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Misguided Progress

Unless there's economic growth, we're not making progress
Unless the trucks rumble along the roads, we're not making progress
Unless the engines of industry are turning, we're not making progress
Unless the factories and mills belch out smoke, we're not making progress
Unless our armies are on the move, we're not making progress

Until we respect the planet, we won't progress.

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I don't think that there is necessarily anything inherently wrong with human industrial activity. Although a great deal of output from humankind's industrial processes add little to our quality of life a good many of the produced artefacts do.

If the scale of human industrial activity were a lot smaller and its output more rationally decided upon than it is at present, then I believe it should be possible for industrial processes to provide all people with artefacts which would allow them to live fulfilling and modestly prosperous lives and without putting our planetary life support system at risk.

What is putting our planet at grave risk is:

  1. The inherent inefficiency of our 'free market' system, which is made even less efficient because of the other factors described below
  2. The greed of our wealthy elites, which causes them to take a huge and unfair share of the planet's wealth for themselves
  3. The deliberate introduction of further inefficiencies into our 'free market' system to further facilitate the transfer of wealth into the pockets of the wealthy, but, note, not the creation of additional wealth. Examples include:
    1. built-in obsolescence, which, for example, forces us to buy new cars roughly every 10 years if we are lucky, instead of after 100 years, which has been shown to be technologically feasible, or even considerably more years.
    2. The non-standard manufacture of equipment, which forces us to throw away perfectly good items such as electric jig-saws, because the manufacturers stop manufacturing the necessary blades after a few years. Another type of item, which is not standardised is the rechargeable battery. They have limited lives yet many electrical items, including phones and MP3 players depend upon them to run.
  4. Deliberate increase of population to levels which our planet cannot sustain. This is truly a most bizarre and counter-intuitive way for a greedy elite to increase its wealth, because the increase in numbers can only possibly make each member of society, on average, poorer as well as threaten our very survival. Yet, population growth causes the demand for land, and other commodities in limited supply, and, hence, for the money that they can demand for purchase of or access to such commodities. The increase in human numbers beyond certain optimal levels, which every society on earth, including Australia, has long ago surpassed creates further diseconomies of scale. Consider, for example, how much more in real terms per-capita it now costs to provide each Australian citizen with essential services or commodities such as water,public transport, electricity, gas, etc.

If we were able to rectify all these problems, which would only be possible if power were taken away from the elites and returned to the people by true and effective democracy, then I think it would be possible to change our industrial system to make it sustainable.

Thanks James for your considered input of suggestions.
On your advocacy of 'effective democracy' which I support, I invite you and your readers to listen to the ABC Radio 'Rear Vision' documentary programme on today on Direct Democracy in Switzerland.

'In Switzerland, voters not only elect the government they also directly vote on policy issues and legislation passed by the parliament. What can we learn from Switzerland?'

Direct Democracy in Switzerland

Suggan Buggan
Snowy River Region
Victoria 3885