The Degrowth Movement

Here is the VIDEO of the Saturday Seminar.

Terry Leahy’s talk begins by explaining the nature of degrowth as a theory. He argues that current growth rates of 3% a year are not sustainable, because it will exhaust the resources of our environment. Hence, a decrease in the rate of growth to a sustainable level is necessary to avoid disaster and chaos. Another aspect of degrowth is an ethical approach, which empathises with caring for people, which includes decreasing social inequality.

The nature of capitalism, which is based on expansion of profits and growing use of natural resources is seen as inimical to achieving degrowth. Degrowth supporters also argue that we must become a post- capitalist society, which adopts social planning to achieve a sustainable use of natural resources and more equal societies. Degrowth supporters argue that changes such as eliminating the use of fossil fuels in a capitalist society is very difficult and involves major extraction of mineral resources. Given the acceptance of capitalism by social democrats and the Greens, their effort to change the balance between growth and protecting the environment, often referred to as decoupling, will not succeed.

Degrowth supporters also argue that use of money as a source of value leaves out social values as a measure of what is most important. He explains two models of degrowth, Radical Reformism and Commoning. Radical Reformism is characterised by following factors:

  • The cap-and-trade system,
  • government bonds to finance environmental restructuring,
  • dropping GDP as a measure of economic health,
  • setting targets for materials and energy use,
  • banning advertising,
  • cutting working hours,
  • a wage cap,
  • debt cancellations,
  • more public ownership,
  • loans without interest,
  • a cultural shift.

Commoning, on the other hand, rejects the concept that regulating the existing society can yield sustainable use of resources. An important part of Commoning is the rejection of money as the measure of value because an economy based on money puts exchange value first resulting in growth, while other values such as the environment and social justice are not achieved. Other features of Commoning include:

  • Need to move to democratically controlled ‘open localism’
  • ‘Compacts’ to arrange economic life
  • Real values as guiding principles for making decisions.
  • An ethic of conviviality, sharing
  • Meeting real needs – sufficiency not excess.
  • Environmental destruction not an inevitability of human greed
  • People can be quite rational about environmental impacts if their decision making is not distorted by monetary calculations.

The talk concludes with a three part scenario of the process of change to degrowth

  1. Environmental crisis and neoliberalism. People concerned by the breakdown of civilization. They embrace a radical reformist program of degrowth and vote for an environmentalist agenda.
  2. Local grassroots programs intensify. The movement concentrates on where people are suffering. Food provision, housing, transport. The industrial global system starts to collapse.
  3. The movement invites people to take over their workplaces and run the economy without money. Through compacts to provide and receive goods and services. A classic revolution successfully implements this program.

Here is the VIDEO of the meeting.

Libby Smith facilitated the meeting.

Margaret Byron prepared this POSTER.

Richard Gough, Saturday Seminars

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