Dave Gardner: Busting Growth in The Land Down Under

May 25, 2012 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Jenny Goldie for sending the following. It is the transcript of an interview of Dave Gardner, conducted on Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Radio National”, which is broadcast on over 260 frequencies around Australia, making it the largest single network in the country. See: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/growthbusters3a-hooked-on-growth/4030534

Most are already familiar with Dave’s recent work, the film Growthbusters. You may also be interested in some of Dave’s recent blog-posts:


Robyn Williams: Growth – how we long for growth. If you apply austerity in Britain or Greece, will you stunt growth and render the economy incapable? And if you do the opposite, as they did in the United States, and stimulate with dollars, though not enough according to some, will the economic machine begin once more to churn, to recover, to bring more jobs? If Obama has done just enough, will he be re-elected? If not, is he doomed? Growth, you see is vital to the electorate. Some disagree, like Dick Smith, like some Greens. They say a steady state economy can work. But is this the same as defying gravity?

Well, Dave Gardner is a filmmaker based in the US. His film GrowthBusters has just been released in Australia and this is what it’s about.

Dave Gardner: 20 years ago I moved my young family from the bustling metropolitan area of Dallas, Texas in the US to my much smaller hometown of Colorado Springs.  We made the move because life in the big city had become a rat race.  Too much of our lives were being spent on crowded freeways.  I was afraid to let my kids play in the front yard without my guarding eye.  We wanted a slower pace, a quieter life, more civility and more safety for our children.  But once settled in Colorado I watched with horror as my pleasant little berg grew rapidly, each year becoming more like the monster we had left.

I soon discovered this rapid growth was actually a civic goal.  My town measured its success by whether we were bigger or growing faster than other cities and by how many new homes were constructed each year.  This struck me as odd, I’d actually chosen to move back to this little town because I liked its small size, I did not relocate my family to this place, betting and hoping it would soon be just like the city we had left.  Did everyone else living there wish they lived in a  bigger city like Denver or Dallas, or Sydney, or even Mumbai?

It was also puzzling because there didn’t seem to be many benefits from that growth.  Our tax and utility rates were increasing.  Time stuck in traffic jams multiplying.  Our air quality, which had  been improving for a few decades, was once again in decline. City services were also getting worse; more potholes, longer waits for snow ploughing, slower police and fire response.

Additionally the town was making plans for a billion dollar pipeline project to bring water we didn’t need at the time, but we would need to accommodate continued growth.  That was projected to double our water rates over the course of just a few years.

What was the point of all this?  Well I discovered two root causes of this irrational behaviour:

First, real estate developers, homebuilders, bankers and construction companies were all getting quite rich from the perpetual expansion of our town.  Coincidentally they populated our planning commission, board of county commissioners and city council.  They also accounted for the lion’s share of campaign contributions to local elected officials.

Second, the people of the town tolerated this undue influence by one special interest and went along with the town’s pursuit of growth, because of a myth.  That myth?  There is a pot of gold at the end of the growth rainbow.  We got so many conveniences and improvements in our lives from the economic growth of the last century; we had come to believe growth was the path to prosperity.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/growthbusters3a-hooked-on-growth/4030534

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