Tag Archives: Growth

Growth Busters’ all white cast asks dark skinned people not to have kids

COLORADO SPRINGS- Local filmmaker, city council candidate, and critic of urban sprawl, Dave Gardner, screened his new doc GROWTHBUSTERS to a receptive hometown audience last night, on the heels of its world premier in Washington DC. Gardner has long defined his personal mission as questioning the wisdom of “growth”. Finally his unpopular theme is gaining traction. With GrowthBusters Gardner addresses economic growth, rampant consumption, carbon footprints and over-development, building to what he’s decided is the most elephantine challenge in the room, global population growth. Except, I’m sorry, that’s an elephant of another color. I resisted the Q & A, not wanting to pull down the evening’s celebratory curve. A giddy panel of white folk is for me as much a temptation as the easy target Gardner chose. In the privacy of the internet, we at Not My Tribe don’t have bubbles we’re too reluctant to burst.

Dave Gardner’s long unrewarded campaign against our city’s recidivist, graft-driven, and ever tragically unsustainable growth is so damn laudable, and his chopping away at the Capitalist assumptions of neoclassical economists is so urgently pertinent. But by folding both into the Inconvenient Truth of exponential global population rise, does Gardner mean the Colorado Springs audience takeaway to be we must distribute condoms to our Machiavellian land developers?

Let me first applaud Gardner’s critique of our region’s imbecilic growth. It’s ugly and residents are unhappy but powerless to depose the greedy exploitative speculators in charge. A memorable segment describes the Southern Delivery system being built to bring Pueblo water northward to serve El Paso County’s endless eastward developments. The energy to pump that water uphill will require the output of an average coal fired power plant, that much more emissions, pollution and coal ash.

Over the years Gardner has proven to be more than a gadfly battling our land barons. When he challenged Jerry Heimlicher, a pro-growth incumbent for a seat at the city council, the otherwise like-minded progressive adversary beat him, only to resign after his victory to make a sudden move out of town, leaving the position to be chosen by the usual undemocratic powers, looking suspiciously like his campaign had been a desperate measure to keep Gardner’s anti-growth voice off the council. There’s more to applaud about Gardner locally, but first–

I know this is easy to overlook in Colorado Springs, but Dave, the demographic character of the Stargazer Theater audience was what, last night, entirely white? It was, and probably not coincidentally, the dozens of experts you interviewed onscreen were also with one single exception white. Further, I’m sure we can agree the economic class represented was equally homogeneous; let’s call it comfortable. Tell us then, Dave, what does Middle America’s middle class white birthrate add to the worrisome arc of population growth?

Not that I think any socioeconomic group should address itself to out-breeding the next, but an audience with a zero or negative birthrate hardly needs to concentrate on curbing its numbers. Anticipating the challenges of exponential population growth is important, but HOW UNSEEMLY for a white community to plot counter-reproductive measures for the larger masses, specifically the darker-complected Global South, virtually all of its peoples lesser advantaged?

And let me add, how embarrassing that a Grist Magazine editor wants to brag about her lifestyle choice not to have a family, exchanged for the benefit of a “more dynamic schedule” which leaves her more easily free to join three similarly unencumbered friends for coffee.

We’re trading our biological imperative to live a Seinfeld episode?

I am not accusing anyone of deliberate racism, unlike the Sierra Club, who was certain this documentary took aim at Hispanic Americans. This was a detail we learned from the post-screening panel discussion. The local Sierra Club chairperson who sat on the panel last night told us that the national office was alarmed to learn that its Colorado Springs chapter was cosponsoring a documentary which called for curbing population growth. She assured her headquarters that she knew Dave Gardner personally and that GrowthBusters‘s thesis was above reproach. In particular, she explained, it didn’t target illegal immigration, which she presumed was their worry. To clarify, she was thinking: not birthrate but immigration rate, not global population growth but national population growth.

Population growth as it threatens America.

Once again we are reminded of the provincial brain freeze that characterizes our community. Even progressive ideals become distorted by the gravitational pull of our Tea Party tendencies. We support national reformist campaigns, but only to the limit of our stunted conservative comprehension.

Yes, discussing how to limit the birthrate of people of color is racist. It’s White Man’s Burden theology to believe that it is the privilege of the developed white world to decide for our lesser brethren whether they can procreate.

How is rushing to Dave Gardner’s defense, vouching for him that no racist insensitivity was intended, very much different from the excuse given by Congressman Doug Lamborn when he called President Obama a Tar Baby? Lamborn explained that he didn’t know black people were offended by “Tar Baby”. Would it really surprise Gardner that his call for White America to be alarmed about population growth, would threaten the of-color communities whose cultures still encourage having children?

Dave Gardner partnered with strange bedfellows when he took his anti-growth message to what he thought was the next level. The experts he interviewed are well aware their prognostications invite accusations of racism. I found it rather odd that one of them, speaking for the Club of Rome, was not introduced with his organization’s repute fully disclaimed.

If I were to guess, hitting upon the population question is where Gardner’s production finally took wing. Friends were recounting last night how he’d labored on the project for over half a decade, one scene shows Gardner lamenting the lack of financing available for a subject such as his. In the local sequences of GrowthBusters, the subject was about development and sustainability, while all the national interviews concerned population growth. When Gardner described the last year spent immersed in the project, I’m guessing that’s when underwriting for the population meme kicked in. The small cadre of usual suspects advancing today’s equivalent of eugenics theory were probably eager to add a fresh name to their roster. Yesteryear’s infamous population doomsayer Malthus was reviled because people inherently equated dire population projections with depopulation solutions. Malthus’ inheritors are accustomed to the same heat.

