When this bubble bursts, watch out

Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, once attributed his trademark spherical design to an interest in bubbles. As a young naval officer he had had the originality to wonder why bubbles didn’t appear in water as cubes or polyhedrons!

Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, once attributed his trademark spherical design to an interest in bubbles. As a young naval officer he had had the originality to wonder why bubbles didn’t appear in water as cubes or polyhedrons!

Often bubbles swell, growing in volume but with an ever-thinning skin, like bubble gum bubbles, or soap bubbles. They have enormous appeal for children, and bring out the child in most of us.

Remember the old television show The Prisoner? Each time he attempted to escape from the mysterious village, he was pursued and captured by a huge bubble, a fantastic feature of the show that was both menacing and strangely fascinating.

Part of bubbles’ captivating quality is our intuitive understanding that they cannot swell forever. Sooner or later a bubble will pop, leaving behind at best the scent of soap in the empty air or some sticky goo on one’s face. Until they burst, we’re full of anticipation and suspense.

Like the prisoner, global society has been captured by bubbles, largely related to finance, but also to the physical processes of the planet. We seem unable to escape. And like children, we watch them, greedily helping to blow them up.

Historians remind us of many financial bubbles: the Dutch tulipmania, the South Sea Bubble, and other similar scams pepper early financial history. More recently we endured the dot.com bubble to do with investment in startup internet companies, bursting in 2000-2001, and the real estate bubble in the United States that led to the 2008 market crash (we’re still trying to clean up its mess).

It is not so far-fetched to consider that the pursuit of endless economic growth is the pursuit of another bubble. It may be a larger one and be growing over a longer time period, but the undiminished avidity of the faithful, fueled by a growing world population with its swelling demand for goods and services certainly provides an ongoing sense of swelling.

Ongoing population growth is essentially bubble demographics. Growth economics is essentially bubble economics.

The ballooning of debt, both public and private, in the world economy has been a spectacular aspect of the bubble. American federal government debt is now sufficient to create a “building” of one hundred-dollar bills larger than the Empire State Building! And aside from government debt burdens, American household debt alone equaled 100% of  US GDP in 2006-07. Can anyone realistically advocate continuing to expand these bubbles?

Looked at from space in the iconic “earthrise” picture taken by Apollo astronauts, our planet looks rather like a bubble. However, it’s a static bubble. No matter how much we huff and we puff, it’s not going to get any bigger. The notion that we can continue to expand our extraction of resources and energy from its boundaries indefinitely is sheer fantasy.

In 1972 the Club of Rome sponsored a computer analysis of the prospects for continued growth of all kinds on the planet. Its results were both startling and depressing. No matter how the assumptions were programmed, continued growth came to a crashing halt some time before 2050.

Would it not be prudent to begin planning a transition to a sustainable non-growth economy before we find ourselves with tragedies far worse than gum all over our faces?

 

Al Lehmann teaches school in Terrace, BC.

 

 

Just Posted

Greyhound calls for public transportation fund

Made-for-the-north proposal would open northern routes to bidding process

Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan says Christy Clark left him no other choice

Junior boys go 1-2 in Terrace play day this weekend

The junior Kermodes defeated Smithers, but lost to Charles Hays and the senior Centennial boys

Festival of Lights 2017

Church choirs helped kick off the family event in downtown Terrace

Caledonia Kermode basketball team jumps into season

The senior boys played a tournament this weekend in Terrace, winning one, losing two

Feds agree to give provinces 75 per cent of pot tax revenues

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the agreement today

Red Scorpion associates cuffed in drug-trafficking bust

Kamloops RCMP lay charges in connection to Red Scorpion drug trafficking ring

Greyhound calls for public transportation fund

Made-for-the-north proposal would open northern routes to bidding process

Emergency response ‘well executed’ in B.C. carbon monoxide poisoning

Emergency Health Services talks about how first responders dealt with this ‘mass casualty event’

WestJet Christmas video turns children’s wishes into reality

This year’s annual video took a new spin on the 12 days of Christmas

Firefighters protect seaside California towns as blaze rages

A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday

Putin declares victory on visit to air base in Syria

Declaring a victory in Syria, Putin on Monday visited a Russian military air base in the country and announced a partial pullout of Russian forces from the Mideast nation.

Pipe bomb explodes in NYC subway

Pipe bomb strapped to man explodes in NYC subway, injuring 4

Most Read