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The Myth of Development

Today, we are chasing a myth. The myth of development. Today's so-called development is not an achievement.

In historical terms, it is a flash in the pan. It will last less than a human lifetime in most places.

In social terms, it is an unequal pleasure. While a small minority enjoys luxuries unheard of before, a majority is excluded from the most basic benefits of a "developed" lifestyle.

In ecological terms, it is an outright catastrophe. We are destroying the very basis of our own survival.

Let's look at the way "development" is framed in our minds: the more money, the more GDP, the more industries, cars, shopping centers, the more "developed" we are, right? In reality it is a cancer that destroys our Mother Earth. Those who are more "developed" destroy her faster. But because develoment also thrives on inequality, they don't worry. Once they have destroyed most, they will still be able to occupy whatever is left of functioning green capacity (clean water, air and a predictable environment) for themselves, while shutting out the poor.

Fossil fuel addiction = development

If you calculate the energy contained in coal, oil and gas and translate it into people working for you, you can get an idea of how many "fossil fuel slaves" a person employs to maintain their lifestyle. A typical consumer would have tens of fossil energy slaves. A German 50 on average. A Chinese 40. A Mexican 30. An Indian ten. An average Indian that is. An Indian of the consumer class would be closer to the German figure, while a rural Indian wouldn't usually be employing any significant number. Maybe one every once in a while.

Development is a myth. Take a look at environmentally "progressive" Germany. Germany has 20 energy slaves per person in renewable energy. What do we do with it? We use it. But we also use our own dirty coal (called lignite), we use imported oil, imported gas, lots of products that destroy the environment in other countries. We live like kings and destroy our home planet. And we are the shining example to the rest of the world? This is a myth. Destroying your home planet, living a life in luxury is not right. It is wrong. We are all wrong. Consumer society is wrong. We are all living a historic error. And we had better rectify before we have destroyed too much of our precious home. We are burning down our home, having a big party and envying each other for who is getting bigger pieces of the luxurious cake we're eating while burning down the house. Forget about that. Development is a myth.

What we need is a way to feed ourselves, have clean water, health, a home and clothes in a sustainable way. Without burning down the house. Ask a German on how to live without fossil energy. We have all forgotten about it. The development myth leads us into fossil fuel addiction. Europe and North America and all the other so-called "developed" countries are fossil fuel addicts. They are addicted to destroying our home. And China is rapidly catching up in getting addicted too. That's what development does to us. It leads us into a deadly addiction that will leave a destroyed planet and a small survivor population, struggling to eke out a living on the bits and pieces of the biosphere that remain productive after the crash.

Where to start

Shutting down fossil fuel supply is a key lever. As long as the cheap fossil fuel keeps flowing, breaking the fossil addiction will be a pious wish that gets swept away by the flow of things at every corner. Only if we manage to turn off the tap, will we be able to reduce our addiction and keep others from getting addicted.


On a theoretical level, a number of alternatives have been proposed: buen vivir, ecological civilization, cyclical economy, xiaokang shehui (小康社会), self-sufficiency economy, 100% clean energy transition.
On a practical level, none of these has managed to break the myth of development. But there is no way of avoiding it any longer. The myth of development is killing our Mother Earth and it is set to kill human civilization as well.

Forget about development. A decent, sustainable life for everyone is what we need. Let's get to work.

Kjell Kühne, 6.5.2017