The other side of the growth coin shows the stresses caused by growth.
People are sometimes pushed to their personal limits. At the same time, however, they are educated by functioning advertising, supported by social mechanisms, to become reliable consumers and are made dependent on consumption. The deeper meaning of life is exchanged for short-term but quickly fading pleasure, social status and convenience in every respect. With this dependency, people in industrialized societies are increasingly externally controlled. People’s satisfaction does not correlate positively with their material prosperity; social engagement is dwindling. Nature – including ourselves – is “consumed” extensively as a source of raw materials, energy and power, rather than used in moderation and in a circular economy.
Driven by supposedly necessary growth targets, we are systematically straining our social bonds, families, friendships, social security systems, forests, oceans, our drinking water, and even the air we breathe. We consume non-renewable resources, but only pay for the immediate costs of extracting them, not for permanent damage. Thus, we are accelerating climate change and heading with our eyes open toward already foreseeable catastrophes with a global effect, and huge social conflicts stemming from these catastrophes.
The limit to growth is now becoming apparent in the early industrialized countries that have already gone a considerable way down the growth curve. In these countries, growth rates have already declined noticeably. They are asymptotically approaching limit values. Every additional quantum of growth that is still to be achieved obviously requires significantly more effort than previous growth. Viewing growth as the remedy in global competition is pointless.
Many organizational developers already suspect that it is irrational and even irresponsible to still propagate further quantitative growth as the cure for the debt that is increasing everywhere in the early industrialized countries and the social problems that are becoming increasingly serious. However, as long as growth is considered by executives as the lever, society will have to accept economic crises as such and will regard resulting social problems merely as a state of emergency.
Economic crises are not unwelcome slips from the growth trajectory, but reliable signs of instability at the limits of what is possible. They mark the end of the approach of industrialized countries, which is now also being imitated unthinkingly by emerging countries. Economic growth has not yet been fundamentally questioned as a necessary condition for the continued existence of mankind. To be competitive, productivity must be increased, and to maintain a leading market position, further volume growth must be pursued, according to the prevailing opinion. But an increase in productivity and any expansion of capacities initially cost money and, in stagnating sales markets, increase capital and marketing costs while gross yields tend to fall.
Increasing stress on our environment and health increases the risk of disasters and collapses. The costs of these disasters and collapses are displaced.