FT: Conspicuous consumption can no longer be our economic engine

The capitalist dream of endless growth – just a bit different from today’s reality eh.

Reports of the death of economic growth have been greatly exaggerated — thus far, at least. More than 200 years ago, Thomas Malthus predicted that the earth’s resources would soon fall short of human needs and mass starvation would result. Adam Smith and David Ricardo both shared Malthus’s premise…
People failed to follow Malthus’s advice, which was to restrain their libidinal urges. The world’s population increased sevenfold over the following two centuries. Yet mass starvation did not result. Instead came a period of unprecedented bounty … [For a
In [] contrast to Malthus’s vision, [] a slowdown need not spell doom… As societies become more affluent, market actors increasingly have the privilege of consigning economic growth to its original function: a formidable tool of human development, rather than an end unto itself.


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London flooding and global warming – a degrowth issue?

Met Office meteorologist Steven Keates said the storms were being caused by a convergence of air currents as warmth in the Earth’s surface from the recent heatwave rose to meet cooler air in the atmosphere.


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Degrowth Policies Cannot Avert Climate Crisis Alone. We Need a Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal is the boldest and most likely the most effective way to combat the climate emergency. According to its advocates, the Green New Deal will save the planet while boosting economic growth and generating in the process millions of new and well-paying jobs. However, a growing number of ecological economists contend that rescuing the environment necessitates “degrowth.”

World-renowned progressive economist Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, is one of the leading proponents of a global Green New Deal. In this interview, he addresses the degrowth vs. Green New Deal debate, looking at how economies can grow while still advancing a viable climate stabilization project as long as the growth process is absolutely decoupled from fossil fuel consumption.


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One year on, no lessons learnt? – Vikalp Sangam

A very good critique of “development” in India

This is a Longer version of the recently published article Are we listening to the lessons taught in the first year of Covid-19?

Local self-reliance for basic needs, and localized exchanges of products and services, are far more effective in securing people’s lives than are long-distance markets and employment opportunities. In the nearly 75 years since Independence, we could have geared economic policies that facilitated and encouraged such self-reliance. Rather than incentivize big industry to take over most production, virtually all household goods and needs – soaps, footwear, furniture, utensils, clothes, energy, even housing, and of course food and drinks – could have been produced in a decentralized manner by thousands of communities.


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Review: Tim Jackson’s Post Growth – Life after capitalism

Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth is one of the most influential books on the postgrowth bookshelf, written in the wake of the financial crisis and clearly articulating the limits of economic growth as a measure of success. This book also comes in the wake of crisis, a time when “alongside an uncomfortable reminder of what matters most in life, we were being given a history lesson in what economics looks like when growth disappears completely.”


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What the Ever Given saga could teach us about the world

Washington Post, 30 March 2021 – https://tinyurl.com/38ws8xx4

The mishap led to the huge container ship choking off the Suez Canal, a man-made strait that sees more than a tenth of all global shipping pass through every year, for almost a week, serving as a reminder of the extent to which the global economy still moves on sea — that is, about of 70% of all international trade. The ship’s journey saw it conveying goods from Asia to Europe. It ran aground amid a Middle Eastern sandstorm and was rescued by a multinational coalition that included Japanese and Dutch salvage teams and local Egyptian tugboat operators. The ship’s 25 crew members were all Indian nationals, part of a legion of close to 2 million seafarers — many from impoverished backgrounds in South and Southeast Asia — who literally keep international trade moving. Thanks to coronavirus-era border restrictions, hundreds of thousands of sailors have languished aboard their often cramped ships beyond the terms of their contracts, invisible workers in what one captain described as the “shadow sector” of the global economy. The ship’s ordeal also highlighted the fragility of the global economy. Over the past half- century capacity on cargo ships has mushroomed by about 1,500%, expanding the range of available consumer goods and lowering prices around the world. The vulnerabilities of an interdependent world, where one product may be produced and delivered through supply chains threading multiple continents, are also on show. Even shipments that don’t go through Suez will be affected, as factories wait on essential components arriving from elsewhere before they can make products to send off. It highlights a world of choke points and how important a handful of key maritime passages is to the whole global economy, as well as the strategic calculations of regional powers, including potential standoffs between rival navies. China is dependent on vast imports of oil and iron ore and has arguably structured the bulk of its foreign policy – including its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative – to secure its far-flung trade networks. China imports nearly 3/4 of the oil it consumes, as well as about 4/5 of the iron ore it uses to fuel its frantic pace of infrastructure buildout – not to mention most of the goods exports it uses to obtain hard currency to pay for these commodities, making it peculiarly vulnerable to maritime blockades. Choke points such as the Suez Canal are bound to be even greater sites of geopolitical rivalry and tension, highlighting the need for world powers to figure out a collective system for administering them. [And all the more reason for us to find ways to live better with less in a world already consuming more that our planet can safely produce!]

