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Chris Martenson: The End Of Growth

Chris Martenson: The End Of Growth thumbnail

More and more, I hear that folks are feeling frustrated and betrayed, combined with a sense of loss and despair. I feel this way, too.

As I’ve written recently, I observe this is due more than anything else to a widespread demoralization society is suffering from.

Certainly the statistics reflect this. Suicides in the US are up 30% since the turn of the millennium, obesity is at epidemic proportions, mortality rates are rising especially among white working-class Americans, and our national opioid addiction is now the “epidemic of epidemics.”

To these we can also add falling birthrates and the truly startling shift towards a younger age for the onset of depression; declining from age 30 now to age…14(!)

When an organism gives up on self-care, breeding, or its will to live, it’s suffering from a tremendous amount of strain that is cutting it off from its own life force.  A dispirited lion wasting away in a cage has a lot in common with the average American today.

At a deep level, what ails us is not a host of unrelated, intractable problems, but the fact that our model of pursuing eternal economic growth simply isn’t working anymore. It doesn’t work for the planet’s increasingly strained ecosystems, nor does it work for the bottom 99% of folks in society (i.e., the non-elites).

The various health epidemics noted above are merely symptoms of a larger acute spiritual crisis.

But viewed at a certain angle, this may be a good sign.

Why? Because in order to shift from one model to another, the old one first has to become unbearable.

And, as the data cited earlier is making increasingly clear, our addiction to growth is killing us and the ecosystems we depend on.

Look, if you’re a well-nourished human being — physically, emotionally and spiritually — then you have a heartfelt appreciation for the Earth.  You can clearly see that it’s achingly beautiful, perfect, and abundant.  It is your home, your mother, the source of all your sustenance, and the one and only vessel for your children and grandchildren (born or as yet unborn) —  stretching as far into the future as you can imagine.

I’m completely in love with this world and with being alive in it. I love the beauty of Nature and all of its life forms, each beautiful and complete in its own way, just like this dragonfly:

dragonfly photo

Nature and our connection to it is about creation, flux, and regeneration — it’s deeply spiritual.  To live in a world solely of materialism, devoid of deeper meaning and connection, is be the caged lion wasting away.

The loss of life on this planet, the diminishment of once complex ecosystems into barren, simplistic shadows of their former selves, is a source of very real and profound sadness.  It is my belief that the existential dread many of us feel is our registering this loss of life — consciously or not — as Nature retracts her abundance.

Who hear still hears crickets at night? With the unfolding insect apocalypse, fewer and fewer can make that claim.

The point of all this is that the one and only way out of this box in which we find ourselves is by adopting a better model for living. And to do that, we first need to re-write the narrative that guides us.

If we do this, anything is possible. We can create a future of abundance and prosperity.

But if we don’t, the end will certianly be bitter and full of regret.

Narrative #1: Growth is Always Good, More Growth Is Always Better

Literally every time you read anything about economic growth it’s always, unerringly, framed in positive terms.  This serves to reinforce the idea of growth being “good.”  It’s virtually never questioned or famed differently.

Here’s an example:

China’s gross domestic product grew 6.9 per cent last year, Premier Li Keqiang told a regional meeting in Cambodia last week. “The overall situation was better than expected,” he said.

Mr Li’s estimate is higher than the 6.7 per cent growth reported for 2016 but the real recovery has been sharper. Corporate results are rosy, commodity imports are hitting new records and producer prices have shifted back to steady gains, signifying better industrial health.

So why will Thursday’s 2017 GDP figures not reflect the good news?

(Source – FT)

China’s economic growth was described as “better (than expected)” and in terms of “recovery” and “rosy” and “good news.”  It doesn’t matter which news sources you read, you always find growth framed as “good”, “rosy” and desirable.

But is it truly any of those things?

Using the ‘Rule of 72’ we can divide the reported 6.9% growth into 72 and discover that at that rate of growth, China’s economy will fully double in just 10.4 years.

