The '80s were about "greed is good." The '90s are about "growth is good."
by Chris Klein
have noticed that we have an built-in positive response to the idea of growth. Our children grow, our plants grow, our bank accounts grow, our relationships grow. The growth of our nation; the growth of democracy - all these things are good. Our relationship to growth is informed by our very language; synonyms for growth include: increase, development, evolution, flowering, progress, promotion.
The point is, based on our common experience and usage, any context that suggests growth comes pre-packaged with a positive association. It's automatic - no thinking required. Opposition to growth feels, somehow, disloyal. Unnatural.
Imagine, just for a moment, standing up in front of a large group of people and saying, in a loud, clear voice, "I'm for growth!" Now imagine the same scene - take two - where you proclaim, "I'm against growth!" Without even defining the topic, I bet you can feel a difference in the emotions it invokes.
I came to this consideration of growth because, in our work here (particularly with respect to the land use issues we have reported on in the last few issues), I have found myself standing in opposition to growth. If we're going to preserve what little of our natural environment is left, at some point growth is going to have to stop. Our quality of life is already suffering, and as a native San Diegan, I'd like to stop growth before it becomes insufferable.
This is really what the Multiple Species Conservation Program is about: drawing a line and saying, growth will stop here. There's still a lot of wrangling going on about positioning the line, and probably no one will be completely satisfied with the result. But if it is accepted, it will be the first time we have a few real limits to growth.
To counteract my own built-in bias and encourage critical thinking, I've started playing devil's advocate with my own preconceptions. The devil's position is, "growth is not good, it's destroying our natural heritage, quality of life and children's future." Then, I let both the positive and negative attitudes gather evidence and fight it out.
Once I allowed myself the anti-growth heresy, it was surprising how many unquestioned positions fell into doubt. Give it a try. It isn't easy, but who said life was supposed to be easy?