The Big Picture

November 6, 2012 in Inspirational

After thinking a little bit about the “Why Bother” question of last week, I thought I would take a few minutes to zoom out on the bigger picture. How does No-Buy-November fit into the economy as a whole, and into things like peak oil, global warming, etc.

The Economy: The Exponential Growth Problem

The problem with our current economy is that it is based on the concept of exponential growth. Right now, a “normal” happy economy is growing at, let’s say, 5%. That means that the economy this year is 5% bigger than it was last year. And then next year, it is 5% bigger than this year. So let’s pick a random number to represent the economy in year 1… how about 100. In year 2, with a 5% growth rate, the economy is worth 105. No big deal so far. But with a consistent growth rate of 5% over 10 years our imaginary economy is already up to 155, so in only ten years, the economy has grown by 55%.

The problem, of course, is that although our economy is based on the idea of infinite, exponential growth, we live on a finite planet. At a certain point, the exponential growth of the economy will hit the real limits of our planet, at which point exponential growth (or growth at all) will be impossible. There are things we can do to make the economy more efficient, and squeeze a little bit more out of the same resources, but even that has limits.

So what does this have to do with No-Buy-November? Well, that should be fairly obvious. For one month, we are not buying into a small part of that exponential growth economy, and pushing back, just a little, the point where our growth and the limits of our planet run into each other.

These are some rather controversial and uncomfortable ideas, and maybe you don’t agree with my (fairly simplified) analysis. That’s fine, and I hope you will try the No-Buy-November challenge anyway. But, if you are interested in a much more detailed analysis of the exponential growth problem by someone much, much smarter than me, here is a great article.

Peak Oil

I am not going to go into very much depth on the peak oil issue here, but let’s just say that pretty much everyone agrees that oil is a finite resourse that we will eventually run out of. (I think most of the disagreement is centered around when we will run out, and if we will be able to replace oil with something else before then.).

But oil, like everything else on the planet, is a finite resourse. By doing No-Buy-November, and by consuming less in general, you are using less oil (and less other stuff too) and therefor helping to stave off the peak oil problem. Go you!

For a very interesting discussion on the peak oil issue, take a look at this article by one of my favorite bloggers. Also, here is a link to a very interesting report by BP on what they think the energy future will look like. (I got the link from MMM’s blog. Thanks!)

Global Warming

Again, a somewhat controversial issue for some reason. Although if 99% of the people who know what they are talking about agree that something is true, I don’t understand why we are still arguing about it… Anyway. Buying less stuff means less greenhouse gas emissions! Yay!

So: Why should you buy less stuff? There are lots and lots of reasons, and the three I list above are just a few.

What’s your reason?