

    She sets this out in her address to the UN CAS Private Sector Forum:

    "Firstly, climate change is the perfect trade opportunity. Every country on earth is facing the same set of challenges. How do we dramatically cut emissions from electricity, transport, manufacturing, waste, agriculture?

    But although we have those challenges in common, our national circumstances are completely different from each other. And some of us are better at some of these things than others.

    New Zealand is pretty good at hydro, geothermal and wind generation, as well as producing low-emissions food. Other countries are better at making electric cars and mass rapid transit systems.

    Let's trade."

    See: ww.scoop.co.nz

    I am not a strong fan of the kid of capitalism that we have dominating this world, but internationl trade is more powerful than anything governments or UN mandates can achieve in the speed we need for implementing solutions.

  9. marty mars 9

    Have to agree with Greenpeace here – time for flowery words is over

    Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg has delivered a fiery speech to world leaders at the UN Climate Summit in New York City. Greenpeace says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern must take note, and respond with stronger action on climate change, starting with an immediate cancelation of OMV’s oil exploration permits.

    …“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you.”

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was the first politician to speak at the summit following Greta Thunberg’s impassioned speech.

    “While Jacinda Ardern’s leadership has represented a shift in the right direction for climate change policy in New Zealand, Greta’s words ring true here too. It is nowhere near enough,” said Greenpeace Executive Director Russel Norman.

    “An appropriate response to the climate emergency would include a commitment to immediately end new fossil fuel exploration on land and at sea, alongside a timeline for rapidly winding down the coal, oil and gas industries.”


  10. Adrian 10

    Has anyone got any idea what "growth " as a minus concept, or lack of growth, looks like. Sort that out and prepare for it before demanding it. In reality it is huge unemployment, shortages of food, a lot fewer taxes collected meaning unfunded medicines etc etc.

    The answer doesn't mean taking all the money from the "rich " because their assets have lost most of their value and nobody has any money to buy them anyway.

    Sloganeering is the easy part, living in economic depressions is bloody hard and deadly.

  11. Blazer 11

    'growth' is necessary to feed the voracious debt monster that casts an ominous shadow over the whole globe.

    Can you grow without interest bearing debt?

    Not in this Capitalist society.

  12. Gosman 12

    "Someone with that dumb a take should have their twitter account confiscated."

    I know (or strongly suspect at least) you are joking but it is a tad ironic you solution to a view you dislike is to suggest it is not allowed to be aired which is similar to what totalitarian governments

  13. Gosman 13

    The idea of growth is not well understood by many on the left. There can in fact be continual growth despite using LESS resources. What also is not well understood is the fact that you can't exist without using SOME resources. Given this then the challenge becomes more one of optimising resources use from an efficiency point of view rather than eliminating it. In a model such as that growth is not just possible it is desirable as it basically reflects more efficient resource usage.

    • McFlock 13.1

      But that's not the model of the real world. GDP is a measure of output, not efficiency.

    • Stuart Munro. 13.2

      The problem is that sustainability is anathema to the right – it's true that growth can continue – but the contemporary model of neoliberalism relies on externalising cost, and will not permit it.

      Consider the very modest imposition of a CGT, very common around the world and recommended to NZ by the IMF, hardly a hotbed of leftist thought. Cue fanatic far right outrage, and it's off the table.

      This is why we can't have decent stable evidence based policy – our democracy has been suborned by the lazy greedy stick-in-the-mud conservatives – and the head-in-the-clouds globalist mandarins.

      We're fucked – and it's your fault.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 13.3

      Over billions of years 'our' bountiful planet has nurtured and sustained an evolutionary process that has delivered incredible biological diversity. Organisms come and go, and mass extinction events are nothing new, but the current one is the first ‘Intelligent Design’ Extinction Accident.

      An accident, of course, only in the sense that ‘we’ are unwilling to see and/or are powerless to sever the causal connections between all 'we' do (our 'design') and the wider 'health' of ecosystem Earth.

      ~80 million more every year and the agents of our own destruction – true long-term design eludes us.

  14. joe90 14


  15. I watched Greta's speech, and have to say, it was the best 4 minutes of home truth telling I've ever seen.

    Well done, kid.

    • In Vino 15.1

      I deliberately refrained from saying the same thing because she eyeballed us and said she did not want our praise – she wanted our action.

      So we have to do things, not praise. Now, what am I going to do?

  16. peterlepaysan 16

    I am 77 yo and there is nothing that Greta said or did I disagree or disapprove of.

    Good on you, kid!

    Go for it!

  17. greywarshark 17

    This is the sort of investment that John Key and the Wailers was angling for in NZ. The Gnats like money, and if there is illegality then a warm iron on the notes could flatten them out so the JK Band could play (with) them.


    More than 200 victims of a Ponzi scheme have come forward claiming to be owed up to $45 million, after its director died and the company collapsed….

    The company liquidator, Tim Downes of Grant Thornton, told Morning Report all the claimants were Japanese, although some had lived in New Zealand for a long time and the scheme had been running for at least seven years.

    "I think part of the enticement was assistance with immigration into New Zealand under the business immigration scheme where a party needs to invest a certain amount of money in New Zealand," he said.

    "That's part of the process of attracting funds.

    "The other one was the promise of better returns than one would normally get – the promise of investments into land in New Zealand, and also the promise of investments into profitable, well-run foreign exchange trading businesses."

    They would have been better people if they had invested in a green business that had good growth prospects – like


    Work has begun to develop a fit-for-purpose beverage container return scheme for New Zealand.

    Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage made the announcement at the WasteMINZ conference in Hamilton this morning.

    Such a scheme would would see plastic bottles carry a refundable deposit, for example 10 to 20 cents, that is redeemed when the container is returned to a collection depot or other drop off point.

    An estimated two billion glass, plastic, aluminium, paperboard, and other single use drink containers are consumed in New Zealand each year.

    While many are recycled, they also end up in landfills or as litter in public spaces.

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