Capitlaism The Destroyer
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economics for our earth

Cody Peluso Dec 29, 2022

Let’s take a look at no growth, post-growth economics and a steady state economy. For many of you, these terms are seared into your memory. For others, I am hoping they will inspire action to do things differently and show that we aren’t the only ones interested in these changes. We are a community who goes against the grain, we advocate for changing “normalized” behavior, and we take action to show the world there is a better way. 

In purely material terms, the planet on which and off which we live has put up several hard ecological boundaries. Crossing those boundaries, it has become increasingly clear, has extremely destructive consequences.

What is degrowth

Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it – Local Futures

As the name implies, it’s a critique of capitalism. It’s an economic belief that growth isn’t the ultimate goal. It goes against economic beliefs espoused by bulwarks like Adam Smith, and his omnipotent invisible hand of the free market. André Gorz, a French social scientist, coined the term “degrowth” in 1972. At an academic forum, he posed a revolutionary question: “Is the earth’s balance, for which no-growth—or even degrowth—of material production is a necessary condition, compatible with the survival of the capitalist system?” Back then, the idea of prioritizing human and environmental welfare over economic growth was so radical that Gorz was laughed out of the political sphere. While some would still laugh at him, Gorz was ahead of his time. Gorz, and all others who prioritize degrowth, aren’t laughing at the state of our environment. Instead, we are trying to do something about a very real crisis.

Degrowth is an idea that critiques the global capitalist system which pursues growth at all costs, requiring human exploitation and environmental destruction. The degrowth movement of activists and researchers advocates for societies that prioritize social and ecological well-being instead of corporate profits, over-production, and excess consumption. This requires radical redistribution, reduction in the material size of the global economy, and a shift in common values towards care, solidarity, and autonomy. Degrowth means transforming societies to ensure environmental justice and a good life for all within planetary boundaries.”

Degrowth

Essential for degrowth is:

What is a steady state economy

Herman Daly, the Dean of Ecological Economics, defines a steady state economy as…

An economy with constant stocks of people and artifacts, maintained at some desired, sufficient levels by low rates of maintenance throughput, that is, by the lowest feasible flows of matter and energy from the first stage of production to the last stage of consumption.

Herman Daly

According to the Center for the  Advancement of the Steady State Economy “ a steady state economy is an economy of stable or mildly fluctuating size. The term typically refers to a national economy, but it can also be applied to a local, regional, or global economy. An economy can reach a steady state after a period of growth or degrowth.” To be sustainable,  it may not exceed ecological limits.  A steady state economy, as Bill Ryerson explains, includes at it’s foundation that  “The economy is a subsidiary of the environment, and not the reverse.” While Herman Daly may be the giant in the room when we talk about steady state economics and ecological economics, John Stuart Mill also had much to offer on what he called a “stationary state economy.”

Whatever you want to call it, these economic theories include facts we simply cannot ignore. At some point, economies will outgrow the ability of the ecological system to support them – and that point has already come. The truth is, our environment can no longer support endless economic growth, and to argue otherwise is not only naïve, but dangerous. To reach a steady state economy, our global community must stop growing. It must stop exploiting natural resources for profit, and we must consume less. The earth simply cannot sustain, nor support, our collective way of life. Degrowth is necessary to reach a steady state economy. The question is, are governments, institutions, and communities across the world ready to accept degrowth?

Nature.com says, “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 rates1,2.”

They go on to say “Researchers in ecological economics call for a different approach — degrowth3. 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.”

A DIFFERENT WAY?

Across the world, people are questioning the benefits of capitalism. “For decades, wealth and income have been redistributed upward—with minimal protest by the working classes who were harmed by that redistribution. During 2022, working classes in many countries were no longer willing to defer their needs in the wake of that redistribution.” In 2016, over 40% of democrats in the United States voted for an openly socialist candidate for President of the United States. In Europe, the degrowth movement has been picking up steam, and not only in the energy sector. When the Wall Street Journal tells you something is bad, you can typically deduce that to mean the opposite.  In the United States, workers are wondering what ‘degrowth’ would mean for them. Reporters are shouting that the only way out of our climate crisis is by kicking our addiction to growth. Finland, Iceland, Scotland, Wales, and New Zealand are all members of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership. The coalition, which is expected to expand in the coming months, aims to transform economies around the world to deliver shared well-being for people and the planet by 2040.

I could tell you, and you probably already know, that capitalism serves a very distinct purpose. It exploits. It oppresses. It suppresses and it promotes norms that infect its host – our environment, the place we call home. Our planet. There is only one earth. We only have one. We do have choices when it comes to how we participate in our society. How we behave and how we consume and participate in capitalism. There are also other economic models beyond capitalism and endless growth – and the debate as to which one is best for our collective community, for our earth, is far from over.

It is no longer just researchers, or giants like Herman Daly, who call for a different approach. Across the world, people are not only shouting from the rooftops, but they are also reimagining what a building could even be. They are shaking up the foundation of the way the world is built and proving the foundation we live on is faulty. The foundation can, and will be, rebuilt. We will build it together. The revolution will be televised. It will be broadcast on radios and TVs across the world. PMC will continue to show the world there are other ways – through transformative storytelling.

Will you join us in creating a different way for people to participate in their own lives?

“Perhaps the answer is that it is necessary to slow down, finally giving up on economistic fanaticism and collectively rethink the true meaning of the word “wealth.” Wealth does not mean a person who owns a lot, but refers to someone who has enough time to enjoy what nature and human collaboration place within everyone’s reach. If the great majority of people could understand this basic notion, if they could be liberated from the competitive illusion that is impoverishing everyone’s life, the very foundations of capitalism, would start to crumble”

–       Franco Bifo Berardi

(These tips, from the post-growth institute, give some insight into living with post-growth in mind).