Short (sometimes contradictory) descriptions of the meaning of degrowth. Interviews with speakers at the 2nd international degrowth conference in Barcelona (March 2010). I don’t understand the language of some of the speakers unfortunately, and some speakers I found quite unclear (I would have liked to ask them to clarify). A few comments about those I did understand:
- David Barkin says degrowth would involve profound political change, personal change, and reorganization of society. It also involves rethinking current tolerance of inequality. He is not clear about how overexploitation in the South is directly linked to overconsumption in the North. This point is emphasized in a later clip by Joan Martinez-Alier (the link between growth in the North and impacts in the South). See for example: The emerging debt crisis (North South Report), A fate worse than debt (Susan George), The end of poverty? (Philippe Diaz).
- Peter Victor explains that degrowth is not just a matter of zero growth (see Sustainability and the scale of the economy (Herman Daly)), but shrinking our economy; for example, through shorter work hours (see also: Examining the case for a shorter working week (London School of Economics & New Economics Foundation)). He asks what quality of life means; it is not just to consume, but to have more time for family, community, creative activities, more leisure, etc (see his own presentation: Managing Without Growth (Peter Victor)). Leida Rijnhout says they need to stress the positive aspects of degrowth to the public. These ideas have been around for a long time (see In Praise of Idleness (Bertrand Russell), Radical Abundance (David Korten), Capitalism’s Threat to Democracy (David Korten)).
- Richard Noorgard provides some explanation of the negative impacts of economic growth over the last decades. He is not fond of the idea of growth (as worshipping GDP) neither of degrowth (as un-worshipping GDP), because it is very vague as to who we should achieve that. Hamilton gives an explanation of what growth in GDP means (see Growth fetishism and the climate crisis (Clive Hamilton)). This point is also made here: Growth versus development (Manfred Max-Neef).
- Nadia Johanisova points out that money creation is pushing towards economic growth (for an explanation, see Money as debt (Paul Grignon) and Money as Debt II – Promises Unleashed (Paul Grignon)). Degrowth will require alternatives to this money system. There are many alternative economic (sub)systems out there. She asks: how do these survive in the dominant economic system?
- Many believe GDP should grow, some believe GDP should shrink; Jeroen van de Bergh believes it doesn’t matter. He also believes GDP is a bad indicator of social welfare for wealthy countries (for other explanations see Growth fetishism and the climate crisis (Clive Hamilton) and Growth versus development (Manfred Max-Neef)). He thinks that for poor countries GDP still mean improvements in living conditions. Several videos shed light on this question (The emerging debt crisis (North South Report), A fate worse than debt (Susan George), The end of poverty? (Philippe Diaz)): Growth in GDP in the North has gone along improvements in living conditions for the North in the past (partly because the North had colonies, and later benefited most from global trade) GDP is now also growing in many countries in the South, but health, education and other social conditions are getting worse.
For a scholarly article on degrowth, see: Kerschner, C. (2010). Economic de-growth vs. Steady-state economy. Journal of Cleaner Production, 18(6), 544-551.