At last weekend’s Inhabit Conference in Seattle, I had the opportunity to co-facilitate (with Brandon Rhodes) a conversation on “peak oil and place.” It was a lively and fascinating discussion. Near the end I asked a question that I also want to pose here.
Cheap fossil fuel energy has underwritten modernity and more than a century of America’s rapid economic growth. But the world’s oil resources are going into irreversible decline, and gas prices are through the roof. For this reason and others (climate change, high food prices, high debt levels), we seem to have reached “the end of growth,” in Richard Heinberg’s memorable phrase. Thus, “growth” can no longer be the practical standard by which we make decisions and judge the health of our economy and society. We need a new standard.
Which brings me to my question: What should the standard be?