Why We Need Equality and Balance, Not Growth

Sean is passionate about sustainability and resilience, and has worked with land trusts, food justice non-profits and universities’ offices of sustainability.

A tractor clearing cover crop on a large farm, while a flock of birds fly overhead
Photo by Red Zeppelin

Gandhi said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

Many Indigenous traditions heavily emphasize the need for balance. The Bible says that Jesus preached about the dangers of greed. Yoga teaches about the benefits that come through balance.

And yet, many of us and many of the world’s businesses and governments are still under the illusion that it is economic growth that shall save us. Here, I’ll try to debunk that myth and expose the fact that we need equality and balance more than growth.

Using Food To Debunk The Myth Of Growth

There is already enough food in the world to feed the current human population. In fact, the amount of crops currently produced is enough to feed the 9.7 billion people that are projected to be alive in 2050, according to research done by M. Berners Lee et al. in 2018.

However, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations have released a study concluding that 26.4 percent of the current human population of 7.7 billion people face moderate to severe levels of food insecurity.

Ecology teaches that an increase in food supply leads to an increase in population. If such an increase in food supply is more than the ecosystem can handle, the population is said to “overshoot” the ecosystem’s carrying capacity. What follows is a reduction of the population size that brings it back to the carrying capacity.

Growth of the world’s food supply won’t reduce food insecurity, and it may even cause more problems. Equally distributing access for all to food will reduce food insecurity, and reducing current food production levels while farming in more ecologically-friendly ways will restore balance to the environment.

Hundreds of bails of hay dot a barren landscape on an industrial plot of farmland.
Photo by Ivan Bandura

Translating The Lesson To Employment

In the U.S. before the stigma against women entering the workforce was lifted, it was common for the salary of a father to support the entire family. Nowadays, it is common for both parents to each work a minimum of one full-time job to support a family.

Theoretically, both parents working a half day each should be able to support a family. Fortunately, gender equality in the U.S. has increased since then. Unfortunately, the growth in hours worked has been largely nullified by an increase in socioeconomic inequality.

Increased spending is definitely a factor leading to the reduction of savings generated, but it is beyond a doubt that the main culprit is the fact that 2018 U.S. income inequality levels were at their highest out of the past 50 years. This has led to the richest 10% of citizens in the U.S. owning 63.5% of the nation’s household wealth, and 44% of the U.S. workforce aged 18-64 earning a low median annual income of about $18,000. And an article by The Guardian reports that the statistics for worldwide income inequality are even more extreme.

In short, growth in hours worked will not create socioeconomic stability. Increasing income equality will create socioeconomic stability, and decreasing our hours worked will restore our own mental and physical health.

Translating The Lesson To Renewable Energy

Wind turbines stand on top of a just-mown hill of dry grass.
Photo by Luca Bravo

There are countless studies out there that show that fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and usage leads to ecological damage, harm to human health, and climate change. However, when solar farmshydroelectric dams, and wind turbines are installed in the few ecological refuges left on the planet, they can cause harm too.

In short, growth in renewable energy production will not counter the impacts of fossil fuel usage. Replacing fossil fuel usage with renewable energy and reducing overall energy usage will help us to regain a balance between energy production and the environment.

Related:

An Imperfect Food System: It All Comes Back to Climate Change

An Imperfect Food System: How Food Waste Perpetuates Food Insecurity

How to Shop Responsibly (and Buy Less Stuff)

Published by Yenny

I want to share with you what I’ve learned from my work as a food rescuer and from my personal waste-reduction journey, while bringing you perspectives from my network of wise industry professionals. Let’s push full-steam ahead toward building the tools and systems we need to conserve, preserve, and value our resources.

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