408 pages, 6 illustrations, 2 tables
The notion of ever-expanding economic growth has been promoted so relentlessly that "growth" is now entrenched as the natural objective of collective human effort. The public has been convinced that growth is the natural solution to virtually all social problems – poverty, debt, unemployment, and even the environmental degradation caused by the determined pursuit of growth. Meanwhile, warnings by scientists that we live on a finite planet that cannot sustain infinite economic expansion are ignored or even scorned.
In Collision Course, Kerryn Higgs examines how society's commitment to growth has marginalized scientific findings on the limits of growth, casting them as bogus predictions of imminent doom. Higgs tells how in 1972, The Limits to Growth – written by MIT researchers Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and William Behrens III – found that unimpeded economic growth was likely to collide with the realities of a finite planet within a century. Although Collision Course's arguments received positive responses initially, before long the dominant narrative of growth as panacea took over.
Higgs explores the resistance to ideas about limits, tracing the propagandizing of "free enterprise," the elevation of growth as the central objective of policy makers, the celebration of "the magic of the market," and the ever-widening influence of corporate-funded think tanks – a parallel academic universe dedicated to the dissemination of neoliberal principles and to the denial of health and environmental dangers from the effects of tobacco to global warming. More than forty years after The Limits to Growth, the idea that growth is essential continues to hold sway, despite the mounting evidence of its costs – climate destabilization, pollution, intensification of gross global inequalities, and depletion of the resources on which the modern economic edifice depends.
"This clear and cogent book is an important wake-up call. It should not need saying that it is impossible for human populations and economies to grow without limit on a finite planet, but that delusion is widespread. This book is a reminder of the inconvenient truth that should be informing our leaders, as well as an excellent analysis of the way public understanding of our global predicament has been systematically subverted for decades by powerful vested interests."
– Australian Book Review
"This is an excellent book, full of historical depth and analytical insights."
– Jonathon Porritt, Resurgence & Ecologist
"If modern society ever had a core taboo it is against speaking favorably of limits, especially with respect to growth. To accept limits, to question growth is to upset a myth that has sustained the industrial world for a century and more. But that 'sustaining' has been through fossil fuels and problem displacement, not living within ecological means. That time is over, and so should be the taboo. Higgs thus performs a valuable service with her thorough and carefully crafted history of the ideas of limits and growth. It is well worth reading even for those who feel they know the arguments."
– Thomas Princen, author of The Logic of Sufficiency and Treading Softly
"Important, wonderful, and shocking. The conspiracy theory that we all thought too fanciful to be true was not so crazy after all, and here is the evidence to prove it. Higgs explains brilliantly how our ideas about economics and the environment have been carefully warped and manipulated over decades, just so a small minority could get rich. This book is essential reading."
– Graeme Maxton, Member of the Club of Rome and best-selling author
"In Collision Course, Kerryn Higgs skillfully traces the history of the limits to growth controversy, focusing on the question of resource adequacy to sustain future growth in human consumption. This is an important book with a highly unique perspective that cuts across conventional disciplines and history."
– Dennis Pirages, Professor of Political Science, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
"Collision Course is a well-documented, insightful, and sweeping assessment of economic growth: its inescapable past, perilous present, and impossible future."
– Brian Czech, founder and President of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE)
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Kerryn Higgs is an Australian writer. She received her PhD in Geography and Environmental Studies from the University of Tasmania.