Posts Tagged ‘stagnation’

Limited Growth

November 18, 2020


(Dedicated to librarians)

What book most changed my life? That’s an easy question for me to answer. It was “The Limits to Growth.”

I read it when I was 12 years old, and then I didn’t grow at all for three years. Zero growth because of one book. – that’s life changing.

The Bookmobile Arrives

Book reading is something I was introduced to at age 7 when the Bookmobile made its first visit to my class when I was in Grade Two. There was no library in my upper income suburb, nor did my tiny rural elementary school have one. Just big cars and big lawns.

So when I finally got access to the book scene at that age, I devoured most of the Babar and Peter Rabbit series. Reading books gave my eyes a rest from watching television, and also let me be alone in my room with no disturbances. Plus, I could imagine being a cute little animal living in Paris, or going on adventures and helping other rabbits, instead of just staring at a TV in a suburban setting and fighting for the remote control with other TV-viewers – what used to be called family members.

Library Access

Five years later, when I turned 12, I was finally allowed to take the once-every-two-hours city bus into the downtown library and get a library card. From now on, I could choose from an entire galaxy of books. The world was finally at my fingertips!

Steel City’s library was tiny, but at least it didn’t have wheels. My reading skills and worldly knowledge would finally be leaving the trailer park of Gilligan’s Island-style book sightings.

I read The Limits to Growth in a summer week, letting the very adult-oriented content sink in slowly. Computers and computer simulations were new in 1974, so I felt I was somehow preparing for adulthood and changing times.

Everything in the book seemed to suggest that the way the adults were living in the 70s would end in disaster and misery during my lifetime. And on top of this, it had already been published for two years, so there was even less time to waste. The book told readers of my age that our lives would eventually be destroyed by the bad decisions being made right now.

Growth is a disaster! Something has to be done

That year, at age 12, I was five foot two. Three years later, no change. Same height at age 15.

My weight also stayed the same. And my hair style and glasses.

At 12, it took me 4 hours to mow our lawn. Three years later, still 4 hours.

Steel City had the same population for that period as well, going from 35,000 to 30,000 in the city, with the new suburban bungalow-belt picking up about the same number as were lost in the city.

I watched the same sitcoms at 15 as I did at 12. I had the same circle of friends. They watched the same sitcoms for this period as well.

I wore beige and brown Levis cords for the entire three years. And went through two pairs of size 8 North Star sneakers.

The energy crisis had struck our suburb a year before, so exploding gas prices meant that Steel City was in a major recession throughout my zero growth period. Cars would even start getting smaller a few years later. Shrinking.

Drivers were subsequently granted the new freedom to turn right on a red light, and this meant that it became a lot more dangerous for me and other kids to cross streets or bike to school. My younger brother and sister were henceforth prohibitted from biking to school, whereas me and my older sister had gotten to school by bike almost every day just a few years earlier.

Over dinner, I mentioned to my uncle that Steel City was the only region where more money was spent on highways than on schools. My uncle sneered at me, and then went for a drive alone in his truck. He hadn’t read a book since he left school at age 15. I guess this made him unable to appreciate the need for books or education budgets. With a truck, you can fly around corners at high speed. With a book, you simply can’t do this.

The war on Vietnam that the TV liked so much was, at best, a stalemate. Salaries stagnated. The TV was on for the entire three years with the same Price is Right filler between sitcoms, car chases, and news.

The Times they were a’ Stayin’ Still as my body went through puberty without me.

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

click for fruit

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