It is well known that capitalist and developmental economies are considered to be functioning well if GDP is getting larger. There are many objections to the idea of GDP as a measure of success, for example GDP may grow if society suffers considerable destruction due to the cost of repairs. However, there is also an argument that no matter how you measure growth, in a finite system you cannot expand forever. You probably cannot, for example, support a population of 100 billion humans – something we don’t have to face yet. We do not have infinite supplies of all minerals, substances and food – even if we did, at some time, it will take more energy to extract them, than they are worth. This problem of over consuming is nicely summarised by Earth Overshoot day.
Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. In 2021, it fell on July 29.
Consuming more than the Earth can replenish, should obviously be not a good idea.
So far humans have put off the ‘due date’ for collapse through technological and energy innovation. However, there is no guarantee that technology will continue to advance to allow this to happen. It may – we may develop cheap fusion power – but it does not seem likely. There is no necessity for technology of the right type to appear when it’s needed, at a cost which can be afforded, without deleterious unintended consequences, or which will be taken up anyway. Making imaginary technology our saviour is a fantasy, perhaps a fantasy based in previous reality, but a fantasy in any case.
Hence people with high energy consumption, may need to start thinking about shifting into a ‘steady state economy’ or ‘degrowth’ and their problems.