Pivoting From Growth to Progress: The Many Steps Necessary to Transform Our Institutions and Energy System into Socially Cohesive Sustainable Society

The presentation to the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome in late October, 2022 by Canadians for a Sustainable Society President John Meyer addressed the many problems we need to deal with before taking direct action on the existential threats of climate change and resource depletion.


The presentation includes 80 or so slides over 60 minutes and followed by a 30 minute Q&A.  Many slides are included to flesh out context and the viewer can pause the video to focus more on specific references.

The presentation takes environmentalists out of their comfort zones and explains why our society has been so resistant to taking direct action on clearly looming biophysical threats.

Below is a brief summary of some of the points raised.

  • How to keep the planet human-friendly
    • Metrics
    • Decision making
    • Social structure – equality
  • Obstacles
    • National conversation
    • Wrong Elites
    • Money the Master, needs to be returned to being Money the Tool
    • Inflation (real increasing resource costs vs printed money inflation)

 What Problem?

Our first problem is that our prime economic and social metric, which uses monetary metrics, gives no indication of any existential threat.

Slowly Increasing Awareness of Biophysical Threats

Business-as-usual may now involve on-going multiple crises.

We Do Have a Choice

Business as usual and continuing to prove that we are indeed the greatest species of world-beating apes. Evolving into the planets first sustaining caretaker species.
A good deal of this presentation is covered in more detail in this book.
It is available through the library system.

Sustainable Society Ethos

  • Generational responsibility is a core theme.
  • “Son gets the better ricefield” – Japan
  • “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”  Greek Proverb
  • Biophysical Economics:  We lived by this for tens of thousands of years but we have just forgotten it over the past a few hundred.
  • Chief Sealth speech and Lowdemilk’s 11th Commandment on Soil

A Healthy Society is:

  • Healthy people
  • Healthy environment
  • Healthy community
  • High level of equality
  • High quality of life
  • Energy and food resilience and social stability
  • Fiscal balance

More Stuff and More Money don’t make it onto this list.

Necessities for Progress

  • These things have to be working in order for us to press ahead with the action we need to take.
    • National conversation – must be inclusive and informed
    • Metrics – must represent social and biophysical reality
    • Information system integrity – independent science and research
    • Trust – citizens must trust their leaders, media and scientists
    • Equality – high level of equality is critical to the willingness of citizens to support change

Corrupt elites cannot motivate their citizens effectively in times of crisis regardless of the severity of their control measures. Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Russia, and increasingly, Western democracies with disconnected elites and disenfranchised and restive populations illustrate this point repeatedly.

Control of the Media and Political Donations

The money trail to banks, speculators, debt-mongers and cheap labour employers.

Money Printing Inflation vs Real Cost Increase Inflation

From 2008 to 2020, the US Federal Reserve increased the money supply from $1 trillion to $8 trillion.  Inflation ensued.  Is this a surprise?

The depletion of our once rich resource bases has resulted in higher costs.  This applies to energy, food, minerals, forest and fisheries.

Mistakes We Have to Stop Repeating

  • Population Growth
    • Higher demand on a reduced per capita resource base increases environmental and commodity diseconomies of scale
    • Paving over farmland to accommodate growing population
    • Moving people from low footprint regions to high footprint regions is the single worst policy for both national and global emissions
      • Immigrant stream to Canada sees its carbon footprint increase by a factor of 4.2
      • Ontario is losing over 300 acres per day to urban sprawl
      • Inflow of 500,000 immigrants annually requires the addition of ~ 185,000 housing units annually.
  • The Cheeseburger Diet
    • Attempting to consume our way out of social decline, climate change and resource depletion.
    • “If we just had a bigger economy, we could afford more energy.”

The Image-is-Reality Society

We need to fix the structure, not paper over the cracks with new initiatives, photo-ops and programs.

The commercial economy vs the money economy vs the biophysical world.  We have to clarify what is real wealth production and what is asset inflation and wealth transfers.  Inflated by money printing, a larger economy is not an indication or a healthy economy or society.  And then there is the environment.

Tuning in to Reality

If, 30 years ago, the Alberta and Canadian governments had had a full suite of biophysical metrics for the oil sands such as;

  • EROI – lowest in the world
  • Carbon emissions – highest in the world
  • Legacy costs – highest in the world

with which to evaluate oil sands viability, would we have bet so heavily on this $7 trillion @ $40/barrel resource?

The above factors contributed greatly to the oil sands being the highest cost oil play in the world.

Biophysical economics is less suitable for micromanagement but excellent for social and environmental guidance whereas money metrics are completely non-applicable despite what the money industry might maintain.

Who Makes Money from Growth and Inflation?

Canada has had the highest level of population growth in the developed world  over the past 5 decades but, in that period, the level of equality in Canada has dropped from #2 in the world to the mid-30s.  Debt has quintupled aa has the quality of life while our manufacturing capability has been gutted.

But the commercial economy has boomed according to the GDP metric and the people who benefit from increased cash flow as opposed to higher real wages.  Growth has benefitted speculators, banks, developers and cheap labour employers while it has done huge damage to most Canadians, our environment and our social fabric.

Scale of Profit Potential of the Asset Inflation Scam

  • Newspaper corporation revenue in Canada in 2020   =   $0.94 billion
  • Defense Industrial  revenue in Canada 2020                 =  $7 billion
  • Tobacco Industry sales in Canada 2019                         = $19 billion
  • Oil and gas company gross revenue in Canada 2020  = $94 billion
  • Residential housing asset inflation in Canada 2020    = $280 billion
  • (valuation of $2.8 trillion 2020, with 10% inflation)

Fractional Banking should not be used for consumer (non-productive) funding as it is inflationary.  We need to get the common good back into the national conversation and come to grips with the obfuscating effects of the money economy.

Follow the Money!

Asset inflation seems like free money, but in reality is a tax by the rich on the poor and by the older generation on the younger generation.

Politicians Assume Growth but What Do People Actually Want?

How would Orillians** spend their own money on improving life in Orillia?  What are their priorities?

Item Average
Quality of Life 26.5
Healthy Environment 24.3
Sustainable Growth 19.4
Professional, Progressive City 16.2
Vibrant Waterfront 15.5
Heritage Core 14.7

** Orillia, Ontario – population 35,000, targeted for rapid growth

Needless to say, growth will have a negative impact on all of the citizens preferences but growth is the lifeblood of the narrow interests who have gained control of the national conversation.

High Levels of Equality is Crucial to Successful Change

Income equality via high quality jobs and low unemployment is the best treatment for broad social problems.  We need to  adapt business models to the jobs people want to do and can live well with.  Our current labour policy is to supply worker cannon fodder for old business models

The policy of rapid population growth to keep wages low and housing costs inflating  is the perfect engine of inequality.

We need to instill a culture of productivity improvement as we enter a permanent era of aging** induced labour shortage.  A mild labour shortage is the most effective engine of social health and fiscal balance if well embraced.

Taking Steps to de-Carbonize and Downsize Our Footprint

The case study of how Germany (proxy for Europe) might permanently free itself from its dependence on Russian oil and gas.

Direct actions by national and local governments plus what individuals can do to reduce their footprint and assure greater energy resilience are also covered in the talk.


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