It’s already the largest economy in the world in terms of oil imports, raw material usage, concrete poured, and food consumed.  But in just 10.4 years it’s going to be twice all of those things.

And then what? Well, another doubling from there of course, all of it rosy, desirable and good. But how many more forests, fisheries, aquifers and fossil fuels will such doubling consume?

Of course, when you read about an economic slowdown you’ll see framing words like “concern” “weakening” and “weighing down.”  This subtle and continuous conditioning has most people firmly committed to the belief that economic growth is something we always want more of.

This is psychological programming, pure and simple. It’s so pervasive that it’s thoroughly accepted without question or examination.

The problem, of course, comes in when that unquestioned narrative of growth begins to foul its own nest. When people’s inner guidance systems begin to crash into each other: one committed to the idea of endless growth, the other observing the damage it does.  Self-preservation runs smack into self-harm.

Perhaps this explains the mass appeal of such movies as Avengers: Infinity War where the evil Thanos is an eight-foot-tall madman seeking to restore balance to a universe of overgrown worlds by killing half the living beings in it. The entire plot plays on these subconscious belief systems I’m describing. I do wonder if that’s, in part, why the movie has been a hugely successful box office smash.

Narrative #2: Growth Is Now The Enemy

When I was a child, our family measured the growth of me and my siblings on a door frame in pencil.  I so looked forward to being taller at each new measurement.

But I’m certainly glad I stopped growing by age 18. Otherwise I’d have grown over 9 feet tall, likely dying from a heart attack by age 26.

There’s nothing wrong with growth, in and of itself. But its context matters critically.

Endless growth that exceeds biological parameters?  Well, that’s just bad — whether we’re talking about unchecked height, deer populations, or cancer cells.

There was nothing wrong at all with we humans expanding into our biosphere as it could support our population, as does any and every organism in existence.  The problem was in failing to self-regulate our consumption to a sustainable level.

Heck, it’s worse than that because we didn’t just fail to regulate ourselves; we just ignored the math.

Here are some simple math problems we could have easily seen coming, but chose not to:

Simple math says more people trying to eat dwindling fossil fuels is a predicament.  Who’s actually doing anything serious about that on the world stage right now?

Even easier math says that our pension and entitlement promises to ourselves cannot ever be met. What’s realistically being done about any of that?  Nothing as far as I can tell.

What’s the plan for replacing 100% of the concrete ever poured in the world?  Where’s the energy for that going to come from?

Humans have never transitioned from a more- to a less-concentrated energy system before. And at current rates it will take 400 more years to get there.  Where will the energy for that transition come from?

The above is just a very partial list of bad math functions we are facing along with some very obvious questions.  The simplest way to resolve them all is to finally admit to ourselves that more growth is not the solution here, it’s actually the problem:

Which brings us back around to the idea of demoralization which is both running rampant and gaining ground.  It’s what happens when your cognitive map no longer functions:

Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilment.

The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction.

Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle. The label ‘existential depression’ is not appropriate since, unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life.


Did you get that?  Demoralization is actually a realistic response under certain conditions.

Those conditions are manifesting themselves now, which means that the waves of dispiriting statistics we are seeing are not ‘bad’; they are telling us something important.  People are right to be deeply disturbed by the ways in which the main narrative of their culture no longer maps to reality.  Worse, the endless growth narrative is killing life on this planet and therefore harming each of us in ways both overt and subtle.  More and more people are detecting that, and that’s a good thing, because that’s the necessary first step in crafting a new narrative and adopting a different model that hopefully serves us better.

We often say here at Peak Prosperity that if you’re feeling anxiety (or demoralization), it means that there’s a gap between what you know and what you’re doing.  Since you can’t unlearn something, your best course of action is to change your behavior.

Take action to align what you know with what you do.

I totally get the frustration, anger and bitterness on display in politics all across the West right now, but these are almost universally misdirected at the wrong targets.  Whether by intent or accident, this is usually the case and heavily supported by a media system that actually promotes divisiveness over unity, and isolation over connection.

