'It’s All Boiling Down to Too Many People' – GrowthBusters Review

Published on February 28th, 2012

“I think sustainability is a bicycle with two wheels – No. 1 would be stabilizing population and second is reducing consumption.”

– Dick Lamm, former governor of Colorado

“If you manage, somehow, to half each person’s consumption, on average, but you allow population size to double, you haven’t gained at all, because, if you have half as much consumption per person, but twice as many persons, you’re right where you started.”

– Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University

In “GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth,” documentary filmmaker Dave Gardner talks about how he began his crusade against too much growth by calling out his hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado, for its growth addiction.

Nestled against the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs changed from a charming mountain town in the last half of the 20th century, Gardner tells us, into a congestion zone covered by concrete and asphalt, with fast food restaurant and housing development spread.

Gardner pleads with his fellow townsfolk and city council to consider what real progress is and to look at developing a sustainable and ecologically responsible prosperity strategy, stating, “I’m against economic development strategies that encourage, accelerate and rely on population expansion.”

His appearances before city officials often were met with outright ridicule. At one meeting he was challenged with the notion that “The opposite of growing is really dying.” Gardner responded to that claim by calling it “folk economics.”

Gardner’s efforts in Colorado Springs tended to fall in the category of “major uphill battle,” but some of his fellow citizens definitely “got it.” Among the man-in-the-field comments in “GrowthBusters” were:

  • All these people! What are we going to do with them?
  • Too much development; we don’t have enough water.
  • It’s all boiling down to too many people.

Overall though, what happened in Colorado Springs was “business as usual.” Even though people complain about the costs and impacts of growth and many want to create more sustainable towns, Gardner found that there’s real reluctance to question growth.

As Gardner continued his crusade, he found that his community wasn’t unlike many other towns and cities across the country, as well as nations around the world, that promote growth with such incentives as tax deductions, child credits and welfare payments to have more children.

Growth, in most every aspect of our lives, is deeply embedded in our cultural programming, he realized, with economic growth being the “holy grail.”

“We’ve got a situation in which we’re seeing the growth in human technological capacity and human populations and the scale of the economy that’s completely unprecedented,” explains William Rees, professor and population ecologist at the University of British Columbia, in the film.

Adds Dick Lamm, former governor of Colorado and co-director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies in Denver, Colorado, “Humankind has itself become a geologic force; it’s changing our climate; it’s heating up our world; it’s making our water tables lower; our fisheries are dying.”

Gardner’s look at our culture of growth leads him to explore the historical path of growth. Our use of fossil fuels for energy spurred population growth in just the last 100+ years from around 2 billion in the early 1900s to more than 7 billion today.

Through excellent visuals and numerous respected sources – among them, Al Bartlett, retired physics professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder; Chris Martenson, creator of “The Crash Course;” Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Stanford professor and author of “The Population Bomb;” Dennis Meadows, director of the Club of Rome Project on the Predicament of Mankind and co-author of “Limits to Growth” – Gardner addresses such ideas as steady growth, uneconomic growth, biocapacity, carrying capacity, “growth pushers,” ecological footprint, liquidation of our resources through growth, the consumer-driven society and media perpetuation of growth.

Lots of good stuff here – this documentary is a “must see” for anyone concerned about social justice, sustainability and a future for mankind.

Find a screening or order a copy of “GrowthBusters” at http://www.growthbusters.org.

Read my interview with the filmmaker here.

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