June 2016 Perpetual growth is global cancer,” said celebrated film-maker turned organic farmer and author, Mansoor Khan. Quoting environmental author, Edward Paul Abbey, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell”, Khan was delivering a talk on the subject ‘Pathways to Visionary Futures’, organised by the Delhi-based Alternative Futures, in collaboration with India Habitat Centre. Khan’s talk was based upon two questions: Is perpetual growth possible? And is it desirable? He explained how the term ‘growth’ came into existence in the year 1750, along with the Industrial revolution, and the advent of what we know as modern-day economics. “That was the time man discovered fossil fuels and within 150 years, he finished 50 per cent of it,” he said. According to Khan, earth has a finite amount of resources and all resources behave in a bell curve, which is after their discovery, they reach a peak and then descend later on. Oil and other fossil fuels hit the peak in 1960, and have been in descent ever since. We had an ecological collapse at that time and faced an economic collapse in 2008. “The truth is that we have reached the end of growth, and we must accept it. We have to deal with this reality, overcome the denial, and urgently start incorporating this truth into our education, policies and development plans. Being coy or evasive about it is not going to change the geology of this planet,” he cautioned. He opined that using alternative sources of energy is not a sustainable option as they too use fossil fuel energy for their production. “The one solution we have today is to focus on a qualitative approach, and bring a shift in the way we have been living our lives. We have had enough growth, now what is required is shrinkage,” he said. Explaining this concept, he said contrary to the popular belief, we have to now personally believe that small is good, local is important, community is strength, sharing is charity and diversity is paramount. This will amount to a huge shift in our cultural perspective. “The only option is to remove things from the realm of goods and services and return them to the realm of gifts, reciprocity, self-sufficiency and community sharing. Community is probably the best investment you can make,” he concluded.
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