[Marxism] Is Growth Over?

ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu
Wed Jan 16 17:53:09 MST 2013

Ralph gave a succinct and helpful summary of a couple of the
many Marxist theories of an impending doom of capitalism and
asked me

> what (I) counter-pose specifically from (my) reading in
> the economic literature.

Thank you for asking, here is my answer:

Doomsday theories are a long tradition in Marxism, we all
are in some ways inured to them.  Therefore it may be
difficult to appreciate the importance of the recent fact
that since about 2004 there has been a rising chorus of
mainstream theorists, first earth systems theorists and then
also economists, promulgating doomsday theories too.

I am enclosing one of these warnings by non-Marixsts at the
end of this message, just as illustration of what I am
talking about.  The difference between these warnings and
the familiar warnings of Marxists is that the new mainstream
doom theories are based on far more specific data and a huge
body of literature from the natural sciences.  The approach
or the catastrophe can be measured, with the verdict that we
are much aurther ahead on the way to catastrophe than it may

The reason for this catastrophe is the overuse of the
planet's resources by human production and consumption.
More and more of the systems theorists concerned about the
limits of growth and climate change are also coming to the
conclusion that capitalism plays a role in this and we need
a different system.

This is a big movement not led by Marxists.  There should be
discussions among Marxists to better understand this
movement and to make a positive contribution to it.  By
writing a blog post titled "Limits to Growth" which does not
mention the finiteness of the planet's resources, Lou did
not promote the kind of discussion I think is necessary.


Here is an example of a recent prediction of doom, one of
many.  I found it odd that nobody on the Marxism list
brought it up:


Inter Press Service             January 14, 2013

Experts Fear Collapse of Global Civilisation

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 11 2013 (IPS) - Experts on the health of our planet 
are terrified of the future. They can clearly see the coming collapse of 
global civilisation from an array of interconnected environmental problems.

"We're all scared," said Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for 
Conservation Biology at Stanford University.

"But we must tell the truth about what's happening and challenge people to 
do something to prevent it," Ehrlich told IPS.

Global collapse of human civilisation seems likely, write Ehrlich and his 
partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the 
Royal Society.

This collapse will take the form of a "gradual breakdown because famines, 
epidemics and resource shortages cause a disintegration of central control 
within nations, in concert with disruptions of trade and conflicts over 
increasingly scarce necessities", they write.

Already two billion people are hungry today. Food production is humanity's 
biggest industry and is already being affected by climate and other 
environmental problems. "No civilisation can avoid collapse if it fails to 
feed its population," the authors say.

Escalating climate disruption, ocean acidification, oceanic dead zones, 
depletion of groundwater and extinctions of plants and animals are the main 
drivers of the coming collapse, they write in their peer-reviewed article 
"Can a collapse of global civilisation be avoided?" published this week.

Dozens of earth systems experts were consulted in writing the 10-page paper 
that contains over 160 references.

"We talked to many of the world's leading experts to reflect what is really 
happening," said Ehrlich, who is an eminent biologist and winner of many 
scientific awards.

Our reality is that current overconsumption of natural resources and the 
resulting damage to life-sustaining services nature provides means we need 
another half of a planet to keeping going. And that's if all seven billion 
remain at their current living standards, the Ehrlichs write.

If everyone lived like a U.S. citizen, another four or five planets would be 

Global population is projected to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050. It doesn't 
take an expert to conclude that collapse of civilisation will be unavoidable 
without major changes.

We're facing a future where billions will likely die, and yet little is 
being done to avoid certain disaster, he said.

"Policy makers and the public aren't terrified about this because they don't 
have the information or the knowledge about how our planet functions," he 

Last March, the world's scientific community provided the first-ever "state 
of the planet" assessment at the "Planet Under Pressure" conference  in 
London. More than 3,000 experts concluded humanity is facing a "planetary 
emergency" and there was no time to lose in making large-scale changes.

In 2010, a coalition of the national scientific bodies and international 
scientific unions from 141 countries warned that "the continued functioning 
of the Earth system as we know it is at risk".

"The situation is absolutely desperate and yet there's nothing on the front 
pages or on the agenda of world leaders," said Pat Mooney, head of the 
international environmental organisation ETC Group.

"The lack of attention is a tragedy," Mooney previously told IPS.

Solutions exist and are briefly outlined in the Ehrlich paper. However, 
these require sweeping changes. All nations need to do everything they can 
to reduce their emissions of fossil fuels regardless of actions or lack of 
them by any other country, he said.

Protection of the Earth's biodiversity must take centre stage in all policy 
and economic decisions. Water and energy systems must be re-engineered. 
Agriculture must shift from fossil-fuel intensive industrial monocultures to 
ecologically-based systems of food production. Resilience and flexibility 
will be essential for civilisation to survive.

A key element in meeting this unprecedented challenge is ".to see ourselves 
as utterly embedded in Nature and not somehow separate from those precious 
systems that sustain all life", writes England's Prince Charles commenting 
on the Ehrlich's paper.

"To continue with 'business as usual' is an act of suicide on a gargantuan 
scale," Prince Charles concluded.

Energy mailing list
Energy at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu

More information about the Marxism mailing list