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Apocalypse of exponential growth

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Dear Editor:

With the world's increasing focus on wealth and accumulation of material possessions comes an inconvenient truth. There is, in fact, a limit to growth. Here's a simple scenario that clearly depicts the implications of long-term economic growth.

Assume in the year 1000 B.C. that ALL the material possessions on earth occupied a volume of one cubic meter. I wasn't around then, but I'm pretty sure that's very conservative. Now apply 3 percent annual economic growth to that amount of "stuff." Three percent is a typical modern economic growth rate target. After 3,000 years of 3% growth to that one cubic meter of goods (in other words, by the year 2000 A.D.), how big would that pile of stuff be? The answer is about 1 times 10 to the 38th power cubic meters. That sounds like a big number. It's a HUGE number!

For reference, the earth's entire volume is 1 x 10 to the 21st power cubic meters. That means the volume of goods accumulated over 3,000 years with 3% annual growth would not just be as large as the earth, it would be larger than one billion earths. In fact, it would be 100 million of these one billion earths (sextillion earths)! This is not fake news -- it's the power of exponential growth.

In 2019, we should all be thanking our lucky stars that our ancestors weren't focused on material wealth and 3% annual economic growth, because the so-called apocalypse would have occurred long ago and we wouldn't be here. The economic theories of limitless growth and unlimited resources, and governments' appeasement of their populations with deficit spending to stimulate economies, fight wars, provide benefits, and increase standards of living without paying for it, will eventually lead to the slow apocalyptic end of life on earth as we know it. 3% annual growth is certain to doom us or change us. It's simple math. But it will take a relatively long time for this phenomenon to occur. Compared to our lifetimes, a very, very long time. So long that we can't fathom changing how we live today. But another potentially apocalyptic, exponential phenomenon may be occurring. If climate change science is right, its impact will be relatively short -- your children and grandchildren's lives may be significantly affected.

No matter what you believe about climate science, its risk is not zero, just like the risk of your house burning down is not zero (hence, homeowner's insurance). Are we so short-sighted and spoiled to not pay for an insurance policy to ensure those we enjoy life with today don't face an apocalypse of our making?

Brian Wegner

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