Have you ever wondered about whether eternal growth is the way to go? In our very first podcast, we are interviewing Crelis Rammelt, assistant professor of environmental geography and international development studies at the University of Amsterdam, and cofounder of ‘Ontgroei’, a Dutch degrowth platform. Degrowth is a different approach to societal progress, that focuses on well-being rather than economic growth. In our interview, we are exploring degrowth within the context of Dutch social movements, while also discussing degrowth in general.
One of the most urgent questions of our times is whether economic growth will deliver well-being for all while staying within the ecological limits of our planet. A rising number of scientists and citizens think that this will not be possible, and that ‘prosperity’ or ‘quality of life’ must be rethought, and separated from GDP growth.
The Cities for Change event “A good life for all beyond growth?” presents the research being done in Amsterdam on current ‘post-growth initiatives’. A consortium of scholars across the social sciences and humanities from UvA, HvA, VU, ISS and PThU will be exploring the factors and conditions that influence sustainable urban transformations towards a high quality of life beyond growth-centric economies. It pays special attention to the frictions and contradictions between the conventional growth-centric model of urban development and a number of emerging policy and grassroots initiatives which prioritize a higher quality of life based on a holistic understanding of human and nonhuman needs instead of growth. This includes the city’s initiatives around municipalism and ‘Doughnut economics’ and will be investigated along three key dimensions of urban life: housing commons, food practices, and community health.
11:00 – Welcome
11:05 – Introduction into the consortium (Julien-François Gerber)
[Diving deeper into different parts of the project]
11:15 – Housing commons (Federico Savini)
11:25 – Food practices in intentional communities (Peter-Ben Smit & Mirella Klomp)
11:40 – Community health (Lea den Broeder)
11:50 – Applying the Doughnut model along post-growth lines (Crelis Rammelt)
12:00 – Discussions on three different consortium themes (housing, food, health) and its applications in Amsterdam in breakout rooms
12:25 – Recaps and general discussion
Toen ik klein was, gaven mijn ouders me een kleine schildpad. Na enige tijd ontdekte ik dat het was gestopt met groeien voordat het te groot werd voor het aquarium. We besloten toch om een groter aquarium te kopen en de schildpad hervatte zijn groei. Maar nogmaals, het stopte voordat het de ruimte om hem heen uitgroeide. Hoewel het stopte in omvang en gewicht, bleef het niet stoppen met het veranderen van zijn verhoudingen, kleuren, gedrag en andere kwaliteiten. Ter vergelijking: de wereldeconomie van vandaag lijkt op een gigantisch beest dat op planetaire schaal hulpbronnen vergaart en verslindt, bergen afval terug in zijn habitat loost en de ecologische verwoesting niet tegengaat door zijn eigen vraatzuchtige impulsen te beteugelen. Er is een evolutionaire transformatie nodig voordat de economie haar groei opzettelijk kan vertragen – laat staan terugbrengen naar duurzame niveaus.
In dit 8 minuten mini-lezing voor de Universiteit van Amsterdam, leg ik de basisprincipes en ideeën achter degrowth uit.
During the 8th international degrowth conference in The Hague next summer we will pay attention to the potential for a degrowth movement in the Netherlands. In this Key Conversation we will seek to facilitate a space for exchange between initiatives (on food, housing, energy, mobility and money) that are aligned with degrowth principles, to generate momentum for degrowth thinking, practice and political mobilisation in The Netherlands. Here’s a short video message about our aims for this Key Conversation. For more details, please see below.
