Johnathan Freeland in the Guardian
Grenfell Tower threatens to stand forever as a warning against four of the defining features of our era. First, deregulation – elevated to an ideal by the free marketeers of Thatcherism and pursued ever since. Protections for consumers or workers or residents have long been recast and despised as “red tape”, choking plucky entrepreneurs. A favourite slogan of the right was the promise of “a bonfire of regulations”. Well, they got their bonfire all right.
Second, and related, is privatisation, an animating ideal for the right since the mid-1980s. Grenfell Tower will surely endure as proof that there are some aspects of our lives that do not belong in the realm of profit.
Third comes austerity, which has depleted the ranks of housing officers and safety inspectors across the country. Hardly an excuse in the Royal Borough, mind you, which is said to have £300m sitting in a contingency fund… The local authority and its arm’s length management company decided to save a grand total of £4,750 by opting for the cheaper and more flammable version of cladding for this tower.
But most obviously, Grenfell Tower is a story of inequality, of the poor herded into a cramped building made unsafe because it was prettified to improve the view of the nearby rich.
Following up on Jeroen van den Bergh’s excellent review of the growth versus climate debate, Giorgos Kallis points to a fundamental misrepresentation of the quoted research on degrowth: degrowth is not a strategy „aimed at reducing the size of the GDP“.
KAIROS is shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our dear friend and colleague John Dillon.
John was a great friend and a “student” of Degrowth. His quiet and solid research over decades motivated and mobilised thousands of Canadians to action on many many social, political and economic issues. He will be deeply missed.
The application of the biological concept of metabolism (‘Stoffwechsel’) to social systems can be traced back to Marx who, influenced by Liebig and Moleschott, talked about the ‘metabolism between man and nature as mediated by the labour process’. Such a biophysical approach to the economy was not unusual at the turn of the nineteenth century but arguably did not form an integrated school of thought until recently (Martinez Alier and Schlupmann, 1987). This biological analogy grew from the observation that biological systems (organisms, but also higher-level systems such as ecosystems) and socio-economic systems (human societies, economies, companies, households, etc.) decisively depend on a continuous throughput of energy and materials in order to maintain their internal structure (Fischer-Kowalski and Haberl, 1993).
Today, a number of standardised methods exist for accounting for energy flow, material flow and land use aspects, provides the basis for empirical analyses of the biophysical structure of economies and for developing strategies towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns. These methods include material and energy flow analysis (MEFA), life cycle analysis (LCA), life cycle inventory (LCI) and life cycle impact assessment (LCIA), and also input-output analysis (IOA) (Weisz, 2006). Other instruments in the social metabolic toolkit include HANPP, EROI and Virtual Water, as well as related concepts such as ecological footprinting, and ecological rucksacks.
Unbridled growth appears to be at odds with social well-being and environmental sustainability. How might we develop a model that reduces the imperative for growth while maintaining economic stability?
A holistic understanding of modern evolutionary biology suggests that life evolves by a process of diversification and subsequent integration of diversity through collaboration (John Stewart in BioSystems, 2014). As our focus shifts from individuals and individual species as the unit of survival to the collective of life — its complex dynamic interactions and relationships — we begin to see that collaborative and symbiotic patterns and interactions are of more fundamental importance than competition as a driving force of evolution. Life’s key strategy to create conditions conducive to life is to optimize the system as a whole rather than maximizes only some parameters of the system for a few at the detriment of many (Wahl, 2016).
Commoning: a different way of living and acting together – within capitalism but with a trajectory past it.
Commons are products and resources that are created, cared for and used in a shared way in a great variety of forms. The term has increasingly come into use again over the past decades – “again“ because Commons as concept and praxis are ancient and exist worldwide.