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If we repeat a lie often enough, we believe it and it becomes our truth. In Ken Ross’s opening address at the recent Resilient Economies Conference at Te Ahu he showed a cartoon of two picture theatres side by side.  Everyone was lined up to see a movie called A Reassuring Lie.

We humans for the past hundred years or so have been following a path of infinite growth. Our current economic model is propped up by and is dependent upon continuous growth. But Ken’s question to conference attendees was: What happens when an infinite growth economy runs into a finite planet?

It’s funny in a not so funny way that we continue to repeat the same patterns over and over. Successive New Zealand governments around the turn of the 19th century commissioned studies on kauri forests by two imminent, highly experienced and qualified silviculturists. Each expert urged caution in the then rapid deforestation of kauri and neighbouring species. One of the men, invited here from Britain specifically for the task, even suggested using kauri as a timber tree on a one hundred year rotation. But the fervent cries of Australian owned timber companies and of new immigrants starving for land to farm won out. Today we’re left with between one and three percent of the of old growth kauri forests, depending upon which estimate you choose to believe.

One couldn’t blame the would-be farmers for their cries. They didn’t have opportunities to own and farm large blocks of land back in Britain. They were also victims of casualties of places in which the forests had already been largely removed. They didn’t know any better.

We’ve all heard stories from old-timers describing the incredible abundance of fish in our coastal waters only a few decades ago. Yet, we continue to act as though the earth’s resources are infinite. I wonder if each of us needs to deeply reflect on Ken’s question: What happens when an infinite growth economy runs into a finite planet?

So where do we go from here? Do we continue to repeat the mistakes of the past? Or do we finally accept that in order to get something new we’ll have to do something different.

Ken Ross pointed out in that same dynamic opening address that our global monetary system is not designed to deliver justice and sustainability. Its first and foremost purpose is to flow money and power to an elite few. Privately owned banks create money out of nothing, creating debt, and growth is essential to service the debt.

Ken expressed that humanity needs to create a socially and environmentally just and sustainable system. He spoke of the ecology of the economy, as both words were derived linguistically from the same Greek root meaning ‘wise management of the household.’ Ecology and economy by their very nature need not be mutually exclusive.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

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