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Myth Of Continuous Growth

December 1, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 48

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I COMPLIMENT Aaron Kinsman on his letter regarding the fallacy that "continuous economic growth is limitless" (C&EN, Oct. 27, page 3). It is amazing that this myth (and often unquestioned value) has persisted for so long. It is one of the strengths of our profession that, from early on, many chemists understand the importance of balancing equations. Balancing this growth equation becomes a particular mess when "growth" is directly linked to "consumption."

I especially appreciate his pointing out the difficult truth that the "significant policy and lifestyle changes required to create a sustainable society will cause a recession in monetary terms but improvements in health and happiness." I believe our profession can play a positive role in this transition if we help our society understand the importance of "balancing equations" and find innovative ways to decouple growth and consumption from happiness and health while creating economic opportunities for those displaced from consumption-dependent jobs.

When we begin to look for and find ways in which quality of life is measured by units other than "growth" and "consumption," balancing equations will no longer be as intimidating and we can all step off the treadmill to enjoy family, friends, and the world around us.

William L. Scott


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