It is hard not to wonder if the First World’s cavalier disregard of climate change is because depopulation programs are being readied on the front burner. Peak oil, diminishing resources, declining agricultural yields and higher ecological toxicities cease to threaten human survival with the implementation of depopulation scenarios. Presentations like Gardner’s which reinforce the imperative of reducing the world population, create the popular consent with which population control compliance can be manufactured.

I’d have no problem with population growth engineering if it meant applying in the Third World, the proven method that has subdued the birthrate in the First World. Prosperity. If developed nations could share their abundance and education with the developing world, rendering the wealth of Africa’s natural resources back to Africa’s people for example, they’ll arrive at zero birthrates just like ours.

SPOILER ALERT: Redistribution of resources is not in the cards among the solutions which GrowthBusters suggests. Instead the feel good conclusion of this movie revolves around local applications of sustainability measures. Here I should confess I have a prejudice to corpulent over-eaters lecturing others on sustainability. Austerity measures are danced around, and a suggestion of cutting work hours to twenty one hours a week masks obviously a 50% cut in income.

Just as Gardner celebrates a return to hands-on farming, the oversimplified doubt he casts on the benefit of financial growth ignores the technological progress we all enjoy as its result. Gardner lampoons government planners who look to compensate for trends toward zero birthrates. They’re not “pro-growth”, they mean to fill diminishing labor pools. This is why the US invites its illegal immigrant workers. An increasingly idle population, mostly aging, needs people to service it. The benefit of growth and development was by design at least a rising tide for all.

I say we all, but who is comforted by Gardner’s thesis? How many of us have the savings to invest in a house with land to farm, install an orchard and solar panels to take ourselves off the grid, prepared to barter with our neighbors for the necessities we cannot make ourselves? Few of us live near an American dairy brave enough to defy government regulations against raw milk, I dare say that demographic has shrunk to approximate, no coincidence, the currently proverbial “one percent”. How many of us have access to community shared farms? I’ll hazard a guess you probably can’t afford to buy shares in the farms we have already, Grant Farms or Venetucci.

Let’s be honest about who’s supposed to be cutting back on having babies, and who’s in the position to weather the austere future mankind faces. One of the final scenes of Gardner’s domestic sustainable bliss depicted a model family unit belonging to one of the population growth think tanks. I’d like to think this was an oversight, but in a passing bit of the b-roll footage the audience was let to see that one of the white affluent women was pregnant.

Eco-conscious, yes. Sustainable? Hardly.

COLORADO SPRINGS- Johann of First Affirmative Financial Network, asked me to relate my experience at the now notorious PPJPC meet-up to discuss Economic Sustainability. Though Tony wasn’t able to attend, he’s initiated a debate here: is there such a thing as “economic sustainability?” Since I was there, perhaps I could elucidate, because I believe I heard the answer.

I was quite impressed by the questions brought to the event by the audience, who proved to be no shrinking violets. The interests ranged from some who wanted to indict the Fed, to those who questioned economic growth as being sustainable. The housing market for example is predicated on real estate increasing in value. Must it? Should it? Can it? Successful investing is inherently about your investment growing, otherwise you are losing money. Can investment be done without growth? When posed this question, our intrepid investment-biz guest braved an answer: “I don’t know.”

I supposed as much, hence my initial skepticism about the subject of the talk. But I expected to hear about options, not to hear my foregone conclusion foreclosed. What then does FAFN, our fellow sustainability boosters, have to offer? It turns out it is the usual green investing. Working Assets was so 90s, “sustainability” is the eco catch-phrase of the new millennium. It’s still about the 3Es, as Johann told us they say in the greening biz, or the 3Ps: people, planet and profit.

Johann’s employer’s concrete claim to “sustainability” was a novel certification of a green office remodel. No small task, although the pitch from Johann is that it requires a surprisingly small expenditure. So, small task. And FAFN is all about giving recognition for setting a good example. Here’s how this works in their business model: Chiefly their portfolio is comprised of only green stocks, plus stocks you might want to encourage to be green. General Motors is decidedly not green, but you could recommend them as an incentive for GM to show some eco-thinking. That’s an actual example from our discussion. I’m hoping if Monsanto issued a press release that they would be recycling their break-room Dixie cups, our sustainability cheerleaders wouldn’t jump tp award the bold step with a buy recommendation.

I came to the PPJC meeting with an even more hardcore question. How can someone who makes a living from the interest earned on money, consider themselves sustainable? Our guest’s response was “there certainly are plenty of us around.” But is that an answer? Economically sustainable, yes. Environmentally? Hardly. I believe that is the crux of what Tony raises as a paradox.

Charging interest for the loan of money has presented an age-old moral dilemma. The function of money was to facilitate barter, as one good or service was exchanged for another. Religious thinkers have most often concluded that a person should not profiteer from the exchange of money itself, adding as they have, no value to the equation. Jesus was certainly against it. Although Johann interpreted “go forth and multiply” to mean you should multiply your money.

Whether it’s moral or not, how can money lending be environmentally sustainable? If you are producing no good or rendering no labor, what should you be taking out of the system for your consumption? Can a negative-contribution be sustainable?

When I first moved to UCLA, and saw the mass of wealth built around the west side of Los Angeles, the opulence seemed to me built on an intangible cloud of finance. I wondered what kind of bank vacuum lay behind the scene, sucking from the natural and human resources of the world to sustain the decadence beyond imagination of LA’s suburbs, foothills and ridge-tops. I concluded something then. The arbitrary financial arrangements, probably no more legitimate than royal lineage, or less usurious than a loan shark, were the only grip the owners had on the victims of their exploitation. Short of militarized enforcement, it would become tenuous at best, and certainly will not be sustainable, economic or otherwise.