The International Online Joint Conference of the international degrowth research networks, the International Society for Ecological Economics and the European Society for Ecological Economics, hosted by University of Manchester took place between 5-8 July, 2021. Despite the global pandemic meaning that it had to be an online event, it was a great success with four days of up to 13 parallel sessions of symposia, workshops and free papers. There were also some excellent plenary sessions.
The legacy website. has the programme, book of abstracts and link to the plenary videos. Further videos may be made available later.
To view the results of the challenge, CLICK HERE – takes you to (Steady State Manchester’s website).
The original call for submissions follows __________________________________________________________________________________ Calling writers, artists, designers and video makers. Can you make a Post Growth Policy Package?
A cooperative challenge to find a better way to present the post-growth alternative.
Over the last two years, various Green New Deals have become very popular. This demonstrates that a set of policy ideas can be effectively communicated by combining them into one positive package.
In contrast, the ideas and proposals of the degrowth, post-growth and steady state economy movements can appear complex, vague, negative and unattractive. Can we overcome that disadvantage by trying to do what the Green Dealers have done and present a Post-Growth Deal? There’s one way to find out – let’s try it!
We invite you to present your Post Growth Policy package.
It needs to be presented in straightforward, concise, easy to understand, and attractive terms, without denying the real difficulties involved in reducing the material and energy throughput of our economies.
This could be done as,
A short policy briefing – of up to 600 words (you can use appendices to go into deeper detail).
You could present it in graphic terms, as an ‘infographic’, a cartoon or a comic strip, for example.
You could make a short video (max 5 minutes) to get your ideas over.
Maybe you’ve an even better idea for how to present it– the choice is yours.
Anyone who is interested in creating an economy that can sustainably support life on Earth.
We anticipate two classes of entry.
A) Those focussing on a post-growth future in the specific context of Greater Manchester.
B) Those with proposals for national or inter-state (European Union, ALBA, Mercosur, UN, etc. etc.) implementation.
Send us your entries by midnight, GMT, Wednesday 31 March, 2021 – extended deadline.
Articles, briefings, stories, or infographics should be sent in the form of an email attachment. They can be wordprocessor documents ( .odt, .doc, .docx), pdf files, or image files (.jpg, .png, ..gif, .svg). Please keep attachments to less than 2 megabytes in size. For anything larger, compress it or send as a file link (e.g. using dropbox, box, spideroak, google).
Videos should be uploaded to a video hosting platform and a link sent to the above email address.
We will acknowledge entries.
“Everybody has won and all must have prizes.”
All participants will receive a printed copy of our pamphlet, “The Viable Economy … and Society”. The entry that we like best in each class will be presented with a tee-shirt with the Steady State Manchester logo1. Wear it at events, or wear it in bed: we don’t mind!
Most important, though will be that we will publicise the best entries, through our various local and international networks.
In addition we might invite the creator of our favourite Greater Manchester entry to jointly nominate a local post-growth organisation for a small grant.
A global on-line symposium of the International Degrowth Network and the International Society for Ecological Economics.
September 1 to September 4th, 2020, University of Manchester.
The sessions will be in the afternoons BST.
Join us for this symposium over four days. We’ll be considering the implications of the global Covid-19 pandemic for economy and livelihoods. The Covid-19 pandemic and responses to it have had deeply unequal impacts on lives, livelihoods and well-being across race, gender and class. At the same time it has opened up the space for new possibilities for building alternative livelihoods and economies that can take us beyond a capitalist economy that requires ever expanding growth. Will we go back to business as usual with all the ecological, social and economic risks that will bring or take the path towards a new kind of economy that provides for human needs of all while restoring and protecting the natural world that we all depend on?
Open letter by Marga Mediavilla to Fridays For A Future. reposted from 15/15\15.
“There is one thing that worries me. In your speeches on climate change you can find demands for very ambitious decarbonization objectives…..
According to my knowledge and according to the studies we are making in our group, such ambitious goals as these would require very drastic measures which go far beyond the usual proposals such as investment in renewable energy, electric vehicles or energy saving and efficiency.
Therefore, I think we have to be very realistic about the decarbonization objectives and the measures we demand in order to achieve them. If we do not, our leaders can happily silence the protests, by using exclusively technological cosmetic measures that do not solve anything, and the hopes of many young people with good intentions may be frustrated.”
Mediavilla goes on to explore decarbonisation scenarios using the MEDEAS simulation model. The findings indicate the relevance of the degrowth perspective rather than technological optimism.
This interesting interview appeared in the Australian journal, Overland. It is relevant to many of the concerns discussed here. Frankel’s open access book, Fictions of Sustainability, is very good.
Thanks to Zacharias Szumer for this. Here is the beginning of the interview – follow the link at the end for the rest of it.
