The Role of Degrowth in Our Future

 

 
 
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James Luttrell is a former State of the World Intern.

 
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BY JAMES LUTTRELL | SEPTEMBER  20, 2013

At a time when our societies continue to be committed to endless economic growth and attempts to redirect our economy seem futile, what is the role of “degrowth” in humanity’s future?

According to Federico Demaria and Filka Sekulova, members of the academic association Research and Degrowth (R&D), degrowth is an essential redirection of the economy that will help us live sustainably and prosperously.

In a recent video (see below), Sekulova and Demaria highlight the need for a new economic system—or at least a new economic indicator that reflects the ecological and social health of societies—that is discussed and forged democratically. Citing the natural and psychological limits to growth-economies, they argue that we should stop consuming and working excessively, and instead learn how easily we can live on less. As Sekulova soundly notes, “growth will end whether we want it to or not,” so we should transition to a new economy before further environmental and social crises occur.

Further evidence has emerged emphasizing the need to shift away from a reliance on gross domestic product (GDP) as our leading economic indicator. According to a new article in the journal Ecological Economics, if we instead use the Genuine Progress Indicator—which incorporates environmental and social factors in assessments of economic welfare—it is clear that “progress” has remained flat since 1970.

R&D’s “Can Decreix” center, designed to be a hub for people hoping to actively adhere to degrowth, showcases ways to live according to these principles. One of the center’s members, industrial ecologist and degrowth researcher Fran├žois Schneider, remarks that “many people come here and try to live in frugal sustainability.” (See video.)

For Schneider and his fellow degrowth-ists, this entails scavenging for and reusing materials, foregoing unsustainable appliances and systems (while creating sustainable ones), and voluntarily working and living together harmoniously. By following the steps of Can Decreix members, Scheider argues that we can “create a framework that makes it easier not to consume so much,” to live intentionally in community, and to enhance people’s well-being.

The question remains, though: how do we convince billions of people that degrowth may be the best path forward, when they have spent their entire lives in cultures that incessantly celebrate growth?