Shrink for prosperity

Richard Register | 04 August 2010

If we take up less room there’s room for all of us, including the other animals and the plants of this planet. There are three largest categories of shrinking back to this generosity of living: 1.) heading toward far fewer of us, leaving room for a smaller “all” of us humans, 2.) reducing the scale and impact of our agriculture system and 3.) building our cities, towns and villages literally much smaller, based on the human body’s dimensions and needs for energy, shelter and land as compared with building cities for the demands of automobiles. Get those three very large topics covered and we might just get to live here in style (if not oppulent waste) for a long, long time.

Small is beautiful, small is survival, small means thriving deep into the future. This is the theme of my next book, the one I’m working on now, working title: “Shrink for Prosperity – Last Chance for a Happy Future.”

 The current economic and ecological “truths” couldn’t be farther apart. Grow, grow, grow is the mantra of the faith-based economists just as the macro signs are going stunningly negative. Climate change, collapsing species world-wide and approaching limits of various resources aren’t just God’s idea for planet-destroying entertainment of the sort so much in vogue now among movies made by humans. All those disasters are moving faster than any evolutionary change in the history of the Earth shy of flyswatter asteroids of the sort that hit around every 100 million years.

So we have a macroproblem in macroeconomics. The more of us and the more for each of us isn’t yet recognized in economic theory circles as soon to blow out our planetary fuses in this finite world hemmed in by the lithosphere on one side and space on the other. The answer: physicaleconomics, paying attention to what is actually physically happening and basing future economics around that.

 My new book leaves to the economists what they do well: the fine tuning of a little more or less taxing, interest and corruption regulating (when they actually do it), money printing and so on to adjust the investment strategies that see the world economy as a kind of neutral OK thing to be accepted and profited from. But what to actually build and how to actually live in our built, agricultural and natural environments – go to ecological models to figure out the economics, that really counts.

There’s a race to the finish now. Family planning works in some places quite well, but cumulative population growth is still with us. Organic and intensive agriculture, farmers markets and the like are growing but massive agricultural growth is still with us too and much bigger. Cities are seeing more and more pedestrian, transit, natural restoration and urban agriculture progress, while in most of the world they are paving ever more land for cars. As said, it’s a race to the finish now. Let’s hope it’s not us to be finished. Last chance for a happy future.