The emphasis for this Key Conversation is on networking and generating momentum for degrowth thinking and practice in The Netherlands. We plan to approach and invite existing initiatives and networks (local, provincial, national, and in different sectors) that possibly share and (implicitly) pursue degrowth principles, such as redistributing, caring, de-commodifying and commoning. We will seek these potential alliances in different sectors or spheres of work (food, energy, mobility, housing, money, etc.). Initiatives and networks would be invited to (1) discuss if and how they adopt/pursue these principles, in order to generate common ground, and (2) explore shared experiences of the challenges of a transition away from current growth-based social, cultural and economic forces. Our observation is that there is a myriad of relevant initiatives, but that these initiatives are not always able to find each other or work within their respective silos. We think that by opening a space for these initiatives to meet and connect under the umbrella of degrowth, we can foster exchange, learning and collaboration between them to acknowledge their common struggles, consider alternatives solutions and increase their collective power and impact. To contribute to these endeavors, we have come up with a range of possible activities, for which we will collaborate with the Dutch Degrowth platform Ontgroei. Activities could include:
- Constructing a simple overview of degrowth objectives, principles and policies to help interested initiatives to recognize degrowth in their activities .
- Building a database of initiatives and networks in the Netherlands that could potentially participate and/or help organise the conference, as well as in long-term alliances within a wider degrowth movement.
- A pre-conference session in early 2021 to start discussing degrowth with interested initiatives/networks (per sector).
- Further recurring and informal networking opportunities throughout the conference rather than one single event, e.g., through ‘Dialogue Walks’ to discuss shared visions and challenges (experiences would be gathered through video/audio fragments), and/or through local/decentral meeting places outside of The Hague.
- Thematic sessions around different degrowth principles, and then scalar or sectoral break-out sessions . Initiatives would be encouraged to contribute around relevant themes, not just to participate.
- Create a collaborative map of the initiatives and networks.
- Keynote, e.g., in the form of a carousel-type event (5 or 6 ‘portraits’ of initiatives in a sequence of short dialogues, facilitated by a moderator).
We see these activities as stepping stones towards building a degrowth movement in the Netherlands. Post-conference follow-ups include:
- Create a community of practice page on ontgroei.nl, with quotes from the initiatives on “degrowth”, or as signatories to a degrowth manifest.
- Digitalise and share the collaborative map (see above).
- And much more… Stay tuned via Ontgroei, the Dutch degrowth platform.
How is economic growth entwined with the social, environmental and financial turmoil of the past few decades? How can we have a stable and prosperous economy that does not grow—let alone one that shrinks to a sustainable level relative to existing planetary boundaries?
The degrowth movement offers a radical critique and an alternative vision that draws from a range of unorthodox intellectual and philosophical traditions, including political ecology, ecological economics and post-development. It confronts us with our own biases concerning growth, limits, money, well-being and so on.
Degrowth and Social equality
In this first session the increasing marketization of our daily life will be critically evaluated, and the extent to which it stimulates social inequality.
Jordy Willems (UvA/Iss * Future Planet Studies)
Crelis Rammelt (UvA * Environmental geography and development)
IN COOPERATION WITH
UvA-IIS (Institute for interdisciplinary Studies), Studium Generale Saxion, Minor Algemene Ontwikkeling, Minor Liberal Arts & Sciences, Minor Conscious Business & minor Circulaire Economie
The COVID-19 pandemic urges to develop a new economy – one that can do without incessant growth, one that generates human wellbeing without the destruction of our ecosystems. A panel of some of the members of Ontgroei (the Dutch Degrowth Platform was hosted by XR to discuss what a future without economic growth would look like. The recording can be found here, or below. Both movements are looking forwards to continuing the conversation.
Returning to work after a relaxing holiday, you make a resolution not to get caught up in the ratrace again. A week later you find yourself right back in. Why? Because the conditions haven’t changed. The corona crisis is a terrible ordeal, but it has also been a period of reflection. Let’s work to change the structures, institutions and rules, so that we do not return to a system that was environmentally destructive, socially unjust and generally terribly unstable. In these two interviews with XR’s rebel radio, Crelis Rammelt (Assistant Professor Environmental Geography and International Development Studies, UvA, starting at 1:12) and Julia Karch (student, UvA) reflect on the crisis from a degrowth perspective.