We all remember the story of the hungry caterpillar? Happily eating its way through its leaf until there is nothing left. Fortunately its story doesn’t end there. Fortunately it has a chrysalis in the waiting.
Like the hungry caterpillar our economies blindly consume until they have eaten the very thing that sustains them, thus running out of the very resource upon which they rely for not only growth but survival. Like the caterpillar our economies only grow when there is something to consume. Like the caterpillar we risk consuming our way through the very thing that sustains us until we have eaten our way to nothing. This begs the all too obvious question… Where is our chrysalis in waiting?
One of the more myopic assumptions that exponential material growth is predicated upon naively presupposes that the status quo – namely that a resource extraction and consumption based economy can grow infinitely in an increasingly resource restrained world – is best suited to a changing world. This assumption stubbornly refuses to unblinker itself to the fate it will befall if it refuses to even canvass new ideas for how it can reshape itself.
As many have been asserting for some time now, the trick will be to mimic the caterpillar in another respect: to embark upon the transformation from grub to butterfly. Indeed, the transformation is needed; let us not be deluded on this point. It is needed to transform a consumption-based model of growth that threatens to render itself obsolete into something ultimately more beautiful.
Such a transformation will require focusing our economies on expanding and enhancing entertainment, education, information sharing, the arts, communication, and the consumption of non-material delights. Perhaps, like the caterpillar, we have had our fill of vacuous material objects and now seek nourishment in non-material pleasures; nourishment that will sustain us in times of abundance as well as times of scarcity; nourishment that will not only enrich our lives as individuals, but enrich the fabric of society that colours the way we grow together.
If we are going to talk about growth, let’s talk about growing beautiful. After all, no one wants to stay a grub forever.
By Kirsty Schneeberger