Published on October 15, 2014
1. Sustainable Degrowth Giorgos Kallis ICREA Professor, ICTA, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona www.eco2bcn.es Uppsala, 23 September 2010
2. I will try to convince you, that: 1. Degrowth is a new, exciting and inevitable policy proposal. 2. Degrowth poses new questions and opens new avenues for research.
3. Structure of this presentation 1. Growth is unsustainable. 2. The sustainable degrowth proposal. 3. Criticism and defence. 4. New questions.
4. Structure of this presentation 1. Growth is unsustainable. i. Ecologically. ii. Socially. iii. Economically. 2. The sustainable degrowth proposal. 3. Criticism and defence. 4. New questions.
5. Infinite growth is impossible in a finite planet. The economy is an entropic process. Finite stocks are being depleted. “Thermal pollution”. Degrowth is inevitable, the objective should be to arrest its pace by turning from “funds” to “flows”. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994)
6. Limits to Growth
7. The optimist response: Denial No limits anytime soon. No climate change. “We’ve been through this again” Technology and efficiency. Sustainable Development via Green Growth.
8. Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI)
9. The impossible arithmetics of climate change To achieve the 450ppm stabilization target by 2050, we need 21 to 130-fold improvement in carbon intensity (gCO2/$)
10. Absolute decoupling is not happening.
11. Rebound effects Responses that tend to offset the conservation benefits of a more efficient technology and that they are causally related to the new technology.
12. Jevon’s Paradox
13. A “weightless economy”? A “weightless” economy still weighs (Odum). Labour intensive dematerialized services do not lead to growth (Jackson). Dual economy and over-accumulation (Gorz)
14. Growth cannot be sustained even in its own terms. Over-accumulation Ecological limits to new investment Rising costs of growth
15. So, what´s the problem if we can’t grow?
16. Does growth reduce poverty? Globally less poor. But the very poor are getting poorer. Rising inequalities => more relative poverty.
17. Beyond GDP is not enough. Complementary indicators are not enough. There are good, structural reasons why GDP is measured. GDP is not the cause, but the effect of a growth economy.
18. From Growth to Degrowth Growth is unsustainable ≠ Degrowth is sustainable. Degrowth can be catastrophic => how can we turn it into an opportunity? => how can we make it stable?
19. Structure of this presentation 1. Growth is unsustainable. 2. The sustainable degrowth proposal. i. Definition ii. Measurement iii. Policies 3. Criticism and defence. 4. New questions.
20. What is “sustainable degrowth”? “An equitable downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions” Schneider, Kallis and Martinez-Alier, Vol 18 (6), 2010-
21. Key notions Downscaling and relocalization, not just efficiency improvements. “Selective” (geographically and sectorally) degrowth.
22. Measurement Not negative GDP. Function of well-being, (sectoral) consumption and impact, and distribution.
23. Policies Reduced working hours. Complementary currencies. Impact Caps. Taxing environmental bads. Investment in social services and relational goods. Ecological investments. Leaving resources under the ground (extended sanctuaries) Basic income and salary caps (redistributive taxes) Stonger regulation of commercial media. Facilitate cooperative/communal forms of property and ownership. www.degrowth.eu
24. Structure of this presentation 1. Growth is unsustainable. 2. The sustainable degrowth proposal. 3. Criticism and defence. 4. New questions.
25. Imprecise CRITICISM What is to degrow (GDP, tons of materials, impact)? RESPONSE Do we need single indicators? “Growth” was also imprecise. Clear direction, (alternative) metrics can be worked out.
26. Uncertain results CRITICISM What if less output with more input? What if ecological investments decline because of degrowth? What about “dirty” degrowth? RESPONSE Yes, let´s study conditions under which degrowth becomes “sustainable”.
27. What about the “South” and the “Poor”? CRITICISM “Go tell India and China”. Poverty alleviation requires growth. Condescending and patronizing. RESPONSE The West should offer an example of commitment. Growth to satisfy basic material needs. Reduce inequality to tackle poverty. Yes, alternative, post-development formulations should emerge from the “South”.
28. Totalitarian CRITICISM You can only do this with a dictatorship. You can´t tell people what to consume. Technocratic elites will set limits and assume more power. RESPONSE Democratically-elected governments have imposed in the past radical changes. Do not have to intervene directly on consumption. Degrowth has to be deeply democratic, or nothing at all. “Bottom-up”.
29. Too voluntaristic CRITICISM Humans are selfish and status-seeking; capitalism is our nature. People like “jeans and fast foods”. RESPONSE Biology shows multiple potentialities; “conditioned by genes, cultures still decide”. There have been alternative societies that were not unhappy. People like also what they are offered. Public action is about controlling self-destructive or group-destructive individual actions.
30. Politically unrealistic CRITICISM People will never vote for this. Elites will not let it happen. RESPONSE Small ideas can (and have) turn(ed) hegemonic. Big and unexpected changes happen in times of crisis.
31. Dangerously risky CRITICISM Polarises politics – the other extreme might as well benefit from the crisis. Risks unforeseen cascade effects – “we have something, even if imperfect, why risk loosing it all”? RESPONSE True, but democracy should be capable of handling antagonisms. True, but it is unlikely that what we have can be sustained indefinitely – “sustainable degrowth or barbarism?” Change can also be gradual – address current problems but differently.
32. Structure of this presentation 1. Growth is unsustainable. 2. The sustainable degrowth proposal. 3. Criticism and defence. 4. New questions.
33. Research “Metabolic scenarios” of labour, energy, labour (population), product. Policy-impact models. Alternatives anthropology “modern” nations, regions, communities Social movement theory and “big” social change. New (macro)economics
34. Thank you! firstname.lastname@example.org www.eco2bcn.es
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