Topic: Beyond Growth
Group members: Laura, Halfdan, Mária, Vivienne, Emma and Andrea
The consequences of climate change have been documented for decades but are yet to inspire sufficient political action. Instead, politicians tend to favour half-hearted short-term solutions to an issue begging for ambitious long-term planning. Therefore, our society is stuck in environmentally and socially harmful paradigms, such as the idea that infinite economic growth, driven by heavily polluting industrial processes, is possible. Meanwhile, our warming planet is thirsting for sustainable alternatives.
There is more and more evidence that the association of growth with improved welfare no longer holds in developed countries. GDP increases imply costs in terms of psychological health, congestion, and pollution. If only the social objective stopped being economic growth, we could think of a just, participatory, and ecologically sustainable society, in which production and consumption are downscaled and society could experience true human progress. This would reduce our use of energy and raw material to a level that respects planetary boundaries. Degrowth would allow us to thrive, as humans, in partnership with nature, against a climate catastrophe. And yet, degrowth is still marginal in the political and academic debate while the neoliberal model remains central. So why do we keep referring to these outdated measures, like GDP, as representative of success when infinite growth truly brings climate and hence human disruption? Why is the neoliberal model still the focus of the public debate, while other ideas are better for all but deliberately confined to a marginal role?
In academia, degrowth has been described as “the decolonization of public debate from the idiom of economism and the abolishment of economic growth as a social objective“. This narrative seems to take us back in time, to the Emancipation Act in 1833 as well as to the struggle for independence and the civil rights movement in the 20th century. Abolition, independence, and equality were utopian concepts just 300 years ago. But even today, we are stuck in a growth narrative, upheld by lobbies and gigantic companies. We need to urgently free ourselves and the planet! It will not only take policymakers, but more importantly civil society movements, for broad recognition of the desirability of eliminating excess consumption on the one hand and excess poverty on the other while respecting planetary boundaries. It will take great leaders like Nkrumah, who led Ghana as the first African nation into independence in 1957, that unite us in the belief that an alternative world is not only a vision but that it depends on every single one of us to make it a reality.
Promoting infinite growth on a finite planet - the unsustainable nature of this idea is unambiguous. Although there is a lot of talk about climate change, meetings, and signing of documents, nothing changes. As politicians tend to shape their agenda to fit the will of the people, the task ahead is to be as loud as possible. To make our voices heard. To be a leader. We would like to invite everyone to join and spread information about degrowth. To educate those around us and to be loud together. Because only together can we build a future we can all believe in.
 (Kallis et al., 2015)