Viewpoint: Decoupling Growth and Fulfillment

I sometimes struggle, as I believe we all do from time to time, to articulate things that I feel to be right or true. Language, as beautiful a gift as it is, has its limitations.

When I attempt to explain why I feel that some of my more “extreme” views amount to something of a moral imperative given our collective state of polarization and ecological crisis, my words often feel lacking. My heart knows something that my mind cannot yet see, let alone explain.

One such belief of mine is that economic growth is not the answer to all our problems and must be re-examined as a priority. This position, especially at a time when the dominant narrative is that we must grow to survive and that such growth is a precondition for greater equality, seems radical and unfounded. Yet I believe that a better world will emerge from deeper soil and compassion, not deeper pockets. And I am not alone.

Thankfully there are many in our world – those who live now and those who have come before – who possess a unique gift for articulating the importance of equality, love, humility, generosity, curiosity, and peace. These are more than words; they are calls to action, action that can bring about “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible” (Charles Eisenstein). 

This quote from the late Donella Meadows, author of “Limits to Growth”, says so much so eloquently about the practical and psychological benefits of a nonmaterial future:

People don’t need enormous cars; they need respect. They don’t need closetsful of clothes; they need to feel attractive and they need excitement, variety, and beauty. People need identity, community, challenge, acknowledgement, love, joy. To try to fill these needs with material things is to set up an unquenchable appetite for false solutions to real and never-satisfied problems. The resulting psychological emptiness is one of the major forces behind the desire for material growth. A society that can admit and articulate its nonmaterial needs and find nonmaterial ways to satisfy them would require much lower material and energy throughputs and would provide much higher levels of human fulfillment.
— Donella Meadows

The work we’re doing at A Tipping Point takes this viewpoint as a foundational perspective. We need more than new ideas to create lasting change and a thriving future - we need a recommitment to nonmaterial value and values. We need an approach that accepts growth as a natural by-product of creative energy and the shared thriving of humanity and the natural world, rather than one that seeks growth as an artificial target for the accumulation of material wealth at the expense of billions of people and our planet.

With love,

Anthony