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Building the Future on an Impossible Economy

Article and photos by Lasse Fischer

As we all sit and wait for the economy to go into recession after COVID 19, the largest creation of currency ever printed, and Russia’s assault on Ukraine, an unsettling feeling sets in.

Being a millennial - I was born in 91 - I am about to experience my second ‘once in a lifetime’ crash of the economies around the world. Inflation has not been higher since the mid-80’ies, supply chains have been disrupted to a point where the availability of goods is becoming more unreliable, and even still the largest companies around the world are boasting of record high profit margins.

Chasing growth or, the art of turning one dollar into two, into a thousand, into a billion, has become the bedrock for societies all over the world. We have built the stability and wellbeing of societies around the notion of 3 percent GDP (gross domestic product) growth a year, and anyone who might have some mathematical prowess should be able to understand the problem connected to this ambition. They might ask:

“3 percent in relation to what?”

Well, 3 percent growth in relation to last year’s total GDP.

If you can try to visualize how such a concept might look – it might be expressed by a line curving upwards, and the further in the cycle of growth we are, the steeper the line goes upwards until it becomes vertical, until it starts bending backwards and finally collapses in on itself. This type of paradigm, this kind of fixation with growth, blinds us to other pressing matters. More growth means more production. We eat away at the earth’s resources, each year 3 percent more than the last to match the needed growth in GDP, and each year we get a little closer to pressing the threshold of nature’s ability to regenerate the resources we depend on.

Riddle me this:

“How do you sustain ever expanding economic growth with a limited amount of resources?”.


Well, the thing is, you don’t.

See, what we tend to forget is that society depends on resources offered to us by nature. It is not an abstract concept, but we might have forgotten it, as we have become immersed in modernity, which brings us out of step with the rhythm of nature. We need nutrient rich topsoil to grow our food, we need clean water to drink, we need healthy oceans for the fish we put on our plates, and we need a nontoxic environment to live a healthy life.

“Sacrifice to the economy a sprawling meadow and a running river, so that it might grow healthy and strong.” - Well, maybe not.

We might have to reevaluate some of our values. If our economic system starts to undermine our quality of life, and challenge our ability to exist, then we should start looking for better solutions.

The trick is though, that while we debate and evaluate, soil is being sprayed, the smoke rises from the 100-meter-tall concrete chimneys, and the next oil spill is either long overdue or has already happened – at this point it is hard to keep track. 

Changing the status quo means creative thinking, it means solving problems in other ways than we are used to, it means restructuring our lives, and hey, that is not always a bad thing.

We have forgotten that the luxuries we live with are not something owed to us, but that they are instead something we insist on having. Humanity has gone without the luxuries of today before, and it might be that we will have to be without them again in the future to regain some of what we have lost.

Ghana Venskab


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