The deeper truth is that we’re all experiencing painful shocks, and are therefore reacting like rats in a cage, fighting each other because we cannot properly detect the true source of our pain.

So, what to do?

Yes, the math just doesn’t work out. Yes, there’s no uber strategy in play of which you aren’t aware. Sadly, what you see is what you get. The one and only plan the central panners have is to redouble their efforts to drive more growth. And to do that by creating more and more artificial money to drive up stock and bond prices.

The only plan of any government is to grow its economy and secure more power for itself.

This means that it is up to you, to me — to us collectively — to work out the new narrative, or at least support it as it is painfully birthed.  We have to become the change we wish to see.  We live in the era where The End of Growth is taking place.  It’s a critical and important time to be alive and we each have a vital role to play.

For certain, there are many steps you can and indeed should be taking to build your resilience to prepare for a very uncertain future.  These are well outlined in our book Prosper! and encompass the 8 Forms of Capital (Financial, Social, Material, Cultural, Time, Knowledge, Living and Emotional) all of which you should each be working to develop more of at this moment.

But in Part 2: How To Engage Others I share the skills I’ve developed over the past decade in effectively communicating this tricky information, which many ‘regular folks’ aren’t eager to hear. Done correctly, you can engage new minds, recruit their support, and contribute to shifting society to a new, better narrative.

Plus, these techniques and best practices have real practical value. Whether you’re trying to inform someone about these emotionally-challenging predicaments we face, or influencing your workmates to undertake an important project you have in mind, or asking for your spouse’s support during a major life/career shift, the principles are the same.

23 Comments on "Chris Martenson: The End Of Growth"

  1. JuanP on Sat, 23rd Jun 2018 3:08 pm 

    “Take action to align what you know with what you do.”
    Not bad advice!

  2. onlooker on Sat, 23rd Jun 2018 3:49 pm 

    Endless growth on a finite planet is a mathematical and physical impossibility
    attributed to some smart dude

  3. MASTERMIND on Sat, 23rd Jun 2018 5:50 pm 

    What the hell does Chris not understand about economics..Without growth the system would go into a deflationary downward spiral, and collapse..And once the pressures against growth ie climate, overpopulation, resource depletion, wars, etc..Are stronger than the pressures for growth..Growth will stop, and we will collapse into atomic dust..As it was in the beginning..

  4. baha on Sat, 23rd Jun 2018 7:31 pm 

    There is all different kinds of growth. Grow your connections instead of your possessions. Grow your resilience instead of your dependance.

  5. dave thompson on Sat, 23rd Jun 2018 9:00 pm 

    Humans are like the yeast in the wine vat.

  6. MASTERMIND on Sat, 23rd Jun 2018 9:29 pm 

    Comparison of North Korea media & Fox News coverage of NK-US Summit in Singapore

    Trump voters are conditioned to the level of Pavlov’s dogs..

  7. MASTERMIND on Sat, 23rd Jun 2018 9:35 pm 

    Trump voters are conditioned to the level of Pavlov’s dogs..But instead of a ringing bell and treats, they get tweets…


  8. DMyers on Sat, 23rd Jun 2018 10:15 pm 

    “….the world will have to replace nearly 100% of all the concrete structures ever poured or built due to spalling and crumbling induced by the use of steel reinforcing rods…” [quoting from the article]

    I’m still choking and gagging on that little snippet. Is this true? Did we know that from the start?

    Last time I looked, the steel reinforcing rods were fine on I-40. Now, I’ll be checking them more frequently and slowing down to look real well. I hope Chris is wrong on this one. Until I see otherwise, I still believe in steel reinforcement. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  9. Free Speech Forum on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 6:43 am 

    The USA is an immoral bankrupt warmongering police state now.

    Americans quickly blame blacks, Jews, or illegal immigrants for the fall of the USA, but if Americans really want to know who is responsible, they just need to look in the mirror.

    Instead of blaming others, why don’t Americans try to think of solutions?

    Look not to the politicians; look to yourselves.

    If you don’t like blacks, move to a white place.

