‘Growth is dead. Accept this or you will be in trouble’

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Mansoor Khan | Filmmaker-Turned-Energy Expert
Mansoor Khan, Filmmaker-turned-energy expert. Photo: Arun Sehrawat

EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW

Why do you say that exponential growth is not limitless?

Any kind of growth cannot be limitless on a finite planet, let alone exponential growth. Exponential means something that doubles with time and that is impossible to keep pace with. That is only possible with real energy and resources which, in fact, follow a bell curve pattern. This means that the output of resources, in particular, oil, which drives our industrial growth, starts falling once it is half gone on this planet. That point is called Peak Oil and we are there right now. Less oil means less energy means less industrial production means less growth. The question of anything being limitless quantitatively is a foolhardy and deluded concept.

When do you foresee it becoming a reality?

The truth is that we have been running on a deficit in the industrial and economic world by burning stored sunlight in the form of fossil fuels for that past 150 years and now the party is over as we have reached the peak. From here on, the slope only goes down and that means shrinkage — the opposite of growth. Growth is dead. Accept this reality and adapt or you will be in a lot of trouble.

You talk of alternative sources of energy — solar, wind etc — and their limits. Could you elucidate on that?

None of these are alternatives in that sense, as they are all made with fossil fuels and only give electricity, and are dilute sources of energy. That is why you always need to subsidise these projects and yet they only give you expensive energy. These are what I call False Solutions. They all fail Energetics, the discipline of accounting for energy, which is the only true currency of the universe. In contrast, economics is accounting of a hollow token called money for which we can fake rules, like the rules of time-value of money and interest and compound interest that are pure constructs of our mind.

How should we then design our lives in order to adjust to these falling resources, so that we are not faced with a situation where we are dependent on more energy, but there is nowhere to get this energy from?

The future is energy descent that will dictate everything. Food production, economics, population will all follow in tow. You see, it is reality that determines what happens and the reality is less energy. All of us will adapt. That is the simple truth. Growth and all its false tenets are over. In fact, growth became false in the 1970s and since then we have faked it by symbolic means like shares, mortgages, derivatives, hedge funds and other complex financial instruments. Cheap fossil fuel energy made growth possible and now that it is on the decline, we are experiencing the natural effect of expensive energy that our systems cannot run on. Globalisation, too, therefore is in deep trouble. Start thinking local again. We need to consciously make transitions. Transition means moving from a high cheap energy consumption state to a much lower energy state that the earth can afford and that is the third curve, which represents our only true energy budget — the amount of energy we get from the sun on a daily basis.

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