When I argue that economic scarcity is usually created, someone will always say that our planet’s resources are truly finite because there really are only so many trees to cut or so much fossil fuel available to burn. True, our planet’s resources are limited, and these limited resources have been made scarce by human decisions and actions. But they weren’t scarce to begin with.
The distinction is actually important. Understanding sufficiency, a place of “enough,” may help. Here’s an excerpt from Lynne Twist’s book The Soul of Money about what sufficiency means:
I suggest that sufficiency is precise. Enough is a place you can arrive at and dwell in. So often we think of “abundance” as the point at which we’ll know we’ve finally arrived, but abundance continues to be elusive if we think we’ll find it in some excessive amount of something. True abundance does exist; it flows from sufficiency, in an experience of the beauty and wholeness of what is. Abundance is a fact of nature. It is a fundamental law of nature, that there is enough and it is finite. Its finiteness is no threat; it creates a more accurate relationship that commands respect, reverence, and managing those resources with the knowledge that they are precious and in ways that do the most good for the most people. (pg. 86)
The difference between the natural limits of our planet and the scarcity we create by depleting and polluting it is fear. Scarcity is the fear that comes from the thought that because resources are limited, some will get them and I will have to go without. I’m not arguing that scarcity doesn’t exist or that we can use the power of positive thinking to transcend it. In fact, the ways we have systematized scarcity in the economy makes “not enough” a devastating and painful reality. But the fear of not having enough is not the same as actually not having enough.
Our current economic system does not assume sufficiency; it assumes scarcity. That’s why the goal of our modern economies is growth – constant economic growth with no finish line. Excess is our economy’s proxy for abundance. But if we really want abundant lives, we’ll need to start realizing that as a species we have enough and we just have to get creative about how we manage it.