Does the economic growth of poor countries terrify Westerners?

Does the economic growth of poor countries terrify Westerners?

Hong Kong and other Chinese cities are driving an economic explosion that's blessing the world as a whole - but threatening many Westerners. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/95572727@N00/953669278/">Trey Ratcliff (Flickr)</a>
Hong Kong and other Chinese cities are driving an economic explosion that's blessing the world as a whole - but threatening many Westerners. Photo: Trey Ratcliff (Flickr)

A Vancouver Sun story published Sunday offers a fascinating way of thinking about the scale of China's economic explosion:

While the United Kingdom had 10 million people affected by its [Industrial] revolution, there are 100 times that many in China. And changes are happening much faster ... While it took 150 years for the U.K. to double its gross domestic product, adjusting for inflation, China is doing it in 10 or 15 years, Dobbs said.

"So it’s 10 times the economic acceleration, 100 times the mass and if you multiply mass and acceleration you get force. So it’s 1,000 times the economic force," he said.

That's a clever way to express what McKinsey Global Institute describes as "the biggest growth opportunity in the history of capitalism." But the most interesting part of the Sun's story may have actually been its comments.

Below the Sun's upbeat story about the global wealth explosion, one reader after another predicts environmental calamity, social upheaval or war. It's reminiscent of the population-bomb anxieties of the 1970s, when North America's postwar boom began to slow and the growth of poor countries suddenly seemed to many Westerners like more of a problem.

The only thing that is growing with absolute certainty is scarcity, there is simply not enough stuff to continue to meet unlimited demand.

Through our twisted economic model, our species should choke itself to extinction in due time. Not having kids will alleviate worrying about what's inevitably coming to them.

We are already facing an ecological and extinction crisis. When billions more people get on the consumption train, it's that much harder to stop. More people, more consumption, more pollution, more resource depletion, more waste, more landfills, more destruction of wilderness, more pressure on wildlife, and more threats to human health. Conventional economists are living in a fantasy world divorced from ecological reality. The costs of this insanity are mounting daily.

Indisputably, rising population and economic growth are bringing problems that already-rich countries will be forced to either endure or help solve. Still, it's odd when a story about rapidly rising wealth and opportunity is met mostly by cries of dismay.

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