Since 1977 the value of the U.S. economy has doubled, yet the amount of physical stuff it took to supply all the needs and wants of Americans fell from 1.18 trillion pounds to 1.08 trillion pounds. Even more astonishing: the "weight" of the economy fell while U.S. population grew by some 55 million people.
This is no small matter. Economic growth using less physical resources was not supposed to be possible, according to the infamous 1972 Club of Rome report, The Limits To Growth. That document, still referenced in all sorts of economic and environmentalist debates, saw economic growth as dependent upon ever greater amounts of material resources. The production of those resources, went the argument, would eventually lead to a depleted planet and then a massive population die-off. The report concluded that humanity must accept "a state of global equilibrium" in which there was no economic growth.
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