Degrowth can work — here’s how science can help

By | December 17, 2022

Jason Hickel et al, write:

The global economy is structured around growth — the idea that firms, industries and nations must increase production every year, regardless of whether it is needed. This dynamic is driving climate change and ecological breakdown. High-income economies, and the corporations and wealthy classes that dominate them, are mainly responsible for this problem and consume energy and materials at unsustainable rates.

Yet many industrialized countries are now struggling to grow their economies, given economic convulsions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, resource scarcities and stagnating productivity improvements. Governments face a difficult situation. Their attempts to stimulate growth clash with objectives to improve human well-being and reduce environmental damage.

Researchers in ecological economics call for a different approach — degrowth. Wealthy economies should abandon growth of gross domestic product (GDP) as a goal, scale down destructive and unnecessary forms of production to reduce energy and material use, and focus economic activity around securing human needs and well-being. This approach, which has gained traction in recent years, can enable rapid decarbonization and stop ecological breakdown while improving social outcomes. It frees up energy and materials for low- and middle-income countries in which growth might still be needed for development. Degrowth is a purposeful strategy to stabilize economies and achieve social and ecological goals, unlike recession, which is chaotic and socially destabilizing and occurs when growth-dependent economies fail to grow. [Continue reading…]

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