What is Degrowth? Why should you even care? Degrowth is on track to become the most powerful philosophy to change our world in many lifetimes.
Spanning, health, wealth, economies, ecologies, and cultures. Here is why and how I see it. Tell me what you think.
There was a time the Earth was completely empty of humans. Today there are 11 billion humans and that number is continually growing.
Anyone with even minimal intelligence would liken the rapid growth of humanity across the globe over the centuries to a virus.
In the movie The Matrix, I believe Agent Smith described humans very accurately. A virus indeed. Literally.
Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment; but you humans do not. Instead you multiply, and multiply, until every resource is consumed. The only way for you to survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern… a virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer on this planet, you are a plague, and we… are the cure.Agent Smith -The Matrix
We will need 1.5 Earths to maintain this growth at our existing rate of growth. There is a large portion of society that believes degrowth to be a simple solution to this problem.
Ironically there is an almost equal portion of society that asks the question, “What Problem?”.
What Is Degrowth?
I see Degrowth as the counterbalance to human the exploiting, environmental destroying, growth at all costs, more is the better capitalist system.
Supporters of Degrowth advocate for a society that prioritizes social and ecological well-being over evergrowing, production, consumption, and corporate profits.
The Degrowth Movement was formed in 2008 following the first official Degrowth conference in Paris.
The principles of Degrowth can be relatively simple and straightforward. Fewer productions and over-consumption lead to better social and ecological outcomes.
The word Degrowth can also mean many different things to many different people. As a Living Simple Minimalist, I love this definition of the movement.
Degrowth is a planned reduction of energy and resources use designed to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a way that reduces inequality and improves human well-being.Taylor and Fancis
I believe at its most intense Degrowth enthusiast despise the idea of global capitalism which at its core pursues growth at all costs. Lying, cheating, and stealing are all acceptable (even encouraged) behavior under capitalism.
Not even the exploitation of people and the environment can get in the way of pursuing ever-growing profits under capitalism.
The Degrowth Movement prioritizes social and ecological well-being over corporate profits, mass production, and overconsumption.
That is a huge mission and I also believe living a minimalist lifestyle is the easiest way to contribute to the movement.
Degrowth usually encompasses the idea that we must end continued overproduction at the expense of the Earth’s ecology and try to produce better with less destruction.
Minimalist living is an easy first step because there is no etched-in-stone definition. Minimalist living can be whatever the participant chooses it to be with the core principle of less is more leading the way.
Joan Martínez-Alier sees The Degrowth Movement as Environmental Justice and Economic Degrowth: An Alliance between Two Movements.
Why Degrowth? Sustainability is the first to suffer in the world of infinite growth. There are massive negative consequences hurled on the environment seeking infinite growth in a finite world.
Those in the know correctly understand degrowth and sustainability principles are immensely more radical than the “Green” forms of sustainability discussed today.
Recycling and conserving resources are powerful and necessary parts but simple measures like them will never come close to being enough.
We must rethink growth. Regrowth! Can sustainability and economic growth work together?
Supporters of the Degrowth Movement realize the impending climate crisis is a threat to human existence. Capitalism and unchecked economic growth are major drivers of the climate crisis.
It’s foolish and even reckless to believe unbridled capitalism and environmental justice can exist within the same social structure.
The world’s population is predicted to hit 11 billion this century, while the Earth’s resources are depleting at a fast rate.
Scientists are increasingly demanding our society to add Degrowth methods to our arsenal of CO2 reduction tools to combat climate change.
Capitalists would like to believe producing a surplus and profit are one and the same. Ever-growing profits are a fool’s errand.
It requires you to burn out from overwork, exploit the labor force and create false demand for products and services through marketing and advertising. It’s a form of “Capital Accumulation“. The continuous creation and reinvestment of surplus capital.
Is GDP (gross domestic product) is a tool used for measuring growth under these circumstances? There is an increasing call for the Human Development Index (HDI), or the social health index to be used as a measuring tool.
No matter how we word it the world’s economic structure is constantly pushing towards ever-growing consumption of natural resources and the destruction of the environment.
In a Degrowth Society, economies will be localized as much as possible in the hope of lessening the negative environmental effects of capitalism.
Degrowth economies are organized around a participatory democracy that increasingly ensures everyone’s basic needs are met while combating harmful growth and expansion.
Ideally, Degrowth economies would conserve resources as they are primarily run on renewable energy systems.
Degrowth recognizes a large part of resources used by society is dependent on the abuse of the limited ecosystem. Heavily relying on non-renewable resources will jeopardize the long-term survival of our society.
That sad truth is an ever-growing driving force that compels people to demand solutions like the Degrowth Movement.
Unfortunately the Capitalist faithful accuse the fans of solutions like the Degrowth Movement of not understanding world markets and the economic potential of current and emerging technology.
The simple fact is we can easily do better if we decided to. We just need to stop trying to have our cake and eat it too.
Unfortunately, technological advancement and efficiency improvement tend to be reinvested into more consumption and growth. Remember Capital Accumulation?
This basic concept of capitalism is what is causing the economic and environmental problems the world is experiencing.
There is no such thing as ever-growing profits while reducing negative environmental and social impact.
