Note — Dec 18, 2022

Degrowth Can Work

Good piece in Nature, by a group of authors that includes Jason Hickel. It’s a topic I’ve covered before and which I believe is essential going forward. The authors cover quite a bit of ground, see the bot summary below for a quick glance. The mention of “obstacles” is important, it’s not addressed as often as other aspects, and they offer quite a few pertinent areas of investigation.

Two things: first, it’s hard to read all of this, then consider current ‘leaders,’ and not spend at least a few moments thinking that a change as massive as this sounds more like long term solarpunk fiction than anything currently doable. Second, I’m increasingly convinced that degrowth is entirely the wrong name and framing for this. Yes on all aspect of the outlined plan, but so many things would actually be upgraded, calling it degrowth focuses on the less enticing parts and on one number as much as ‘the other side’ is doing. Using their language, in other words. Or then let’s be clear and talk about degrowing the klept.

🤖 Summary Degrowth is an approach proposed by researchers in ecological economics which suggests that wealthy economies should scale down unnecessary production to reduce energy and material use, focus economic activity around human needs and wellbeing, and provide universal access to basic services. This would involve reducing production in destructive sectors such as fossil fuels, and introducing policies such as progressive taxation, universal public services, and redistribution of wealth. Research is needed to explore how this can be done, including examining the obstacles faced by governments and understanding the interests that could oppose or support degrowth.

Reduce less-necessary production. This means scaling down destructive sectors such as fossil fuels, mass-produced meat and dairy, fast fashion, advertising, cars and aviation, including private jets. At the same time, there is a need to end the planned obsolescence of products, lengthen their lifespans and reduce the purchasing power of the rich. […]

Economies today depend on growth in several ways. Welfare is often funded by tax revenues. Private pension providers rely on stock-market growth for financial returns. Firms cite projected growth to attract investors. Researchers need to identify and address such ‘growth dependencies’ on a sector-by-sector basis. […]

Growth is often treated as an arbiter of political success. Few leaders dare to challenge GDP growth. But public attitudes are changing. Polls in Europe show that the majority of people prioritize well-being and ecological objectives over growth. Polls in the United States and the United Kingdom show support for job guarantees and working-time reductions.