Giorgos Kallis: “Cultural Surplus and ‘Dépense’”

January 4, 2023

(Conversation recorded on November 30th, 2022)

Show Summary

On this episode, Nate is joined by ecological economist and degrowth scholar Giorgos Kallis. He and Nate discuss the science and philosophy behind the degrowth movement and some of the challenges behind implementing such an enormous task. As a system precariously based on growth becomes more unstable, it is important to turn to those who specialize in ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. This doesn’t necessarily mean we, as a society, are going to advocate or plan for degrowth – but postgrowth societies are on the horizon, and in many places are already here. Perhaps, the larger purpose of degrowth scholarship (and conversations like these) is to act as Overton Windows – to help people imagine and actualize behaviors and networks that will help us adjust in a post-growth world.

About Giorgos Kallis

Giorgos Kallis is an ecological economist and political ecologist working on environmental justice and limits to growth. He has a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a Masters in environmental engineering from Imperial College, a PhD in environmental policy from the University of the Aegean, and a second Masters in economics from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. He has been an ICREA professor since 2010. Before coming to Barcelona, Giorgos was a Marie Curie International Fellow at the Energy and Resources group at the University of California-Berkeley. He has also written numerous books, including his latest, Limits: Why Malthus was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care.

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Show Notes and Links to learn more:

PDF Transcript

00:35 – Giorgos Kallis Works + Info

02:38 – The US geologically rich land, petro-dollar, largest economy, and lingua-franca


07:47 Degrowth Movement

09:20Green Growth


14:15 Increasing inequality and no increase in quality of life with continued growth

18:48 Record debt

19:00Debt is a claim on future energy

21:23Energy requirements and carbon emissions for a low-carbon energy transition | Nature Communications – Aljoša Slameršak, co-authored by Giorgos Kallis

22:50Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI)

25:44 We are growing renewable rapidly, but still growing fossil fuels faster

30:30Nate’s reflection on TGS Demographics – Frankly #19: Islands

33:50 Availability Cascade

34:01AC limits in Spain in summer ‘22

36:11How extreme cold blasts are affected by climate change

37:45Iñigo Capellán-Pérez Universidad de Valladolid | UVA · Group for Energy, Economics, and System Dynamics of the University of Valladolid

40:18 We use 100 billion barrels of coal, oil, natural gas, which equates to 500 billion human laborers

42:20EROI of fossil fuels vs renewables

42:40 Challenges of energy types in fossil fuels vs renewables

43:04 Julia Steinberger

44:57 Nate’s multi-criteria analysis on Energy thesis

46:20Materials scarcity for renewables

47:23 Olivia Lazard, analysis of location of renewable materials and geopolitical implications

48:01New geopolitical realignment

48:41 Limits: Why Malthus was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care

49:18Thomas Malthus

52:08‘The Good Life’

52:43 Coevolution

52:44 Richard Norgaard

56:50 Spain’s energy per capita, US energy per capita

57:02 Spain’s health care system

57:48 US water per capita, Europe’s energy per capita

57:50Why do US toilets use more water

1:00:53Rethinking degrowth through dépense | Towards a Society of Degrowth

1:00:55Giacomo D’Alisa, Onofrio Romano

1:01:13Georges Bataille

1:06:50Paul Erhlich + TGS Episode

1:07:02Banks creating money

1:07:36Nate’s animated movie

1:10:17Taxing Resources Instead of labor, Untax project

1:13:44Antonio Turiel, Pedro Prieto

1:15:43Climate anxiety

1:17:48 Nate’s Reality 101 Course

1:21:41 Solon


Teaser photo credit: Degrowth logo.

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens

Nate is a well-known speaker on the big picture issues facing human society and currently teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar at the University of Minnesota ‘Reality 101 – A Survey of the Human Predicament’   Nate is on the Boards of Post Carbon Institute, Bottleneck Foundation, IIER and Institute for the Study of Energy and the Future.  Previously, he was lead editor of The Oil Drum, one of... Read more.

Tags: degrowth perspectives