I hear people often fantasize about living the American Dream. There is no way the 7.2 billion people in the world today and even less so the projected future 11 billion live the overconsumption western style of life.
The Earth could not support it for not even a few minutes. Just let that sink in for a minute or two. The modern way of capitalism is currently a death sentence. We need an alternative.
Degrowth as in a minimalist lifestyle is practiced by the world can produce small positive changes.
Just imagine a society committed to the philosophy of less is more. It would divert money and time currently spent on material possessions into a better quality of life and experiences.
They would work and consume less to enjoy life more. There would be less time spent trying to corner the stock, real estate, and bitcoin markets and consciously spend quality time with family and good friends.
Living a Degrowth lifestyle would decrease hours working in the formal economy, spend less money, create more free time and independence.
The members of the Degrowth society will be healthy and wealthy taxpayers. The economy would grow bigger and usually better.
The problem is the Earth has a finite amount of resources that prevents the economy from growing forever.
How To Degrowth Movement
To convert a capitalistic materialistic society into a more participatory, community-oriented society will need a top-down approach.
I live in a world where I’m bombarded with advertising telling me my life would be better because more is better. The latest and greatest is what I need to be happy.
Degrowth and moving to a simpler life philosophy will require structural changes at a macroeconomic level.
I personally would hope change would come through a revolution in consciousness and actions among the massive hordes using minimalist living as a guide. That’s just me.
In recent times, scholars and policymakers have criticized degrowth as an unattainable oxymoron.
The Degrowth Movement should not be confused with negative growth rates with regard to the lack of economic productivity. It can be more aligned with the sustainability movement.
Implementing degrowth principles in economies will require a totally new set of economic policies, social policies, and a new way of thinking.
This would include but is not limited to introducing concepts of prioritizing human wellbeing, acceptable GDP growth, policies for basic minimal income, reduction of work hours, and taxes.
We will need to move away from what is now commonly seen as growth and progress. More work, more consumers, more manufacturing, more profit at the expense of the wellbeing of our society.
Minimalist Living may hold the keys to promoting degrowth to the masses because it rejects the idea that more is better. Working all of the time and busyness for the sake of being busy are frowned upon.
Degrowth is a way to cut down on everyday overconsumption and busyness. Simple minimalist living techniques like decluttering you’re living workspaces of unwanted and unneeded stuff.
This will help you live with only the things you need and not all the things you want. Everything will have a place and purpose and they should not overlap whenever possible.
Minimalist living principles put a premium on reduction of work and busyness for more free time with family and friends. More social and community engagement and more of what really matters in life.
This approach to living may seem to be the total opposite of capitalism, achieving more and neverending profits.
Degrowth highlights the reality of our finite world of limited resources. There is no such thing as ever-growing profits and more is not better.
Degrowth will require a massive redistribution reduction in the size of the global economy with an emphasis on common values, common resources, public health, and wellbeing.
We would like to reduce working hours to result in less income but more free time. The Degrowth movement would be driven from the “Bottom-Up” as opposed to the usual “Top Down” movement of capitalism.
What Are The Arguments Against Degrowth?
The Degrowth movement is not without its detractors.
Many people believe technology to be the solution to the problems Degrowth promises to correct.
They believe emerging green technologies and the promises of carbon offsetting technologies injected into the current environmental policy can produce sustainability.
The overwhelming majority of degrowth critics simply believe implementing degrowth economic principles will çause a global economic recession and all of its accompanying negative effects.
The simple fact is the world’s current path is unsustainable and something drastic has to be done.
Failure to confront the lies and the promises of unbridled capitalism is the cause of the problems the Degrowth Movement is looking to resolve.
What’s Next For The Degrowth Movement?
The Degrowth Movement is slowly moving from the fringes of society into the mainstream of society and political conversations.
More and more people believe Degrowth or something similar can be used to combat climate change and some of society’s inequality. While others believe just tweaking the status quo is the way to go towards a sustainable future.
Most importantly the degrowth movement has forced the need for conversations to question the ill effects of consumerism and climate change on our society.
It clearly highlights how to grow at all costs, capitalistic ideals can be counterproductive in shaping the kind of future well all agree we would like to enjoy.
As a living simple minimalist, I and a fast-growing number of people who practice Degrowth Movement policies in our daily lives know that will not be enough to move the needle to suit our sustainable needs.
There need to be political and societal revolutions to recreate post-capitalist infrastructure and systems to promote a more simple way of life.
I say revolution because massive change never comes easy. The Degrowth Movement or any form of it may not be the total answer. I believe degrowth base principles and practices are well suited to correct many of our societal ills in regards to the quality of life and the environment.
If we do nothing, grow at all cost capitalism and overconsumption will force corrections that may destroy life as we know it.
Degrowth forces mostly the western world and those aspiring to enjoy that lifestyle to look in the mirror and realize the burden of pursuing material excess.
liberate us from the burden of acquiring stuff we don’t need and sometimes don’t use.
we the patient are very ill. Without even a second thought the western world will irreplaceably damage the ecology, personal health, wellbeing, social justice. For what exactly?
Degrowth offers many innovative solutions but the patient has to want to get better before any solutions and be implemented in any meaningful way.
What may be some of your solutions to the world’s problems?