Director of New Documentary GrowthBusters Says “Stop Drinking the Kool-Aid”

UPDATE: The director responds to comments here.

JR: Right now, the global economy is a Ponzi scheme. We created a way of raising standards of living we can’t possibly pass on to our children. As Tom Friedman reported in 2009, “We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.”It has to collapse, unless adults stand up now and say, “This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate.” Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.” I’ve also noted that the 1% can insulate themselves from the collapse far longer than everyone else, with their gated and moated communities, multiple homes in multiple climates, security guards, private jets and general insensitivity to the price of anything — and hence insensitivity to the value of everything. by Cole Mellino

The new documentary film GrowthBusters had its world premiere in Washington, DC last night. And Climate Progress had a chance to catch up with Director Dave Gardner to chat about why he made the movie.

Gardner, like so many Americans, grew up hooked on growth. He once had a successful career as a corporate film producer, putting together promotional videos for large companies. But his newest film rails against many of those corporations that are trying to keep us addicted to growth.

First, here’s the trailer to the film:

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GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth Trailer from Dave Gardner on Vimeo.

GrowthBusters follows Gardner as he questions the push for never-ending economic growth in the U.S. and the world.

“If I have one goal on this planet, it is to make it okay to question growth,” he tells Climate Progress. “I’m not afraid to say I’m against growth.”


Gardner became interested in the issue when he started looking at the growth patterns of cities, especially his own hometown of Colorado Springs. Officials felt that “if they weren’t growing, they were dying.” And that incessant focus on growth had major environmental implications for Colorado Springs — draining the water supply, increasing congestion on the roads, and destroying pristine wilderness that defines the state.

He ran for City Council in Colorado Springs to bring attention to the issue. After a tight race, he lost. But it made him more determined to educate people about the consequences and limits to growth.

We need to “stop drinking the Kool-Aid” and stop “our nearly universal worship of growth everlasting,” says Gardner.

Gardner’s goal in making the film is to prepare people for a time when resource constraints eventually kill our all-growth-all-the-time paradigm. He also wants to make it okay to be against the culture of growth — to allow people to question the people and institutions that tell us that it’s the only available path. Gardner calls them Growth Pushers.

Gardner worked with many of these Growth Pushers in a previous life doing film work for large corporations. That work allowed him see the marketing behind the push for mindless consumption. Eventually, he realized he needed to do something about it. Hence, the film, which pulls back the curtain on the cultural forces promoting endless, destructive growth.


Gardner encourages people to join their local Transition Movement, which is helping cities prepare for a world of dwindling resources and a changing climate — offering a path to prosperity through “de-growth.”

He also asks people to change the conversation in local politics. “We need to lead the leaders,” says Gardner.

GrowthBusters is one of many recent films to take a look at the limits to growth. But this film is more of a human story about one person’s quest to change the dialogue about what it means to be prosperous. It’s worth a watch when it comes to your city.

— Cole Mellino with Stephen Lacey (and an intro by Joe Romm)

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