Qualicum Institute: Advocating a science-based understanding of ecological, social and economic survivability

The Economic Growth Paradigm

We welcome you on a journey to discover how economic growth affects our ecological, social and economic survivability

The Qualicum Institute, established in 2002, is a small group of concerned professionals from the fields of science and education.  On your journey through this website, we will:

  • Provide the science-based evidence that economic growth, driven by population growth and growth in per capita consumption, is the underlying driver of climate change and biodiversity loss.
  • Explain how government policies that promote economic growth are based on unproven economic theories, instead of on physical and  ecological science.
  • Explore the stories we tell ourselves and the sustain-a-babble used to normalize the destruction of nature.
  • Show that all efforts arising from past United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) or to “save the planet and nature” have failed to stem the increase in CO2 and the loss of biodiversity.
  • Recommend the changes needed and the collective action we can take to turn the tide. 

Here’s the problem in a nutshell:

Science and traditional knowledge tell us that human survival depends on nature, its biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides: clean air and water, healthy soil, food, shelter, flood protection.  

Video courtesy of L. Richardson

Since the 1970s, humanity’s demands on ecosystems have exceeded nature’s capacity to regenerate itself and to assimilate our wastes. This means we have gone into “ecological overshoot” and are no longer sustainable.

Industrial sector emitting pollution
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Economic growth in the aggregate cannot be decoupled from environmental harm. Technology and green energy used to grow the economy are part of the problem.

Let’s shatter the prevailing paradigm!

Cracked magnifying glass of the economic growth paradigm: "That economic growth can be sustained and is always beneficial.
Earth image from Wikimedia Commons and design by L. Richardson

And recognize the “Sustain-a-Babble” that protects this paradigm.

Shifting the economic growth paradigm need not be catastrophic to human well-being, but staying the current course already is. Increasingly frequent and severe storms, floods, droughts and fires are already affecting the lives of billions of people, livestock and wildlife.

Climate change is already causing misery to billions. Image shows fleeing Fort McMurray fire in 2016
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

We advocate science-based solutions to economic growth that respect natural and physical limits

To eliminate economic growth, we need to:

Move to a steady state economy that operates within the regenerative and assimilative capacity of the ecosphere.

Quickly repair and conserve at least 50% of all regional ecosystems to maintain the life-support services of the planet.

Reduce our population and consumption to a level where the earth can sustain us all at a reasonable quality of life.

What you can do

The solution to the existential threat posed by economic growth does not lie in individual actions, such as recycling, composting or biking to work, even though they have a positive impact and will be an important part of a steady state economy.

But if these actions were the solution, then CO2 would not still be increasing at an alarming rate and biodiversity would not be declining, also at an alarming rate (see “Why you should be alarmed” below).

Unfortunately, the problem of ecological overshoot is systemic and needs a complete systems approach.

Our collective voice is needed to shatter the prevailing paradigm and move towards a non-destructive economic system.

We all need to understand:

  • The basic science that would allow us to live within nature’s limits
  • The stories we tell ourselves that allow us to believe economic growth is infinitely sustainable
  • The “sustain-a-babble” used to support the illusion that economic growth can be sustained
  • The alarms warning us that the current actions taken by world leaders and our Governments are not halting the steady increase in

    CO2, nor the steady decline in biodiversity.

  • The actions we can take

The following pages discuss these points and provide supporting evidence.

It’s not rocket science

Stories we tell ourselves


Why you should be alarmed

How you can take action

Plus more about us and how to contact us for more information.

Stop ecological overshoot caused by economic growth

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