Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CXXVI


Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Today’s reflection is to share an ongoing ‘discussion’ within my local town/community regarding our council’s/province’s pursuit of perpetual growth. Specifically yet another large (exceedingly so for our town) housing development along our town’s main street. I imagine, however, that if our ruling caste can keep the growth Ponzi scheme going for a while longer this monstrosity (as one resident called it) may appear quite quaint in retrospect.

As I have written about previously, the smallish town (Whitchurch-Stouffville) my wife, newborn daughter, and I moved to in 1995 (population under 20,000 at the time – I cannot find the exact number) has been one of the fastest growing in the Canadian province of Ontario over the past decade or more, sitting at over 60,000 now. This is not surprising given our location just north of Toronto – Canada’s largest, and continuing to grow, urban centre and our federal government’s extraordinary efforts to bring in evermore immigrants — a not so hidden attempt to keep the monetary/financial/economic Ponzi scheme supported through population growth due to declining domestic birth rates, yet marketed as a compassionate enterprise.

I’ve also shared the narrative management on our town’s most popular FB group where the administrator(s) of the site have set up the algorithms to decline anything I post with the term ‘finite planet’, as can be seen in the following image (and that also previously earned me a 30-day ban from the site):

While there are competing viewpoints, the general themes of comments appear to be such that: large developments are inappropriate for our town; yes, building up is more ecologically responsible than building suburban sprawl; growth is inevitable and always a positive; significant increases in housing supply will guarantee demand be met and prices fall; complainers are simply reflecting NIMBYism; we need to expand a lot of other things before or in concert with population growth (e.g., infrastructure, leisure/entertainment opportunities).

Never is growth questioned or most of the mainstream perspectives above challenged – except by me, of course. Folks just disagree within the general confines of established narratives that assume growth is inevitable and mostly beneficial for all, and we can do it in a responsible and eco-friendly way.

I wish to share two of the exchanges I’ve had with others, and close with my standalone comment.

Typically, FS, a man I’ve disagreed with several times on similar posts stated: Good news for growth.

Of course, I could not let that declarative statement sit unchallenged with the following exchange taking place:

Me: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” -physicist Dr Albert Bartlett.

FS: you can keep banging this exp growth stuff all you want and its not going to stop any growth.

Me: Very likely not because we are completely ignoring/denying the negative consequences of it; especially our so-called ‘leaders’ and decision-makers because they profit grotesquely from it.

FJVV: India will pass China shortly in terms of population at 1.42BB. China, 1.412BB. What is your solution for halting this population growth? These folks are coming here and to other countries seeking a better life. WS will be a community that they will come to. I would love to hear from anyone who feels that they have a way to stop global population growth and to halt all immigration into Canada. We welcomed 441,645 immigrants to our country in 2022. The plan is to increase that number in 2023. They all need to live somewhere.

Me: Seeking such simple ‘solutions’ as you propose suggests a misunderstanding of our dilemma. Doing a more complex dive into ecological overshoot (that I would recommend everyone do) and the causes and symptoms that arise from it, one would soon come to realise it is a predicament without any solution. The best we might hope for is to mitigate some of the outcomes by halting or reversing the contributing causes, such as growth. However, given the momentum of the various systems and control by a ruling caste that profits immensely from it, even doing this is virtually impossible…as seen clearly by those who continue to cheerlead growth while denying/ignoring the very real downside of this path.

FJVV: so, there’s a growth problem with no solution barring a nuclear event killing billions of people or, a type of black plaque killing billions of people?
. I get what your quite valid concerns are however, Canada is not where the solution will be found nor is it part of the problem. Re
. Canadians going forward will be able to buy their own homes, just not in the Golden Horseshoe. Work from home will become the norm. High speed internet will be available everywhere in Canada be it through Starlink or fibre. Rural areas all across Canada will be populated by current and future urban dwellers.
. Ground zero will remain India, Pakistan and China. I don’t see them abandoning coal power any time soon. Until that issue is resolved, global warming will continue. IMHO.

Me: On a per capita basis so-called ‘advanced’ economies are a much more significant part of the problem.

FS: You have a very dark view of life. Billions have been lifted out of poverty, real poverty, mid evil poverty, life expediency has gone up. All because of growth. Can the world do better, yes. The sky is not falling, and if you think all leaders are corrupt and thieves, you’ll never ever be happy. Good luck changing the world.

