Human and earthly limits, properly understood, wrote the conservationist Wendell Berry, are not confinements, but rather inducements to fullness of relationship and meaning.
Capitalism has various growth imperatives that are inconsistent with environmental limits. That is, capitalism must grow for stability but cannot grow limitlessly on a finite planet. It follows that the future will be post-capitalist – by design or disaster.
The ‘post growth’ agenda envisions a future where economies do not grow infinitely. Degrowth is one of many routes to get there — by reducing the use of finite natural resources and addressing the social inequity that is inherent to the quest for endless economic growth.
A truly transformative Green New Deal cannot simply be about returning to a welfare capitalist order of days of yore. It must move beyond capitalism’s growth imperative. This is not only because there is no empirical evidence supporting the existence of a decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures anywhere near the scale needed to deal with the ecological crisis, but also because such decoupling appears unlikely to happen in the future.
A conversation between Emanuele Di Francesco and Tim Jackson, discussing post-growth concepts of a circular economy, the limits of labour productivity and the dynamics of inequality.
The [future] economy will depend for its existence on a deep foundation in culture. It is possible to live without it, but only for a time, like holding your breath under water. Or as one of his readers put it – when productivity improves, “in our system you have a problem; in Fleming’s system you have a party.”
Underneath all the jargon and mystery, economics is fundamentally about deciding things that shape all our lives – what we should spend our time doing, and how money and resources should be distributed. This course is about reclaiming those topics.
As my friend David Fleming once wrote, conventional economics ‘puts the grim into reality.’
In facing up to the many profound crises of our time, we face a conundrum that has no easy resolution: how are we to imagine and build a radically different system while living within the constraints of an incumbent system that aggressively resists transformational change?
It’s not looking good for the global fossil fuel industry. Although the world remains heavily dependent on oil, coal and natural gas—which today supply around 80 percent of our primary energy needs—the industry is rapidly crumbling.
Opening a newspaper or listening to the radio news exposes us to a flood of catastrophic messages: devastating droughts, failing states, terrorist attacks, and financial crashes.
The existing economy is already environmentally unsustainable. It is utterly implausible to think we can “decouple” economic growth from environmental impact so significantly, especially since recent decades of extraordinary technological advancement have only increased our impacts on the planet, not reduced them.