Alternatives to sustainable development: what can we learn from the pluriverse in practice

Sustainability Science, 2022 By Shivani Kaul, Bengi Akbulut, Federico Demaria & Julien-François Gerber

Abstract The debates on the sustainability of development have a long history. Although the Brundtland Report popularized “sustainable development”, this slippery concept sidelined previous critiques of development and has been compatible with a wide range of conflicting agendas. A notable example of this contradiction is the uncritical promotion of capitalist growth in the pursuit of social justice and ecosystem health by the sustainable development goals. In contrast to this reliance on the “one world” of Euroamerican market economies, this special feature presents 12 case studies of “alternatives to sustainable development”. These case studies question the anthropocentric universalism of the development project and enact radically different relational ontologies, often gathered under the conceptual umbrella of the “pluriverse”. They focus on territorial, community, and network initiatives that intend to move methodologically beyond discourse analysis with a situated and empirical analysis of how pluriversal practices might flourish as well as generate tensions. We identify three frictions with capitalist modernity emerging from these contributions: (1) how alternatives to sustainable development relate to state institutions, (2) how they engage with the distribution of surplus, and (3) how they unsettle scientific epistemologies, at times regenerating past resources—and at other times radical futures. With this special feature, we hope to re-politicize the debates on the science and practice of sustainability, and weave the contributions of anticolonial and indigenous science studies into neo-Marxist and post-development critiques.

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The real urban jungle: how ancient societies reimagined what cities could be

A fascinating Guardian review of how ancient cities fed large urban populations. Are there any lessons there for “civilization” and degrowth/slowcialism?

Many tropical forest societies found immensely successful methods of food production, in even the most challenging of circumstances, which could sustain impressively large populations and social structures. The past two decades of archaeological exploration, applying the latest science from the land and the air, have stripped away canopies to provide new, more favourable assessments.

Not only did societies such as the Classic Maya and the Khmer empire of Cambodia flourish, but pre-colonial tropical cities were actually some of the most extensive urban landscapes anywhere in the pre-industrial world – far outstripping ancient Rome, Constantinople/Istanbul and the ancient cities of China.

Ancient tropical cities could be remarkably resilient, sometimes surviving many centuries longer than colonial- and industrial-period urban networks in similar environments.

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Humanity faces ‘collective suicide’ over climate crisis, warns UN chief

Wildfires and heatwaves wreaking havoc across swathes of the globe show humanity facing “collective suicide”, the UN secretary general has warned, as governments around the world scramble to protect people from the impacts of extreme heat.

António Guterres told ministers from 40 countries meeting to discuss the climate crisis on Monday: “Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction.”

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Mapping areas of agreement between two of the most important radical ecology movements

For ecosocialist degrowth July 2, 2022

by Michael Löwy, Bengi Akbulut, Sabrina Fernandes and Giorgos Kallis

Degrowth and ecosocialism are two of the most important movements—and proposals—on the radical side of the ecological spectrum. Sure, not everyone in the degrowth community identifies as a socialist, and not everyone who is an ecosocialist is convinced by the desirability of degrowth. But one can see an increasing tendency of mutual respect and convergence. Let us try to map the large areas of agreement between us, and list some of the main arguments for an ecosocialist degrowth:

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Animals farmed: microplastics in meat, ‘cruel’ Parma ham and jet-set salmon | Farming | The Guardi an

The Guardian’s monthly roundup of the biggest issues in farming and food production, with must-read reports from around the web

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Nearly $2tn of damage inflicted on other countries by US emissions | Climate crisis | The Guardian

The US has inflicted more than $1.9tn in damage to other countries from the effects of its greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new analysis that has provided the first measurement of nations’ liability in stoking the climate crisis. The huge volume of planet-heating gases pumped out by the US, the largest historical emitter, has caused such harm to other, mostly poor, countries through heatwaves, crop failures and other consequences that the US is responsible for $1.91tn in lost global income since 1990, the study found.

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American Interdependence Day

Today is American Independence Day and there’s lots of celebrating going on (not to mention the volatilizing of hundreds of millions of pounds of different chemical compounds in the atmosphere). So it’s a big day in the USA today. But truthfully I’d rather wish everyone—American or not—a Happy Interdependence Day!

So instead, I wish you all a day to celebrate our Interdependence with countless other species—with the blue-green algae that make the oxygen you breathe; the bacteria that make up more of you than you do; with the plants that make up your food (either directly or indirectly); the animals that are sacrificed so many of us can eat (or wear) them; the ancient beings that made up the coal, gas, and oil that we’ve become dependent on (in the bad sense); the future beings that will care for us when we’re old and that will inherit (and hopefully heal) the horrible ecological and societal wounds we’ve inflicted; and last but not least, our family, friends, extended communities, and the millions of people we don’t know who provide us with food, medicine, energy, goods, and services. In this complex civilization we live in, we are all deeply interdependent—interwoven with countless lives day in and day out.

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Post-growth, Degrowth books from Verso – C$8.39 for ebooks

I just ran across these three books that followers of this site might find interesting.

Economic growth isn’t working, and it cannot be made to work. Offering a counter-history of how economic growth emerged in the context of colonialism, fossil-fueled industrialization, and capitalist modernity, The Future Is Degrowth argues that the ideology of growth conceals the rising inequalities and ecological destructions associated with capitalism, and points to desirable alternatives to it.

“Capitalism is clearly destroying the planet. If socialists want to offer a real alternative to profit-driven catastrophe, they need to rethink deeply ingrained assumptions and abandon ruinous habits. Building a society that operates within ecological constraints requires an unleashing of our political imaginations, and this book helps us do just that. You may not agree with every word of this bold and provocative book, but it raises urgent and necessary questions that the left must grapple with before it’s too late.”

The reality of runaway climate change is inextricably linked with the mass consumerist, capitalist society in which we live. And the cult of endless growth, and endless consumption of cheap disposable commodities, isn’t only destroying the world, it is damaging us and our way of being. How do we stop the impending catastrophe, and how can we create a movement capable of confronting it head-on? In Alternative Prosperity, philosopher Kate Soper offers an urgent plea for a new vision of the good life, one that is capable of delinking prosperity from endless growth. Instead, Soper calls for renewed emphasis on the joys of being that are currently being denied, and shows the way to creating a future that allows not only for more free time, and less conventional and more creative ways of using it, but also for fairer and more fulfilling ways of working and existing. This is an urgent and necessary intervention into debates on climate change.

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New book: The Future is Degrowth

Aaron Vansintjan writes: I am very excited to share that the book The Future Is Degrowth: A Guide to a World Beyond Capitalism, by Matthias Schmelzer, Andrea Vetter, and myself will be released by Verso Books this Tuesday, June 28.

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Inflation as a Political Power Play Gone Wrong – Other News – Voices against the tide

A half-century long strategy, led by corporations, Wall Street, governments, and central banks, is coming undone. As a result, the West’s authorities now face an impossible choice: push conglomerates and states into cascading bankruptcies or allow inflation to go unchecked.

ATHENS – The blame game over surging prices is on. Was it too much central-bank money being pumped out for too long that caused inflation to take off? Was it China, where most physical production had moved before the pandemic locked down the country and disrupted global supply chains? Was it Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine took a large chunk out of the global supply of gas, oil, grains, and fertilizers? Was it some surreptitious shift from pre-pandemic austerity to unrestricted fiscal largesse?

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