The End of Growth

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Authour: Richard Heinberg

Review by Matt Mellen

Richard Heinberg’s book on the demise of our current economic system may start bleakly, but also offers up hope for a new and perhaps brighter future

Heinberg begins by expertly detailing the three reasons why the financial collapse is not a blip to be fixed, but the end of civilisation as we know it: resources are running out, potential environmental catastrophes are approaching tipping points, and debt-based economics is failing.

It is an argument that many of us do not need convincing of, but Heinberg’s attention to detail and engaging style make for good company as he describes the coming Armageddon. He also makes the point that this remains a marginalised concern among politicians and the mainstream media who obsess over increasing growth.

The book eventually moves on to exploring the post-growth world: how we get there and what it may be like. Dwelling on the problems of the current system rather than tackling these ideas sooner is one slight weak point of the book. Nonetheless, Heinberg offers some interesting ideas on the subject.

Despite what he deems as the inevitable consequences of our current way of life, the purpose of the book is to prepare individuals and communities for a new society.

Heinberg believes that our future is dependent on the provision of necessary tools and knowledge to enable survival, and that pre-emptive action can be spread via grassroots initiatives. He argues that by investing now in renewable energy and low carbon food production, we could avoid many of the catastrophes of sticking to ‘business as usual’.

Heinberg also writes that: “The end of economic growth does not necessarily mean we’ve reached the end of qualitative improvements in human life.” For example, the book argues that meeting our neighbours not only strengthens community resilience, but is also one of the easiest and most successful actions we can take to improve our wellbeing.

The End of Growth gives an honest account of the limits of our economy and the consequences of continuing along the path we’re currently on. Even Heinberg himself admits early on that his message may be bleak. However, later sections provide hope and the possibility of a bright post-growth future.

The End of Growth is published by New Society Publishers, 2011