How do you think about growth?

What does growth look like, in your head? What shape does it have? What process comes to mind when you think of growth?

There are many ways of looking at the idea of growth: a physical perspective would be to think of a child growing into an adult; an mathematical one might be to think of “up and to the right,” i.e. a line on a graph. But both examples highlight, by omission, that there are multiple dimensions to the very notion of growth itself. A child can grow physically into an adult but remain emotionally stunted; a 2-dimensional graph lacks a 3-dimensional (z-axis) understanding that may or may not radically alter the meaning and value of the line going up and to the right.

For instance, if we measure economic growth by GDP, but omit the negative impacts of the current system on overall population well-being (through e.g. wealth inequality, or the exploitation of middle and lower classes through profits-first capitalism), or its effects on the environment (through heavy use and consumption of non-renewable resources). As such, that would be an unbalanced and unsustainable form of growth, one that will ultimately lead to a collapse of the system—unless balance is restored.

Fortunately, the laws of physics and nature itself prefer to be in balance, and after 13+ billion years there are examples on virtually every scale that show us what a sustainable, harmonious, and balanced model for growth looks like, and it looks like this: