Feb 11, 2012

From the Vancouver Observer

Richard Heinberg schools Vancouver on the new economic reality

Justice Marshall

How much do regular folks really know about the economy? Richard Heinberg wants you to understand one crucial thing about it. It’s finished. 

About 300 people showed up to hear Heinberg speak last night at Langara college where he presented the argument that makes up the basis of his latest book, The End of Growth. The first half of Heinberg’s message is that the growth economy as we know it is played out. There will be no recovery. It’s done. Kaput. According to Heinberg, the idea that a global economy can grow forever on a finite world has always been flawed, a case of baseless wishful thinking propped up by a couple hundred years of cheap energy and various financial bubbles. 

Even a decade ago his was a radical point of view. Today there are hundreds, probably thousands, of notable books, articles and spokespersons echoing the same basic message: There’s no normal to get back to. Burning millions of years of stored energy from the sun in just a couple generations isn’t a baseline of normalcy... it’s a one shot deal.

This could be incredibly depressing, but Heinberg is quick to follow up with the second half of his message: While it’s true that our power of consumption has peaked, our power of creativity is limitless. As the economic growth that we’ve adopted as our collective measure of success now fizzles, we can choose a different kind of growth. We can grow resilient and vibrant local communities. 

Heinberg frames this transition as a new chapter, full of possibilities and choice. But he’s careful not to sugar-coat it. He’s clear that it will be difficult. How difficult depends on how quickly we adapt to the new reality.

Heinberg’s talk was co-sponsored by Village Vancouver (part of the Transition Town movement that Heinberg endorses) and Co-Development Canada. It kicks off The World Community Film Festival, B.C.’s largest social justice film fest - running Feb 10-12 at Langara College.