Can there be infinite growth in a finite world?

Recently I spotted this ad in a German newspaper (I took the liberty to translate the few German words):

water - essential but finite

Campaign of German Newspaper Die Welt

It  reminded me of my Water-ETF which I bought about one year ago.  So I checked it out: 13.4% up.  Ok, that’s not something to pop the champagne, dance on the winners podium like a F1-Winner, and write home about.  But then not too bad either in this low-interest environment and STI-going-nowhere-environment.

Water is boring and flowing way below the radar of many investors.  Definitely not as sexy as Internet of Things, Self-Driving Cars and ever increasing Gamification of this and that (do we all just want to play?).

Some time back I have summarized my thoughts on water already.  No need to repeat all of this here.

What I wanted to share today are some thoughts on the Limits of Growth:

Our values have created our current crises.  Pushing our economies to higher growth rates is not a matter of a tiny stimulus package here or a financial jolt there.  It is our values, our mind-set, that must be examined and called into question.

Declaring growth as a ultimate target ignores an important law that is actually a law in a closed system, nothing can grow forever.  

To my best estimates Earth is a closed system.

Jeremy Rifkin’s wrote in his book THE EMPHATIC CIVILIZATION: “The human species is less than 1% of the biomass on this planet, but we are currently using 24% of the world’s energy generated by sunlight and photosynthesis”.  That’s not only currently generated energy, but energy generated throughout the history of earth in form of coal, oil, timber and other resources.

Or as the medical researcher Jonas Salk stated: “If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years, all life on earth would end; if all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years, all forms of life would flourish.”

We are just one of many species inhabiting this planet.  We are cannibalizing the planet’s resources.  Often even monopolizing some of them.

Let me state the obvious:

Why do so many people (especially politicians) propagate to ‘Save the Earth’?

The Earth would flourish without humans.  The Earth does not need us.  We need the Earth.

Shouldn’t we thus rally our ingenuity and focus our abundant inventiveness on ‘Saving Humankind’ instead?

Maybe that would be a more tangible goal for many of us.

A good start would be to learn from nature.  Nothing in nature takes more than it needs.  Nature obeys the law that keeps nature in balance and keeps the delicate cycle upon which all of life depends intact, that life-giving law of limits.

Contrary to what we have been taught, cooperation, not competition, is the ruling order of nature.  Like the human body itself.  It is a cooperative.

Tragically humankind with our untapered appetite for more violates this law every day.  We are encouraged and even rewarded for taking as much as we can, a philosophy that has had catastrophic consequences.

Ironically we understand well just how deadly an organism can be that grows without limits.  In fact, we have a term for cells in the body that take more than their share – we call those cells cancer.  And if we persist in this unchecked behaviour, we will inevitably succumb to the same fate of all cancerous cells: we will die off.

We should change from “How much can I get?” to asking ourselves “How much do I need?”

And not just how much do I need to survive, but how much do I need to thrive.

“How much do I need to lead a life that is meaningful, purposeful, and joyful?”

That’s a tough question to answer.  Maybe I will share my thoughts on this in another post later.

In the mean time I will continue to stay long in water shortage.

drink more water






“Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another.” – Juvenal, Satires (late 1st and early 2nd centuries AD)


  1. Andy,

    In not so many words, you have echoed the essence of Taoism – living in harmony with nature 😉

    To other animals and plants on this Earth, humans are like locusts 🙁

    Putting my investor hat on, it great to be surrounded by the 3 most populous countries in Asia – China, India, Indonesia!

    But putting my philosophy hat on… We can kiss goodbye to the rivers and forests…

    • Wait a minute!

      Long agriculture and water?


      • You are right agriculture is another important component for a “sustainable” long-term portfolio. Seems that I was too early, as my agriculture investment is still in the red. The agricultural commodities’ prices just don’t want to go up despite all those extreme weather patterns (el nino or la nina) we have observed recently. Could it be that the chemical industry is doing a better job in constantly increasing the yields?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *