Sunday, July 24, 2005

The slash-and-burn economy

A big-picture thought tumbled down from the dusty rafters of my mind this week. Must have been the time spent away from home, away from the computer, in a lovely peaceful place with a full schedule and new faces all around. Anyway, I recalled a conversation from several months ago, in a conference food line, where I put forth what I see as a fundamental challenge for humanity today: that our global economy is completely dependent on growth, yet our biosphere is fixed. The response startled me: "That's no problem. We've got enough geopolitical rifts that the economic system will always be getting reset." Or something to that effect.

Other times when I've mentioned the fixed biosphere problem, the most common response has been a vaguely worried, mostly blank look. Sometimes I get arguments about technological substitution, or whether the biosphere really is fixed. But this was the first time someone seemed to understand the points of my argument, but drew a different conclusion. Geopolitical rifts will keep the global economy in balance with the biosphere.

Sort of a world economic version of slash-and-burn agriculture?

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