In an article entitled “The World Economy Is A Pyramid Scheme, written by Jeff McMahon of Green Tech for Forbes is about Steven Chu, former Secretary of Energy, 1997 winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, and new president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), critiquing all world economies as being pyramid or Ponzi schemes, dependent on a growing population and inherently unsustainable. Chu proposes an alternative world economic model based on universal education for women, and on wealth creation for all, the two established ways to reduce fertility. Having a new economic model is important because over-consumption of Earth’s resources and the emission of massive amounts of CO2 and other so-called greenhouse gases have caused changes to the Earth’s climate that are increasingly eroding the livability of many of Earth’s human inhabitants. In addition, a new model is needed because aging populations are starting to bite hard at Japan, China, Europe, and America.
Nobody, including Chu is really addressing the issues raised by the transition from a growth model to a sustainable steady-state one. Who farms the land to produce the food? Who mans the factories, offices, shops, and services? If all the young, few as they are, aren’t needed to work, how do they survive? Who mans the military defense forces? Who cares for the elderly? What happens to the smallest economic unit, the family? An aging population with below replacement fertility implies an ever-decreasing population, which is itself unsustainable. While some benefit derives from a lower human burden on the Earth’s resources, how will societies manage the decline? If a new equilibrium is not achieved, human extinction could occur.
We should listen to Steven Chu, heed his warning that the growth model dominant throughout human history is unsustainable because it leads to irrevocable negative climate impacts. We must begin the gargantuan task of transitioning to a new sustainable world economic model, a transition for which there is really no human precedent, and one that may well be beyond human capacity. Nevertheless, we really have no choice but to try. Let’s get started.