Fatih Birol has done it again. At the end of May the chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA) was quoted in The Guardian as saying that preventing a 2 degree increase in global temperatures might be nothing but “a nice Utopia.” About a month earlier, on the Australian network ABC, he repeated his organisation’s belief that “crude oil production has already peaked, in 2006.” It’s starting to look like his tolerance for restrained advisement on energy issues has also peaked and gone into decline.
The Guardian article in question was noteworthy not just because it reported that runaway climate change might be unavoidable depending on what happens this year (a reasonable prediction that, unfortunately, has lost its impact due to continuous warnings), but because it showed how strong the link is between resource consumption and economic growth. Because of the worst recession in living memory, global carbon emissions fell from 29.3Gt (gigatonnes) to 29Gt between 2008 and 2009. Compare that with the huge jump to 30.6Gt that took place in 2010, even as we still swim in the thick of financial troubles (and apparently, declining amounts of cheap oil). The link is not only explicit – it’s completely out of proportion. Everything seems to hinge on finding a different goal for our economy.
A group called GrowthBusters, made up of a core of dedicated activists and international volunteers, has been pointing this out for five years. Their film, Hooked on Growth, is due for release this October. As part of the effort, an Earth Day soundtrack is currently being sold to raise funds and awareness, and features a mix of artists from various genres. The legendary folk singer, Pete Seeger, makes an appearance, and his amusing live contribution, “We’ll All Be A-Doubling,” is a fine centrepiece for much of the CD’s acoustic singer-songwriters.
If you like your music a little more extreme, there’s a decent amount on offer here as well. South Australian act The Chairman provide “Zero (Al Bartlett).” In the vein of PPK’s “I Have a Dream” and Coldcut’s Blair-bashing “Revolution,” it’s an electronic track featuring quotations from physics professor Bartlett, who is most famous for his lectures on the exponential function. Black Piranha’s “It’s Our World” is New Orleans style classic rock with sincere 80’s riffage. Jake Fader, teaming up with different vocalists, puts in two great songs. The first, the documentary’s theme, opens the album in a Ghostbusters-influenced-reggae direction, obviously. The second, “All The Little Birdies,” is reminiscent of Erykah Badu neo-soul, with its near-rapping and relaxed drum, piano and guitar beat.
Not everything on the compilation will be to everyone’s taste. Like the solutions we seek, it needs to be a diverse affair. For me, the album echoes the history of growth economy: the same ideas run throughout, but towards the end of the timeline it doesn’t seem to be as enjoyable. There was a long period when re-distribution really might not have provided enough for everyone, and growth seemed like a noble goal. Now that the generation of additional money is causing more harm than good, we need to be able to accept that it has outlived its usefulness (and the last couple of tracks on the CD are aimed at kids, to be fair). Hopefully the as-yet-unwritten bonus songs will be beautifully crafted art, and not grim, unlistenable shite.
You can hear samples of all the music here. Both digital downloads and physical copies are available for the same price. If you’re interested in financially supporting the film but don’t fancy the soundtrack, a Kickstarter campaign has just gotten underway to fund final production costs. GrowthBusters is aiming to raise $20,000 and any pledge you make will only be taken from your account if the goal is met by August 7th.