Is utopian thinking akin to casting a net into the ether – collecting the unimaginable and dragging it into the realm of the possible? Or, by neglecting to consider any parameters of the possible, is it a fanciful distraction from meaningful politics? Well, perhaps it depends on the type of utopian thinking. In Fictions of Sustainability: The Politics of Growth and Post-Capitalist Futures, social theorist Boris Frankel takes aim at certain types of utopian thinking: proposals that he argues are unrealisable or unsustainable regardless of whether political obstacles have been removed or transformed. Throughout the book, which was released earlier this year, Professor Frankel seeks to ask the difficult questions surrounding concepts such as green growth, degrowth and post-scarcity, not with the aim of opposing radical solutions, but to facilitate the development of more plausible and effective policies. Political-economic dilettante Zacharias Szumer met with Frankel recently to try to get his head around this somewhat heavy going but important book.
ZS: In the conclusion of Fictions of Sustainability, you write that one of your aims in writing the book was to “bridge the political and theoretical chasm or ‘analytical apartheid’ that characterizes so much socio-economic policy on the one side and environmental analyses on the other.” What do you mean by analytical apartheid? And how did you attempt to bridge this chasm?
BF: In the past, conservatives, liberal Keynesians, Marxists and anarchists were divided over how to analyse capitalism and debated its virtues and failings. Today, it is not enough to have a knowledge of political economy, whatever the political perspective, if it excludes crucial environmental issues. On the other hand, you’ve got many people who are active and concerned about environmental issues, but who neglect political economy. The ‘analytical apartheid’ I refer to is that environmental issues cannot be separated from political economy yet, political economists and environmentalists talk past one another and rarely consider one another’s issues and positions. Despite environmental crises being highlighted for over fifty years, traditional political economists and many on the left still treat environmental issues as marginal to the main issue of capital versus labour. This is now changing. But you’ll still find many leading political economists are completely silent on environmental issues. It’s important to bridge these two worlds. Similarly, many committed environmentalists have a detailed understanding of the damage being done to so many ecological habitats and the need to transform existing consumption and production. But apart from generalised ‘wish lists’ have a very limited understanding of how existing political institutions and the economy of capitalism works. So, in order to achieve their environmental goals, it’s critical that they become more familiar with the political economic debates that have been developed by non-environmentalists. Click this link for the full interview on Overland.
See also this article by list member Andrea Grainger: In defence of degrowth: The climate movement and socialist movements must come together to build a new progressive movement. Open Democracy, 5 September, 2019.
In his latest article, Leigh Phillips, a strong advocate of ‘Socialist Growth’ and ‘Luxury Communism’ condemns the Degrowth Movement as delusional with an array of arguments that suggest unlimited growth is technologically feasible.
As a result, ecological debtor nations are highly dependent on less developed ecological creditor regions for materials and resources in order to sustain and maintain their unsustainable economies. In turn, these import dependancies and the vulnerabilities that they create gives rise to Western foreign interference, whether through the market or through military or diplomatic intervention, in order to appropriate, protect and distribute raw materials into ecological debtor nations.
Unambiguously, the Degrowth Movement recognises this vicious circle which emerges from ecological debt, a vicious circle which not only seeks to sustain the unsustainable through the appropriation and exploitation of foreign resources but also seeks to limit the ability of weaker nations and their impoverished populations to sustainably develop adequate infrastructure that enables them a dignified and secure way of life.
By ignoring the ramifications of ecological debt, Leigh unwittingly justifies the market and military interventions that keep millions of people impoverished whilst rich nations copiously consume.
Since non renewable resources are by definition not renewable and therefore finite in quantity and quality, the international Degrowth Movement advocates a just and equitable contraction and convergence of
in order to help bring ecological debtor nations back into ecological credit. Through the communicative tool of IM=PACT, the main intention is to allow less developed ecological creditor nations to use their resources for their own development rather than them being used for the continued growth of unsustainable ecological debtor nations such as the UK, the US and other major European nations. As such, in opposition to Leigh’s assertions, the Degrowth Movement advocates human impact contraction because it recognises that the planet is home to a diverse array of limitations which cannot be transcended by technology.
Leigh’s article argues the opposite. It proposes that the limitations posed by the availability of non renewable resources can be overcome by technology without specifying how except through human ingenuity. In essence, the author is claiming that technology will avail us of our natural, societal and human limitations by being able to produce a diverse array of unlimited materials from the atmosphere we breathe.
This of course is an intriguing science fiction idea and would no doubt if realised bring some relief to growing global resource scarcity and a growing global ecological debt but unfortunately he does not explain how the impacts of an atmosphere that is transformed into tangible substances will affect ecospheric processes so perhaps should be viewed with extreme caution.
Meanwhile, whilst waiting for this ground breaking technology, humanity is faced with the hard realities of limitations and the fact that global ecological debt needs to be reversed if human flourishing on a global scale is to be sustained. This means focusing our attention and our national policies towards ways of life that are materially sufficient for our needs and our development rather than orientated towards unlimited growth. See https://goodlife.leeds.ac.uk/
It is clearly unjust for countries which are in ecological debt to appropriate resources from nations in ecological credit when their basic infrastructures, infrastructures which we take for granted, are hardly in place whilst in comparison, we enjoy unimaginable luxury. This therefore means a strategy of contraction and convergence so that limited global resources are equitably shared for the utilitarian benefit of all.