Me: No, the relatively recent human ‘successes’ you suggest (and there’s great debate over whether what you suggest is an accurate reflection of reality as much depends very much on interpretation of evidence and cherry-picking of data) are not because of growth, per se; they are because of our leveraging of a one-time (and quickly depleting) cache of stored photosynthetically-derived energy – aka fossil fuels.
The fact that this fundamental resource has encountered significant diminishing returns and the net surplus energy we once enjoyed to ‘power’ our growth is disappearing should create in us a deep concern for our future – to say little about the significant ecological destruction that has occurred as a result of our extraction and burning of this resource (and all the other resource extraction/processing that has been ramped up with this).
But instead of recognising our predicament (ecological overshoot) and pursuing mitigation strategies for the inevitable loss of phantom increases in the planet’s carrying capacity for humans created by fossil fuel use – and the reversion to the mean this portends – we story-telling apes are creating anxiety-reducing narratives involving all sorts of magical thinking to deny the harsh reality that we have not just reached the limits to growth imposed by a world with finite resources but that we are a part and parcel of and depend very much upon nature and it’s health.
And our so-called ‘leaders’ are doubling down on the maladaptive strategy of growth pursuit perhaps mostly because humanity has been led astray by the ‘benefits’ you highlight and leveraging that misguided belief by cheerleading growth and always promising more, more, more along with all the ‘benefits’ this will bring to everyone (just ignore all that ecological destruction over there, and/or the massive wealth inequality that is being created); but also because the ruling caste profits immensely from the industries that are required to build out and fund all this growth, and that they just happen to own/control.
And by the way, my happiness certainly does not depend upon the integrity of anyone in our ruling caste. I happen to be quite entertained by the constant theatre they provide. Sure, it’s disheartening to see their shenanigans, especially geopolitically, but it is what it is: a group who have as their main motivation the control/expansion of the wealth-generating/-extracting systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige. Been that way since we adopted agriculture, began experiencing resource surpluses, and large, complex societies arose as a result.
And I am certainly not attempting to change the world as I know I have no agency in that regard. But if a few people can better understand our predicament, maybe, just maybe, they will take a tentative step forward towards a less destructive lifestyle. God knows we won’t be led that way by those pursuing perpetual growth, especially politicians

There were several other exchanges that took place, but I wanted to close with this one as I raise the ‘difficulty’ encountered with even attempting to raise the issue of challenging the pro-growth narrative:

DH: People just hate change. They want things the way they were when they moved in. But we are always growing and expanding. Always a need for more homes. Would you prefer one condo block or 50 separate houses spreading out into the farmland?

RB: 166 separate houses, in this case.

SB: Yes that’s right… 166 new homes for people to live in. This condo is taking up sky space, not farmland or green space

Me: Whether one builds up or out, the ecological damage done to support the expanded population is fairly similar but, of course, mostly discounted by those who ignore the strain such growth places upon our world. Increasing density as a means of reducing the negative impacts of continued growth is a form of rationalisation to avoid the far more anxiety-provoking notions that arise from confronting our misguided belief that growth is a beneficent activity.

RB: We have had this conversation in past. I appreciate your position, but I am advocating for best options given realities before us.
You’re entire position is essentially an argument in favour of population controls. China failed mightily at this, and they are a far more authoritarian nation than Canada. So how do you propose we stop growth? The societal overhauls required to pursue your positions on these matters are more than immense, so what’s the pathway?
Keep me posted on all that, in the mean time I will continue to advocate for the most responsible means of growing and accommodating/servicing that increased population.

Me: We find ourselves in a predicament that has outcomes, not a problem with solutions; thus, I offer none. But the fact that most people won’t even entertain discussion on this more than anything suggests the impossibility of attempting to even remotely set us on a path towards ‘sustainability’. Either we find ways to manage our eventual reversion to the mean, or Nature will do it for us. And we likely won’t like the way Nature does it. [bold added]

My standalone comment was as follows:

It is increasingly apparent that we are aboard the Titanic, shortly after striking the iceberg. And rather than seek out the limited lifeboats, we’ve not just returned to listen to the band play on but insisted that the captain crank up the engines and speed up the ship’s journey. Such a fine example of the typical (and extremely ironic) behaviour of these story-telling apes we have egotistically called the ‘wise’ man.

If you’ve made it to the end of this contemplation and have got something out of my writing, please consider ordering the trilogy of my ‘fictional’ novel series, Olduvai (PDF files; only $9.99 Canadian), via my website — the ‘profits’ of which help me to keep my internet presence alive and first book available in print (and is available via various online retailers). Encouraging others to read my work is also much appreciated.



Steve Bull (

A guy trying to make sense of a complex and seemingly insane world. Spend my days pondering our various predicaments while practising local food production...