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Review: “Hooked on Growth” documentary from GrowthBusters


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“Hooked on Growth” is the quintessential David vs. Goliath story, starring modern-day filmmaker David (yes, his real name!!) Gardner in his autobiographical crusade against industrial civilization’s prevailing and largely unquestioned myth that Growth is Good, whether it’s populations or economies. As he points out, infinite growth doesn’t work a finite planet.

 

Bucking the tide, our crusader runs for city council in his hometown of Colorado Springs, pointing out to his constituency how continuing development and resource-use actually ends up costing the city more than they can tax for: budget cuts become inevitable. Even his own own supporters struggle against stigma of being anti-growth — it’s, well, it’s un-American, isn’t it?

 

And of course the city council members, like those elsewhere, are depending on new development to pay for current municipal services. But what about maintaining those services in the decades ahead? Oh well, they won’t be in office when the whole ponzi scheme collapses and the piper needs to be paid…as we see in austerity measures and cutbacks in many states and cities everywhere.

 

The film is thoroughly sprinkled with experts like Paul Ehrlich (the population bomb), Bill McKibben (The End of Nature), Bill Rees (inventor of the Ecological Footprint), Chris Martenson (The Crash Course), and many more.

 

I especially admire professor Albert Bartlett, whose examples of exponential growth (like human population numbers), almost exceed our human capacity to really comprehend. The film’s graphics make it vividly clear… especially showing that we cannot see the effects until it’s too late to change course. Which seems to be where we are now, with the status quo hanging on like Wily Coyote over the abyss, running in place.

 

The DVD cover shows our GrowthBuster crusader and his followers, working to fight the growth profiteers. Dave’s personal story could’ve been a stronger narrative thread tying together the expert comments. I wanted to follow him his journey of awakening about growth and see how it evolved to taking on the city council, and then running for office himself.

 

We taped a Peak Moment TV conversation with Dave in summer 2010. He’s a passionate at his best. I wish more of that passion had come shining through the documentary. Portrayals of his visits to the local shrink during his campaign seem particularly weak — or make him appear weaker than he really is, though certainly we can identify with his emotions, his reservations, and his search. Then there’s some outrageous humor — one of my favorites is Dave on the sidewalks offering “Extinct Species condoms” to help reduce population!

 

I felt inundated by the flood of website headlines underscoring his points about population and over-consumption. They go by too quickly to take in. Younger viewers accustomed to faster-paced media may do fine, but I would suggest that Less is More — more impactful.

 

I hope the GrowthBuster crusade catches on, as tough a sell as it is. The growth imperative is an invisible driver that needs to be stopped. In fact, it will be stopped — either voluntarily, or when planetary limits slam humans against the wall, as happens with any population that overshoots its environmental base. If humans choose to stop growth, there will be a lot less destruction.

 

This David facing the Growth Goliath is courageous, persistent and compassionate: he wants humans to find true prosperity rather than leaving a seriously impoverished planet for future generations (human and non-human). He may have lost his bid for the city council, but his film superbly busts the myth of growth from all angles, and I hope its impact reaches well beyond the city limits. It may be an uphill battle, but you go for it, Dave and the GrowthBusters!

 

Find a screening or buy the DVD and host your own at www.growthbusters.org.

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