Degrowth: From utopia to necessity

By Florent Marcellesi *

Growth is not the solution, it is the problem. In times of recession, societal growth leads to economic collapse and in good times, leads directly to ecological collapse. This “dilemma of growth” is translated either into socially unaffordable rates of unemployment and poverty when the economy sinks, or into the accelerated squandering of fossil fuels, further climate change, food crisis and loss of biodiversity when the economy sprouts . To exit this crossroads of the 21st century, we can’t rely on either austericide or a new “growth pact” (even painted green), obviously both imposed top-down.

Anyway, it is not just an ideological issue. Like it or not, and as much as technology may improve, the era of growth is over. The structural decline of GDP growth – from high levels of the 70s (up to 8% in Spain!) to low or negative at this time – indicates that OECD countries, including our own, will be leaving this short period of their history in which their economic model, social peace and progress was based on a continuous and unsustainable increase in quantities produced and consumed.

Given this reality, it is time to put in march a ‘prosperity without growth’, understood as our ability to live well and happily within the ecological limits of nature. This third way is based on the following minimum premises: collectively redefining what we call wealth and needs, reducing our ecological footprint until it is compatible with the capacity of the planet, redistributing work, economic wealth, cares, land and natural resources based on social and environmental justice; relocalize consumption and production in short supply chains; and decommodify many or most of our activities.

To achieve these goals, we must exercise the power already in our hands. From below and cooperatively, there are numerous initiatives for food sovereignty and agroecology, energy independence, ethical banking, local currencies, cities in transition which daily challenge the liberal-productivist colossus with its feet of clay and build, now, the social, ecological and ethical transition of society. This profound change also requires “knitworking” networks among all these “alternative islands” so they begin forming into archipelagos, continents and hopefully one day, world-systems.

We only have one planet but many present and future generations: this great transformation is not a utopia, it is a necessity.

* Florent Marcellesi is the coordinator of EcoPolítica and co-author of the book “Adiós al crecimiento. Vivir bien en un mundo solidario y sostenible” (El Viejo Topo, in press). [“Farewell to growth. Living well in a supportive and sustainable world”]

Translated by Bob Thomson, 23 April 2013

Original Source(s) in Spanish: La Marea, #3 March 2013


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