    If you hate Jews, boycott Jewish businesses.

    If you think Jews get special benefits, pretend to be a Jew.

    If you hate illegal aliens, don’t hire them or socialize with them. Call the police if you see illegals cat-calling, loitering, drinking, playing loud music, or keeping chickens. Report them to the border patrol.

    Nothing will change if everyone does nothing.


  10. Duncan Idaho on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 10:37 am 

    I’ve always benefited from your insight and analysis.
    I’m just a bit baffled on the right wing nuts you occasionally have on your podcasts.
    Keep up the good work—-

  11. john kelley on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 12:16 pm 

    Transforming energy from one form to another leaves a trail of disorder in its wake.This disorder accumulates in the environment and expresses itself as all the problems mentioned above.Any attempt to mitigate this disorder always results in increased disorder usually somewhere else in the environment.Living in a sea of relentless,accumulating disorder is bound to be demoralizing.

  12. K Larson on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 1:15 pm 

    We will have a Mars colony in 10 or 12 years. And it will grow to be several million people.

  13. Simon on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 4:40 am 

    Mars, we haven’t the tech. to colonise the Arctic or Ant-Arctic or Greenland.

  14. Cloggie on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 10:45 am 

    The demolition of the chancellorship of Merkel is in full swing. Now her closest allies in the media are writing her off:

    It is only a matter of weeks or days even.

  15. Antius on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 10:51 am 

    “The demolition of the chancellorship of Merkel is in full swing. Now her closest allies in the media are writing her off”

    Good. I think Europe deserves a rest from Mrs Puff 🙂

    Unfortunately, someone just as bad will no doubt replace her.

  16. Cloggie on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 11:06 am 

    Another prominent MSM:

    “Merkel – the Obituary”

  17. MASTERMIND on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 11:15 am 


    who cares about politicians? Do you really believe someone else will bring back growth and prosperity? You are just re arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic..


  18. Cloggie on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 11:54 am 


    who cares about politicians? Do you really believe someone else will bring back growth and prosperity? You are just re arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic..

    Actually, you do, as you are constantly whining about politicians you don’t like, like Trump and Putin.

    Merkel is the most important representative of the interests of the US deep state. Once she will be gone, we can begin to loosen the ties with the US…

    …team up with Russia and exploit to the hilt our numerical overweight to create order in the chaos, resulting from CW2, you yourself keep announcing 24/7. After CW2 your tribe will be removed from power.


  19. MASTERMIND on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 12:15 pm 


    I am constantly criticizing them because they are all in general useless scumbags..And I am an Anarchist..You are always praising them..And you claim everyone is working for the deep state without any fucking proof..You are just a very deluded and paranoid person..

    Stop spreading your mental illness to others on this board..

  20. Cloggie on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 12:16 pm 

    Fortress Europe latest:

    Now even leftist-governed Spain refuses entry to do-gooder ships, filled with virile, fighting age, fine young cannibals:


  21. Boat on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 12:28 pm 


    The natural inclination to be against immigration is normal when the promised benefits turn out to be mixed at best and dangerous all to often.
    However trying to package immigration problems into a Russian/EU alliance to rule the world is a bit much. Lol

  22. Cloggie on Tue, 26th Jun 2018 12:15 am 

    However trying to package immigration problems into a Russian/EU alliance to rule the world is a bit much. Lol

    Who is talking about “ruling the world”? It suffices to get out of the toxic grip of oligarchs, have a credible nuclear deterrent and let the US enjoy its coming neo-bolshevik revolution all on its own:

    (Thanks to millimind for these interesting links)

    Perhaps, afterwards, we will be in a good mood and invite a selection of hand-picked Americans to rejoin the European world and help them escape from the third world, their country has become.

  23. GregT on Tue, 26th Jun 2018 1:17 am 

    “The natural inclination to be against immigration is normal when the promised benefits turn out to be mixed at best and dangerous all to often.”

    Which ‘promised benefits’ would you be referring to Boat?

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