Degrowth; the radical idea we need

As my time at GSS and Storm is about the end I could look back and reflect[1]. It would be very useful. Thinking about the good times and the bad. Recalling my favorite storm events or list the most interesting courses. However, looking back could also be done too much. Sometimes, we should look forward. Look forward to a future we want to move towards. 

However, my problem during this program was that I always didn’t know where to move towards. During our time at GSS we learn that the ecological crisis is a wicked crisis. It might be the most wicked crisis of our species and planet. Therefore, it is understandable if it’s unclear how to solve it. Over the last three years I changed my opinion on the solution many times. Should I believe in the power of the government to solve this crisis? No, current politics is unproductive and ignorant they will never solve it. Should I believe in entrepreneurship instead? No, the individual cannot make a change when it is part of a broken system. After three years I wound up at a dead end. I was looking to remain hopeful[2]. But what if there is no right solution for climate change? What if I just start doing whatever and will never know if it actually works? What if this whole program didn’t lead to anything?

I started looking for a thesis topic and found my answer. There is a solution to all of it; it is called Degrowth. What is Degrowth? Degrowth has many definitions and even more misconceptions. I gathered my definition from a PhD thesis by Timothée Parrique[3]. He made a thesis of over 800 pages that as of writing I still haven’t totally finished. I am now going briefly summarize parts of this thesis but if you have some spare decades and are interested in reading one of the best papers I’ve ever read than read it yourself.

Degrowth can be seen as: escaping the economy, deeconomization of society or the alternative to growthism. What is growthism? It is the ideology that the economy needs to endlessly grow. We have built our economy in a way that if it doesn’t grow it will cause grave societal costs. The chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, was quoted to say that without growth there would be no welfare state. Sadly, there are more problems than solutions with the growing economy. As the economy grows it also produces societal costs and maybe even more critically it causes grave environmental costs. 

The environment is affected by the economy in a very simple way. The first step of value creation in an economy is called extraction. Extraction can only come from one place: the earth. Therefore, as the economy enlarges and intensifies it is at the cost of nature: more untouched forests get cut down, clean lakes get polluted and grasslands get transformed into farms. Degrowth is the alternative to this ecological slaughterhouse we’ve created.

Degrowth is written with a capital D. It is not simply a call to stop growing. It is a utopic idea of a society where the economy doesn’t need to grow. To encapsulate the idea of Degrowth it could be summarized into three parts. The first part is decline of resource use, socio-ecological harm, environmental impacts, misery, inequality, predation and corruption. The second part is emancipation from capitalism, neoliberalism, economism, imperialism, productivism, commercialism, industrialism, globalism and consumerism. The final part is destination to postwork, slowness, local democracy, permaculture, frugality, circularity, sustainability, gratuity and commoning.

The idea of Degrowth is too big to be described by a simple me in a simple blog post. Read the thesis by Mr. Parrique or find other sources that maybe describe Degrowth even better. The most important thing about Degrowth is that it is inherently democratic. We decide what Degrowth will look like. And we decide what our future society will look like. It’s time to look towards the future. It’s time to embrace Degrowth!





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