Written by Laura Smith
Posted on 8/05/21
Second, a degrowth society is one where there are less working hours: this allows individuals to have more leisure time, favourable to their well-being, quality time with loved ones and home-production. We may then have a smaller income, but more freedom with our time. Community would be fostered through community gardens producing organic food. The constant consumption of new clothes would be replaced by the exchange of clothes, buying/selling second hand or even making our own. We would learn to be more self-sufficient and to rely on ourselves in our own communities.
Finally, reduction of inequality would be fostered through the implementation of a minimum and maximum income, eliminating poverty as well as the inequality of top CEOs earning 10 times more than their employers at the bottom. Indeed, Oxfam stated in a report in 2014 that half of the world’s wealth is now owned by only 1% of the population. Such disproportionate income revenues call for greater regulation on minimum and maximum wages.
Degrowth is not an eco-future of glossy green homes and communities; rather, it is a more realistic and humble come back to what is essential. We would use existing infrastructures and homes and make them more energy-sufficient, while empowering our local communities to do the same and join the transition to a degrowth way of life. The nature of a transition to a degrowth society would be most realistically plausible through a “bottom up” rather than a “top-down” approach. The transition towns movement already helps communities to transition to the degrowth idea, illustrating the plausibility of this transition when there is a strong motivation for change. For instance, the Transition Town Nijmegen in The Netherlands exists since 2009. It is an organisation of six active groups that focus on the different themes of edible gardens, organic food out of the region, transport, sustainable energy, saving energy and a local currency. Overtime, if the degrowth paradigm is applied to several communities and the desire to transition to degrowth is expanded to enough towns and communities, governments will have to consider it as a viable alternative to our current way of life, and a more global change could take place.
While personal and household community changes are essential elements for a transition to a degrowth society, it is also important to note the social and structural obstacles to this transition. Structural changes such as safe bike lanes and good public transport can only be provided by the ‘top’ of society. Personal actions are not sufficient in themselves to enable this transition. Our culture and post-capitalist structure also needs to promote a simpler way of life, for instance with a decrease in advertisement as it promotes endless consumption and the idea that what we have is never enough. This demands a radical change of consciousness from everyone. Other challenges to degrowth include the criticism that it would lead to a loss of well-being in current rich nations in the short and medium term because of a loss of material living standards. However, if one considers the loss of material wealth compared to the gain in well-being from a simpler life that also ensures a reasonable quality of life for future generations and a mitigation of climate change, we might actually prefer the second alternative. While the idea of degrowth will probably not be accepted by everyone, it seems to be one of the only alternatives to our current addiction to “growth”, which is slowly destroying us and the planet.
Oppositions to degrowth from scholars and economists have been vocalised as the pursuit of economic growth is very much ingrained into society. Less “radical” approaches than degrowth have notably emerged, such as “green growth”. Green growth believes we can continue to foster economic development while ensuring environmental resources are sustained ro provide for our needs. It is in that sense an anthropocentric approach. It’s main aim is to enhance productivity by being more efficient in the natural resources we use, boost investor confidence, open up new markets to green goods, contribute to fiscal consolidation through green taxes or subsidies as well as reduce risks to negative shocks to growth. Although both degrowth and green growth agree on the fact that our current economic system is flawed, they disagree on the compatibility of environmental protection with economic degrowth.
So, what do YOU think? Is degrowth too utopian? Or should we go for it?
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