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Are Environmentalists No Wiser than Monkeys Reaching for the Moon?

A fairy tale comparing monkeys cooperating to get the moon out of a lake to environmentalists pursuing a consumer economy based on renewable energy – blanketing the Earth with solar panels and wind turbines –
reaching for the mere illusion of sustainability rather than sustainability itself. The monkeys stand for unenlightened people who cannot distinguish between reality and illusion. Reminds me too of Trump supporters still trying to reverse the US election results.


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Fossil Fuel Pollution Kills Eight Million a Year

On Feb. 9, the journal Environmental Research published a study conducted by three British universities and Harvard, titled “Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Result from GEOS-Chem.” While it seems like just another research article, its findings call into question the whole economic and political foundations of modern civilization.

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Degrowth Conferences in 2020 & 2021 – helpful info and links from degrowth.info

The rhythm of the international degrowth gatherings and discussions in 2020 and 2021 adapted and adapts to present circumstances.
The <degrowth.info> web site has provided some useful links here to past and upcoming gatherings and discussions.

In 2021, compatibly with the constantly changing travel regulations, they encourage you to consider either physical or remote participation in:

– a Joint International Conference with Ecological Economics, originally announced as the 7th Degrowth / 16th ISEE International Society for Ecological Economics Conference, with a clear thematic focus on ecological economics (Manchester, July 2021); and

– the 8th International Conference on Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity, hosted by a range of diverse degrowth actors from the Netherlands, with a broad thematic focus aiming to expand the frontiers of degrowth research and activism (The Hague, 24-28 August 2021). See here.

After the first edition in Christiania, Copenhagen, in 2018 prior to the Malmö 6th conference, we will support the organisation of the second Pre-conference International Meeting of the Degrowth Movement in The Hague immediately before the 8th International Degrowth Conference.

In 2020, three degrowth-related events were held online:

– The International Conference “Degrowth Vienna 2020 – Strategies for Social-Ecological Transformation” (May 29 – June 1; See here). You can watch all the sessions in our library, by searching “Degrowth Vienna 2020”.
Speakers included Susan Paulson, Juliet Schor and Miriam Lang. A hundred academic, activist, and artistic sessions and workshops were held.

– The Degrowth Summer Schools in the UK and Barcelona were postponed, and instead were organized as the Degrowth talks (29 April – 27 May). Watch the UK materials here.

– A symposium specifically focused on the implications of Covid19 for ecological economics and degrowth, was held at the time of the formerly announced 7th conference in Manchester (September 2020; See here).

The Support Group understands that, in changing global scenarios, our conferences might change from what we have been used to so far. Your proposals and suggestions are welcome.

We won’t get back to normal because normal was the problem. Keep up the fight!

The Support Group of the International Conferences on Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability & Social Equity



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Wisdom from the oil fields?

It isn’t often I find somewhat enlightening articles in the NYT, but this one struck me as worth the “long” read (3000 words). Smith’s outline of the history and dangers of our fossil fuel dependency is useful, but so is his inclusion of an all too brief glance at a necessary transition, not only to alternative energy technologies but also to simpler, convivial local economies and cooperative lifestyles. He’s hardly in my slowcialist world, but for me he has captured some of the elements of Ulrich Ducrow’s 1995 “Alternatives to Global Capitalism” and our urgent need to find some dynamic global combination of alternative communities of living examples (of which there are already tens of thousands) and working within and against the “system”, not just to reform it but completely re-design and re-set it – a huge challenge, as most of us know.


Opinion: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/05/opinion/fossil-fuel-oil-climate-change.html

The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem
What my time working on a North Dakota oil patch taught me about America’s fossil fuel addiction — and how to curb it.

Credit…Artwork by Scott Gelber

By Michael Patrick F. Smith, NYT Feb. 5, 2021

Mr. Smith is a folk singer and playwright based in Kentucky. He is the author of the forthcoming “The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown,” a book about his time working on the oil fields of North Dakota.

Look around you: chances are that every object within your field of vision contains refined petroleum.

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