The Myth of Growth Pt. 2: Sustainability and Resilience

November 1st, 2014





“Resilience has three different properties:


  1. It would be able to withstand a shock without losing its basic functions
  2. It can adapt to changing circumstances
  3. It can transform to a different way of life when the current way of life is no longer feasible”


–          A paraphrased summary of the defining features of a resilient system by Professor Stephen Carpenter



At one point in human history we were the little dog on the planet. We needed an aggressive growth and expansion drive to survive and prosper. In 2014 that policy has long since become counterproductive to our survival. Yet, we have become so addicted to previous success (or hypnotised by habit) that we cannot let it go.


The reason for this fear of abandoning growth as the dominant strategy is that the assumed alternative is loss and suffering. It is a mentality that leads to an aggressive protection of self-interest at the cost of everything and everyone else.


© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

We saw last week in part one of this series on growth that this is the behaviour demonstrated by cancer cells and psychopaths (If you missed part one click here.).  Fortunately the majority of us do not have a psychopathic personality disorder.




From growing pains to sustain and maintain



OK, that’s enough about the problem. What about solutions?


As it so happens there are many people on our beautiful, blue planet who have already considered this question for some time. This is just as well because when we find ourselves in a stock market frenzy of growth and grab mentality or governments that think they should function like businesses, calmer heads need to prevail.



This new thinking emphasises sustainability and resilience. The idea that the planet has the capability to adapt and adjust to changing circumstances; that it has its own forms of homeostasis; and that it can be intelligently and gently managed so that more destructive regulating options are never required.



One such group is the Stockholm Resilience Centre:


In their own words:


“The Stockholm Resilience Centre advances research on the governance of social-ecological systems with a special emphasis on resilience – the ability to deal with change and continue to develop.”




One fascinating component of their work is collaborative projects between scientists and artists. By allowing such diverse perspectives it opens the opportunity for a rare cross-pollination of ideas that can reveal something unlikely to be arrived at or expressed in such a way by either group alone.




Speaking of collaboration



A few years ago, I was involved in a research project in Integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is the co-operation between Western medicine and complementary and alternative practitioners and their methods under the one roof with the patient as the central focus. For those interested in this research the link is here.


An important aspect of integrative medicine is the focus on patient care. This reduces the risk for over medication as the patient is under care of a group. Much of the time it can reduce or even eliminate the need for costly medicines at all as its emphasis is on ‘low tech, high contact’ care and future prevention and education.[1]


In its own gentle but significant way the redirecting of medical practice away from over industrialization and back to simple patient care and prevention reduces the chemical impact on the planet and the needless cruelty to animals in their production.




Getting the kids involved



Another interesting project I have personally been involved with is Miljöverkstan here in Stockholm (here is the link). It has already been the subject of another blog (click here for that)



Miljöverkstan’s focus is on children and young adults and their process in understanding what sustainability is by participating meaningfully in it via group projects. There is a focus on working in nature, creative solutions and personal responsibility.



Operational coordinator Frances Lucas explains:



“Miljöverkstan’s  aim is to create a sustainable platform for children and youth to explore what sustainability means to them on a personal level. By exploring what Miljöverkstan calls ‘Respect times 3’:


  • Respect for self
  • Respect for others
  • Respect for nature


–          we approach social and ecological sustainability while in close contact with nature.”




Work-shopping dynamic models in Stockholm

Work-shopping dynamic models in Stockholm



”Imagine different”



Dystopian futures are not inevitable, despite the weight of propaganda to the contrary:




Try to imagine these scenarios instead:



  • A population that reduces somewhat then stabilizes.
    • Outward expansion would not constantly be required.
    • No need to knock down forests or pave over fields to build new housing or highways to support increasing traffic of people and cars – because it is not expanding.
    • No need to overfish the seas to feed a growing demand – because it isn’t growing.
  • An understanding that areas that surround sensitive eco systems also need to be maintained so that they can support the resilience of protected areas
  • A repurposing of urban areas to provide sustainable, micro ecosystems to make them less dependent on external resources


From 'Stategies for Sustainable Designs'

From ‘Stategies for Sustainable Designs’


  • Pressure on the public purse of State costs eases as maintenance and improvement of what we already have is far less costly than expansive and expensive new development.
  • A radical reduction in conflicts and wars over shrinking resources in an expanding world.
  • Businesses can now focus on ”only” making a sustainable living without the frenzied neurosis of constantly having to grow and increase last year’s profits.[2]
  • A much fairer share of the available resources for everyone across the planet.
  • It would provide a sustainable platform so that food shortages and starvation can be alleviated.



What a more compassionate, peaceful world it would be.








Redirecting our growth focus



When we cease the focus on outward, material expansion we can free up enormous resources of time and energy for inward expansion. When a society only has to maintain and nurture the resources they have, the frenzied chase for more can relax. Our thoughts can then naturally turn towards more meaningful, enriching pursuits.



sitting bull



We can choose what kind of future we wish to co-create. We can choose what level of consciousness we wish to operate from and make our creative decisions accordingly.


We do not need to continue to feed our alpha drives. We do not need to allow our shared world to be destroyed by cancerous, psychopathic values that drive the planet into exhaustion and trigger the external regulation mechanisms of war and disease.


It is a point worth repeating:



We. Can. Choose



And that, by an amazing coincidence for the second week in a row, is precisely what we will be looking at next week in the third and final part of this series. It is one thing to criticize those who wound our planet or even praise those who try to make a difference.


There is another part to the equation: we, the people. We need to take our responsibility for our choices and what we create and attract from them.





Till another resilient Monday turns up for work once more,




[1] While medical budgets continue to increase every year the people who actually care for patients have been reduced radically. This means that another group with a cancer-like growth rate is eating up a larger percentage of the pie. The video below may go some way to explaining why.



[2] Yes that does imply the end of the stock market in its current form at least. Unfortunately its ‘institutionalized gambling’ has encouraged unrestrained greed and led to enormous suffering for the many even as it has lined the pockets of the few while planetary resources are over-consumed. It seems then that one person’s captain of industry is another’s criminal. For more on this, see part one of this series




© 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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