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The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic System | Common Dreams

The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic System | Common Dreams

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of
the West Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable(4), the Ecuadorean
government decided that oil drilling would go ahead in the heart of the
Yasuni national park(5). It had made an offer to other governments: if
they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it
would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as blackmail or
you could see it as fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are
rich: why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without
compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of
hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that
Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and
spills(6), will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the
planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species
than exist in the entire continent of North America(7).

The UK oil company Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa’s oldest
national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo(8); one of
the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of
chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4
billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the
south-east(9), the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs
into a new Niger delta. To this end it’s changing the trespass laws to
enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local
people(10,11). These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our
hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the
planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands,
everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious will
be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the
world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey

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