The Myth of Growth Pt. 1 – Growing Pains

October 26th, 2014







“…it dawned on me that the way I’ve been running Interface [his company] is the way of the plunderer; plundering something that’s not mine; something that belongs to every creature on earth… The day must come when this is illegal; when plundering is not allowed. It must come. So I said to myself: “My goodness, someday people like me will end up in jail.”


– Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, the world’s largest commercial carpet manufacturer




The propaganda of growth

The propaganda of growth


We have been bombarded for so long with the idea that growth is always a positive thing that it has become almost heretical to think otherwise. We have created a climate of religious zeal where any view that doesn’t support growth is a kind of blasphemy.


Those who promote growth cannot bring themselves to let go of their idolized concept even when describing its opposite: loss. Instead, it is repositioned as ‘negative growth’ as if to say: ‘Have no fear investors/citizens, it is only a blip. Soon we will be back on the path of righteous growth.’


Growth has become intertwined then, with an equally tricky notion: Success. If you missed last week’s blog about it click here and success will be yours (or at least the illusion of it).




As above, so below



Those familiar with the Monday Conscious Health blog will be aware that we look at our subjects holistically. That is, if something is true then that truth can be demonstrated at all levels from the micro to the macro cosmos; from the cells of our body to the reaches of space (for a blog demonstrating that literally click here). So let us now test the theory of growth at a number of levels.




The energy view of growth



In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a model to describe the transformation and regulation of energy. It is known as the “Five Phases of Transformation” (a.k.a. Five Elements). Observe the following diagram.



© Jeremy Halpin (Phase/Element categories not shown)

© Jeremy Halpin
(Phase/Element categories not shown)



The clockwise flow of energy shows growth and transformation. This is the cycle of becoming, of creation. There is another cycle that skips a ‘generation’ and reaches across. It is the cycle of regulation and control. It is the death process that regulates and harmonizes life. Without this second cycle, growth would just continue unabated.


Imagine if nothing died or ended its cycle. Every life form would be packed together like sardines on the planet and all movement and transformation would stop. Dynamics and flow would cease. This is why, as long as there is growth, there must be the regulation of growth.




View from the body



If endless growth is the mantra we hear in the broadcasts of  a big, brash world then should not it also be true in the micro-world of the body? The body, it seems, has regular lapses of faith. While a healthy body does indeed grow new cells and produce new chemical reactions every second it also regulates them. This blasphemer’s name is homeostasis.



Homeostasis is the mechanism by which the body sustains a balance in all things. For example, if we work a muscle too hard we use up the available oxygen to it and the body switches to an anaerobic form of energy called lactic acid. Being acid, it burns and causes us discomfort so we cease the activity till we can replenish the oxygen debt.



Without this regulating mechanism we could die from exhaustion of our available energy resources. We would only become aware of the problem just as the body began to break down.



There are many other examples. If we eat too much sugar our pancreas secretes insulin to remove it from the blood. If we abuse our energy our body forces us to rest. Sometimes, when we ignore signals our body-mind uses more persuasive albeit dysfunctional methods – like the creation of disease.



Unhealthy growth



Normal, healthy cells grow to a certain point where they contact surrounding cells then stop. They manage to fulfill the functions for which they were created without creating problems for the surrounding cells in doing theirs. Healthy cells play well with others.


There is another type of cell that grows without natural, healthy restraints. It ignores the surrounding tissue and continues to grow at its expense – even to the point where the whole organism is put in mortal danger. It has an all too well known name: cancer.



© Cancer Help UK

© Cancer Help UK



Fortunately cancer cells are usually censored by the organism’s natural immune and homeostatic mechanisms before it is even aware of their presence.


Socially well-adjusted people instinctively know how to play well with others. That is, they have learned that any group activity involves a level of give as well as take. Such people create harmonious societies. At the collective level then we also demonstrate homeostatic mechanisms.


An overly egoistic person who only takes will at some point, face censure by the group or society as their actions become destructive – unless that person has acquired an unnatural and disproportionate level of power and influence.






Some people are more equal than others: The corporate citizen and the 1% influence[1]



Ever since the introduction of limited liability (and, in Northern America at least, ‘corporate personhood’) a corporation has been treated by law as a single person, a corporate citizen. It is then afforded many of the same rights as a private citizen. Technically, that means it has the same responsibilities as well.


In practice however a corporation can never be fairly compared to most individuals:


  • How many people do you know amass billions of dollars, make hefty political campaign donations and employ powerful lobby groups to further their own economic, political and personal interests?


  • How many people do you know who can get laws changed to protect them from prosecution – or even the threat of future prosecution?[2]


  • How many people do you know who can make millions of dollars but pay little of no tax on it?[3]



If you do know such people personally then it may be because you are one of them. If so, you are in the err, company, of a very non-representative group: The economic top one percent.



The problem with this situation is not the money they make but the hugely disproportionate level of power and influence they wield. They also control and use an equally huge and disproportionate amount of the available resources on our finitely resourced planet.


©Tom Toro

©Tom Toro



To highlight this even more a corporation’s wealth is based upon its projected growth. In other words a corporation must keep growing to survive. It does this by attempting the dangerous and insane:



To infinitely grow (and consume resources) in a finitely resourced world.



To compound this logic error, the corporate citizen is legally bound by its shareholders to put its interests above everything else – even at the cost of others.





If a private citizen demonstrated this same behavior:


  • Following self-interest above all other concerns
  • Demonstrating no ability for compassion or empathy when their actions negatively affect or harm others
  • To have no self-regulating mechanism regarding their behavior when placed in a position of conflicting interests with another.


– they would be deemed to have a psychopathic personality disorder.




A sustainable world view


© DC Comics (Time Warner)

© DC Comics (Time Warner)


Fortunately there are other ways to view the world and our place in it. When we finally release our psychopathic need to grow at all costs we can begin to see things in terms of sustainability and resilience. That is, working with mechanisms that are self-regulating so that we never go beyond what can be supported.


As we have seen, such mechanisms exist in us and they exist at a global level too – for the same reason. And that, by an amazing coincidence, is what we will be looking at next week in part 2 of this short series. So don’t worry, be happy. There are solutions and possibilities out there and within us.



Till we feel the growing pains of another Monday,





[1] With reference to the original quote “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” from ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell. 1945.

[2]”The Monsanto Protection Act, essentially both written by and benefiting Monsanto Corporation, has been signed into law by United States President Barack Obama. The infamous Monsanto Corporation will benefit greatly and directly from the bill, as it essentially gives companies that deal with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds immunity to the federal courts, among other things.

The bill states that even if future research shows that GMOs or GE seeds cause significant health problems…that the federal courts no longer have any power to stop their spread, use, or sales.” – For the full text of this article click here.

[3] Tax avoidance by American corporations was called “Gaming the system” by president Obama (yes, it seems public office is a minefield of contradictions). For the full article and accompanying short video click here.



© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:







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