A report prepared by Manuel Casal Lodeiro, coordinator of the Instituto Resiliencia has been presented to the Galician Parliament’s non-permanent Commission on Post-COVID economic, social and cultural reactivation, that was established in late 2020.
The document is entitled Resilience, Re-agrarization and Post-Growth in the post-COVID Galicia and benefited from contributions from a number of experts in these matters both from Galicia and Spain.
The document is available for download in the website of the Centro de Saberes para a Sustentabilidade as part of its mission.
These are the concluding remarks and summary of the proposal:
The situation we have just described is characterized by the following observations:
- The global oil extraction peak along with the decline of other fossil fuels in the coming years, as well as the respective extraction ceilings for other non-renewable essential materials (phosphorus for agriculture, essential minerals for modern renewable energy capture systems, etc.) will inevitably force the model of industrial civilization to confront the biophysical limits of the planet.
- The so-called renewable energies have limitations of all kinds that make it unfeasible to completely replace in quantity and diversity the energy that has been provided so far by fossil fuels. And even if they replaced the TWs currently being consumed, they will not be able to continue to grow indefinitely, and therefore, they will not be able to support a steady growth of the economy. Consequently, we will have to count on them for our future societies, but assuming that these must have a much lower level of activity than the current one.
- The Energy Transition to Renewable Sources involves a loss not only of available energy volume, but also of quality, expressed in terms of Energy Return on Investment (EROI). This implies a necessary reduction not only in global energy consumption, eliminating all that is superfluous and democratically managing demand from the public sector, to carry out the energy decline in an orderly manner, but also a necessary reduction in socioeconomic complexity at all levels. It was precisely the great availability of huge amounts of high EROI fossil energy that allowed the rise of civilizations as complex as they are today.
- If the so-called decarbonization of the economy is necessary not only because the availability of fossil fuels will decrease, but because we are forced as societies to leave the remaining fossil reserves underground if we want to avoid absolutely catastrophic climate chaos, which can even lead to extinction not only of our species but of countless other species with which we share the Biosphere. The plans currently in place within the EU (namely the European Green Deal) that seek to reconcile economic growth (now called green) with reducing greenhouse gas emissions are based on assumptions that science has proven wrong, such as the so-called decoupling. They also start from the assumption that simply by improving efficiency (which also has its limits, something often forgotten) reductions in energy consumption are automatically achieved which is false because as long as we remain in a context where total consumption is determined by the market, any microeconomic savings produced by a more efficient process, will be offset by an increase in consumption in the macroeconomic, an effect known as the Jevons paradox and widely analyzed by Ecological Economists.
- The pandemic suddenly revealed a major lack of resilience at all levels in societies such as Spain or Galicia. That lack of resilience is translating into profound negative effects on the economic and social fronts.
- The good news is that the path to both improving our resilience and making a viable Energy Transition to a low-carbon economy, while minimizing the chances of catastrophic climate change, is the same: planning a controlled and socially fair reduction of the material sphere of the economy, that is, what is often called in social movements Degrowth. Or, in the words of Richard Heinberg, “shrink the economy without crashing it.” Because it is not only possible, but also urgently necessary to seek “prosperity without growth.”
For all this, we propose that the Commission includes in its final recomendations:
- The elaboration of a Study on the Limits to Economic Growth and on the compatibility between economic growth and decarbonization / energy transition.
- The elaboration of a Plan for the Resilience of Galicia. An important part of the funds of the Recovery Plan for Europe that correspond to our autonomous community should be allocated for its effective and urgent implementation. One of the fundamental actions should include the creation of a Galician Resilience Observatory.
- The complete revision of the Galician candidate projects for European funds in terms of resilience, decomplexification, planned reduction of the material sphere of the economy and civilizational change. Global review of Galician strategies related to the economy, infrastructure, digitization, transport, forestry, agriculture / livestock / fishing / shellfish, mining, etc. in the light of the perspectives provided by the Report referred to in point #1.
In our opinion, the proposed study could be commissioned directly by the current Parliamentary Committee, while the Resilience Plan should ideally take the form of a Bill drafted jointly by the three groups in the chamber with the greatest possible degree of consensus, to be executed at greater promptness by the Galician Government. Regarding the review of Galician projects presented to Next Generation EU as well as Galician public strategies, we suggest the establishment of a Scientific and Technical Committee on Resilience and Growth formed, among others, by experts in socioeconomic metabolism from the field of Ecological Economy.