Ultimately, PACT contraction is unavoidable even if we choose to continue using economic and military power to appropriate ecological credit solely for ourselves since eventually these resources will too run out. In other words, unlimited growth can only ever lead to collapse.
The only logical alternative to growth is sufficiency, however much it might pain us to let go and sacrifice our unsustainable ways of life for the global common good. So the Degrowth advocate Jason Hickel, is correct, we must rid ourselves of the unnecessary and build our systems around what is necessary for a dignified life for all.
In this regard, Degrowth literature is rich in diverse ideas by which to navigate the difficult and sacrificial path towards sufficiency which Leigh has conveniently referenced in his techno-utopianism piece. So for all those willing to take the sacrificial degrowth path, we need all hands and heads on task if we are to avert a climatic, environmental and ecological disaster of our own unintentional making.
Do you have a response to Philips or other misconceptions and misrepresentations of degrowth / post growth thinking? We’d be interested in covering them.
The idea of a Green New Deal (or New Green Deal), despite first appearing more than 10 years ago, has become very popular in recent months. These Green New Deals “make an analogy to the response to the Depression of the 1930s with an idea today that with greater state expenditure a huge effort can be put into developing the infrastructure of an economy based on renewables and a decarbonised energy system. This would simultaneously create jobs...”(1). There is a lot to agree with, given that a massive transformation is needed towards a clean economy. However, these proposals all assume continued economic growth, albeit “green growth”, and as we know, this is problematic since the material and energy flows entailed are what got us into ecological overshoot in the first place. A number of pieces from across the degrowth community have raised various questions about these Green Deals and we thought it would be worth putting together a collection of links (3). If you spot others, do let us know and we’ll add them.
A Green New Deal for an ecological economy.Leah Temper and Sam Bliss at degrowth.info Explores what the discipline of ecological economics (degrowth’s academic cousin) can bring to the formulation and implementation of Green New Deals.
A Green New Deal Between Whom and For What? by Nicholas Beuret at Viewpoint Magazine. More recent than most of these cited here, so it includes many of the points made in others while offering a very good overview of the concept and its problems.
Between the Devil and the Green New Deal– by Jasper Bernes. From Commune magazine. A forceful critique that pulls together a number of themes including the reliance of the GND on unprecedented and carbon-intensive mineral extraction and manufacture and its political and economic implausibility under capitalism. This version lacks references unfortunately.
Degrowth and the Green New Deal. Another article comparing and contrasting the two and distinguishing among variants of the Green New Deal, by Gareth Dale in The Ecologist.
John Bellamy Foster, while not specifically allying himself with the degrowth movement, makes a number of similar points to those in the more explicit degrowth pieces collected here. In his Monthly Review piece, On Fire This Time, focussing on GND proposals in the USA, he distinguishes between the original Keynesian New Green Deal, and the more radical variants emerging from a variety of social movements. It is capitalism itself that imposes the limits of possibility for the GND.
False hopes for a Green New Deal. by Rufus Jordana on Open Democracy. “If the ‘Green New Deal’ is our best answer to the climate crisis, then we have no answer to the climate crisis.”
The problems of eco-capitalism. By Calvin Jones at Undod: Radical Independence for Wales. Calvin problematises the GND a modified form of capitalism which is supposed to rescue us from the destruction brought by capitalism’s endless accumulation. He also brings in a radical localist, Welsh, dimension.
For a collection of well argued critical material on Green Growth, there is this excellent book:
Dale, G., Mathai, M. V., & Puppim de Oliveira, J. A. (Eds.). (2016). Green growth: Ideology, political economy and the alternatives. London: Zed Books.
None of us are saying that the degrowth alternative is an easy option. It is just that the biophysical realities mean that the New Green Deal could inadvertently make the situation worse by continuing to destroy the physical and biological systems on which life depends.
What we need to work on is an ecologically and economically literate Green Deal. The expertise is there in the degrowth movement, so what’s stopping us? Perhaps the arguments are getting through: the Green Deal for Europe consultation paper, released September, 2019, includes this intriguing passage.
“In addition to phasing out Europe’s existing carbon-intensive energy systems and infrastructure, aggregate energy demand must also be reduced by scaling down material production and throughput. The [Green Public Works] supports this transition by shifting income and welfare creation from industrial production to social and environmental reproduction: maintenance, recycling, repair, and restoration of environmental and infrastructural resources, as well as education, culture and care — for both people and planet.”
post updated 18 May, 2020
The quotation is from Brian Davey’s piece, quoted above.
The NLR articles are behind a paywall. If you can’t access them, then contact us and we can help.
Thanks to Riccardo Mastini for spotting some of these and sharing them on twitter.