In Dr. Seuss’ classic children’s book, The Lorax tried to warn the Once-ler against making Truffula Trees into Thneeds. But the Once-ler was set on knitting Thneeds, biggering his business, and, most especially, biggering his money. Dr. Seuss told all about the consequences of biggering business in The Lorax. The consequences of the Thneed business were dire. In the end, though, Dr. Seuss leaves hope. The Once-ler realized what everyone needs is not Thneeds but Truffula seeds.
Biggering: Unsustainable Growth
Built into the nature of business large and small, the very philosophy of corporations, is biggering, biggering, biggering. Growth. Growth potential. Businesses generate—generate products and needs for those products. Needs spur greater generation—and speculation. Speculation is where the big money is. That is how stocks grow money. Generate, speculate. In many cases, generation is removed from the equation, and money grows through speculation on speculation. Competing and winning. Biggering and biggering. Watching money grow.
Biggering is unsustainable. It relies on putting off payment and responsibility. It denies the necessity of payment—paying labor, paying resources, paying for disposal of consumables. Profit is unpaid labor. Profit denies that resources are limited. Profit denies its connection to the disposal of waste. Profit relies on blindness to connections, consequences, and responsibility. Biggering needs blindness.
Finding the Foundations
And we are blind. We are blind to the origins and foundations of biggering—and, it often seems, to the nature of things. Biggering may be in the nature of disembodied corporate entities, but it is not in the nature of nature. Whether you search for the foundations of biggering in corporate law, Adam Smith (or Milton Friedman), the industrial revolution, or even among the pre-Socratic Greeks, the need for biggering is a human creation.
To reverse the flow of biggering—to find the truth, to tell the truth—we need eyes open. We need critical thinking. Critical thinking about the foundations of and perpetuation of biggering can help us work with the world we’ve got. We can work not against our world in another form of blindness that leads us to believe in utopia, but in and around our material world of biggering without being subject to biggering. Getting straight the critical thinking can allow us to get straight the actions that refuse biggering. Critical thinking can lead toward sustainable living. Critical thinking can lead toward smallering.
Smallering in business can lead to an intentional policy of limited growth. Some are practicing consciously limited growth. This might mean a small business owner has no need or desire to grow the business beyond a certain point. People practice this intentionally in limited growth businesses, home businesses, small businesses. People practice this in businesses whose owners and workers are conscious of their responsibilities to those who labor to make the business, to the environment whose resources are remade and used in the business, to the people who will use and possibly dispose of what the business has to offer.
A business can be a temporary connection between those who make and do and those who use and are done. Business need not be a permanent order. Ending a business need not be an accident, a failure to compete and win. Business can be a temporary autonomous zone where people meet to exchange, to barter, to share.
That’s not business? Sure, that’s business. Entrepreneur. Antipreneur. True Cost Economics. However you need to describe it to wrap yourself around it, smallering creates a very different business to biggering. Smallering creates connections, opens eyes, and opens arms. Biggering is business for business’ sake or the sake of accumulation. Accumulation relies on imbalance. Smallering aims at balance— balance between people, between people and their world, between people and the world of ideas. Smallering seeks to sustain its circle—from the smallest circle to the largest circle it can see.
“‘Perpetual Growth Myth’ Leading World to Meltdown: Experts UN-Sponsored Papers Predict Sustained Ecological and Social Meltdown,” Common Dreams, February 20, 2012.
“The perpetual growth myth … promotes the impossible idea that indiscriminate economic growth is the cure for all the world’s problems, while it is actually the disease that is at the root cause of our unsustainable global practices.”
This article outlines a paper by 20 past winners of the Blue Planet Prize, presented at the UN Environment Programme’s governing council meeting.
Text copyright © 2000 – 2017 Lori Taylor. All rights reserved.