Posted by: r.m. | February 28, 2011

Sustainable growth?

Oxymorons. We hear them. We say them.  Those that some of us accept – such as ‘benevolent dictator’ – can be quite dangerous to social well-being.

Perhaps the most common oxymoron and most detrimental is: sustainable economic growth.  Growth = the process of increasing.  Sustainable = to maintain at a certain level.  So, uh, how can you “grow” “sustainably”? How can we have a growing economy and a sustainable environment?

‘Reconciliation Ecology’ explains it well in this blog post:   Sustainable Economic Growth



  1. We should notion that growth in economic productivity was an end in itself.
    What if the role of economy wasn’t actually to maximize wealth in intself?

    Actually, i think that sustainable growth is a contradictory word.
    The develped nations are witnessing growth, and they are not saying “enough”. So, i think that sustainable growth should be only used when referring to countries of the third world nations.

  2. The problem in the term “sustainable growth” is that people are considering it as a final goal rather than considering as an intermediate goal.

  3. The problem is that even “sustainable growth” is a contradictory term, it is considered as a final goal rather being considered as an intermediate goal. “Sustainable growth” is considered as end in itself or the final goal itself. And, since the output is not limited by any final goal, the desire for achieving such a term becomes infinite.

  4. Yes, that’s what happen when growth is seen as a final goal in itself rather than an intermediate goal. When our world will be conscious about the word “enough”? When our world will realize that, indeed, enough is enough, and that enough will not be enough anymore after destroying the planet? … We, humans, are satisfying our ego in consumption. The problem in growth is that it is taking an exponential form. Growth doesn’t lead to that much of happiness. Our consumption lifestyle has led people to “work-watch-spend treadmill”. Is this what is called happiness? definitely not. Will be a time when people will realize the true meaning of enough?S

    • That my friend requires a very high level of awareness, in order for each and every person to realize the grandeur of his footprint on the ecosystem. One has to be able to link let’s say, buying a shirt or eating 1 kg of cow meat, with how much water and electricity were consumed for that, and most importantly, how much CO2 was emitted in the process.
      They have already made enough damage I’m afraid the train has already departed. There has to be a global effort and we should lose the shiny terms because people should be enlightened. One country’s effort would be in vein if another with much more population is exploiting as if the Earth was in great shape.

      • *vain

  5. well “benevolent dictator” is important in many particular cases and cannot conseidered to be dangereous because it is designed to do good and here it is a must to differentiate between the “barbaric” from the “benevolent” dictator. Generally, from my point of view, I can say that being parts of this world it doesn’t matter if from africa, china or bangladesh… our world is in trouble due to ignorance in one part and in a second part too busy to enhance the technologic life… So, rather than critisizing we should try to accept nature and respect it by debating objectively and giving solutions.

  6. It would be great if we could consume our resources in moderation so we could at least be close to being sustainable but unfortunately modern living exhibits heavy demands over the environment and requires colossal amounts of energy. Modern Living + ever growing global population is a recipe for disaster, unless we seek energy sources other than fossil fuels sustainability would be nothing but a dream. To be sustainable we need renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric energy. In my opinion the most efficient would be nuclear energy which would yield more than enough power to meet our energy demands the only downside would be radioactive waste disposal which if done properly wouldn’t be much of a problem and of course the cost of building and managing a nuclear power plant, but in the long run would save governments a lot of money.

  7. I was attracted to this article. Here what is being said: “Because it has no foresight. Natural selection has resulted in traits such as group selfishness being coded in our genes. These were useful to our ancestors under the conditions in which they lived, but have become noxious to us today. What… would help us preserve our natural resources are genetic traits that let us sacrifice the present for the sake of the future. You need wisdom to sacrifice something that is immediately useful or advantageous for the sake of something that will be important in the future. Natural selection doesn’t do that; it looks only at what is happening today. It doesn’t care about your grandchildren or grandchildren’s grandchildren”. (
    If you are not aware my friend, but one should start from solving the root causes of this problem. What about birth control? Plus, look at this solution that Christian de Duve, the novel biologist, has proposed; “Christian de Duve, a novel biologist, advocates giving more power to women. He says:”Speaking as a biologist, I think women are less aggressive than men, and they play a larger role in the early education of the young and helping them overcome their genetic heirloom.”

  8. The term growth itself holds inside a hidden danger: growth into which size?
    Are we looking for a growth on the sample of frog growing into the size of a bull, and ending up by exploding???
    The best term to use is development, which involves the sense of doing better with fewer resources: this is exactly sustainability. And so, no more contradiction!
    The present generation must manage perfectly the processes keeping enough resources for coming generations
    Development is one step forward in performing processes.
    Sustainability is one step backward in using resources.

  9. The term “sustainable growth” shows great antagony, since the word “sustainable” would be “to maintain a same level”, while “growth” is “the expansion of something into something either bigger or more complicated”, so how could we keep growth at a certain level ? Mr Amartya Sen used the word in his article a lot, but just like the writer said, this term is an oxymoron and thus should not be used and cannot be used in ecological articles. I do agree with the writer that it is not the (economical) growth that is important, it is rather what we do with it that makes maintaining it important. The China example is a very interesting one, since it shows that growth, although necessary and really important for a country’s strength to improve and develop, does not mean anything if it doesn’t reflect its results on something else. The writer makes a good point in this article, and he’s got a point when he asks countries to maintain a certain successful stability instead of growing infinitely. After all, if we keep on growing, the resources will keep on growing… the opposite way… And soon we will have to face the problems of assessing our resources…

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