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Degrowth: A dangerous idea or the answer to the world’s biggest problems?

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Conventional economic logic relies on core assumptions. maintain or promote growth It is the most important thing to make society better.

But if growth At best we are doing little to solve the world’s problems, and at worst we are contributing to the destruction of our planet and jeopardizing its future?

This is a radical message from the “degrowth” movement. The degrowth movement has been operating on the political fringes for decades, warning that infinite growth must end. Now, after the pandemic, some people in the world have had the opportunity to rethink what makes them happy. coping with the climate crisis As it becomes clearer, the idea is gaining more mainstream recognition — even as anxiety grows over what it can be painful. global recession.

For various economists and politicians, growth has long Served as the Big DipperIt is a means to create jobs, generate taxes for public services, promote prosperity in rich countries, and reduce poverty and hunger in poor countries.

But degrowthists argue that the endless desire for more – bigger national economies, greater consumption, and greater corporate profits – is shortsighted, irrelevant, and ultimately harmful. doing. GDPor GDP, they stress, is a poor indicator of social well-being.

Moreover, they are looking at an already expanding global economy. to double the size Since 2005 – and with 2% growth each year, it will more than sevenfold in a century – it puts the emissions targets needed to save the world out of reach.

Giorgos Callis, top degrowth researcher at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​said: “I don’t think it’s compatible with the physical reality of Earth.”

According to the degrowth movement, the solution is to limit the production of unnecessary goods and try to reduce the demand for unnecessary goods.

This unorthodox way of thinking is fraught with criticism.Bill Gates is Called an unreal degrowth agentunderscores that asking people to consume less because of the climate is a losing battle. , even followers admit that their framework may be politically uninitiable.

“The fact that it’s an uncomfortable concept is both a strength and a weakness,” said Gabriela Cabaña, a Chilean degrowth advocate and PhD candidate at the London School of Economics.

But in some areas, especially governments and industry, it is becoming less taboo. be late In an effort to stop the planet from warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, 1.5 degrees would make some of the effects of climate change irreversible.

On November 12, 2021, climate activists, including proponents of degrowth, gathered in Munich.

United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently cited Degrowth of major reports.European Research Council just assigned We will provide Kallis and two peers with approximately $10 million to explore a practical “post-growth” policy. And the European Parliament is planning a conference next spring called ‘Beyond Growth’. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will also attend.

Even parts of Wall Street are starting to pay more attention. Investment bank Jefferies said investors should consider what would happen if degrowth picked up momentum, saying that younger generations “worried about climate change” have different consumer values. pointed out that there is

There is a key point of consensus in the debate about how to avoid climate catastrophe. To avoid the worst effects of global warming, the world needs to cut her annual carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. Then it should be reduced. quickly and quickly.

Most roadmaps that plan to achieve this involve a dramatic restructuring of the economy around clean energy and other emissions reduction solutions. This allows the global economy to continue to grow, but in a way it is ‘greener’.

But degrowth proponents are skeptical that the world will be able to cut emissions and protect its delicate, interconnected ecosystems in time. They argue that the pursuit of unlimited economic expansion will inevitably require the use of more energy.

A construction site in Belgrade, Serbia, shrouded in thick smog on November 1, 2022.

“More growth means more energy use, and more energy use makes it more difficult to decarbonize the energy system in the short time we have left,” the council said. “It’s like trying to run down an escalator that accelerates upwards.”

Even if energy becomes greener, growth also requires natural resources such as water, minerals and wood.

This is a concern that has been echoed by perhaps the most famous environmental activist, Greta Thunberg.she is criticized “Fairy Tales About Non-Existent Technological Solutions” and “Eternal Economic Growth”. And she touches on another point raised by degrowthists. Is our current system of pervasive inequality working for us?

This issue resonates in the global South, where there are concerns that the green energy revolution could simply replicate existing patterns of exploitation and over-extraction of resources, but minerals such as nickel and cobalt replace oil. (a key component of batteries) is used.

Professor Felipe Milanes, based in the Brazilian state of Bahia, said “Love to grow” is “extremely violent and racist and just recreates local colonialism.” rice field.

Talking about degrowth can be difficult. lost job And it means shattered business.

But proponents who often talk about recessions as a sign of systemic collapse should not promote austerity or allow developing countries aspiring to improve living standards to benefit from economic progress. I am clarifying what I am not saying.

Instead, we’re talking about sharing more goods, reducing food waste, moving away from privatized transportation and healthcare, and making products last longer, so you don’t have to buy them regularly. No. It’s about “thinking in terms of sufficiency,” Cabaña said.

Cars drive down the road in New Jersey on April 22, 2022. The US is her second largest contributor to CO2 emissions.

Adopting degrowth will require a dramatic rethinking of the market capitalism that has been embraced by nearly every society on Earth in recent decades.

Still, some suggestions may exist within the current system. A universal basic income is often mentioned, where everyone receives a lump sum payment regardless of employment status, allowing the economy to be less dependent on polluting industries.that’s right 4 days a week.

“When people become more financially stable and have financial freedom, they can make better decisions,” Cabaña said.

“Addressing inequalities and various forms of status consumption and focusing on well-being supports efforts to mitigate climate change,” said the latest report from the IPCC, the United Nations agency on global warming. and subscribe to one of the greatest goals of degrowth. The name of the movement has also been checked.

But degrowth is the subject of considerable opposition, even from climatologists and activists with similar goals.

Per Espen Stoknes, director of BI’s Center for Green Growth, said: “People in degrowth say that if they bake a small cake, for some reason the poorest get a bigger share. I have the illusion that I am under the impression,” he said. Norwegian business school. “This has never happened in history.”

Steam and smoke rise from the coal-fired Berchatov power plant in Rogowiec, Poland. The station emits approximately 30 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Green growth proponents are confident their strategy will work.they quote Promising example From the UK to Romania to the rapid rise in renewable energy affordability on decoupling GDP growth from emissions.

Gates, a Microsoft co-founder who prioritizes investing in climate innovation, admits that overhauling the world’s energy system is a daunting task. But he believes we can still get there by making the right technology more accessible.

The Degrowthers know their criticism is controversial, but in a way, it’s meant to be. They believe a more rigorous and more innovative approach is needed given that the United Nations estimates that global warming will rise from 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius, based on the world’s current climate pledges. I’m here.

“Less time [that] If things remain as they are now, more drastic changes are needed,” said Kohei Saito, a professor at the University of Tokyo.

Can a growing cohort agree? In 2020, his book on degrowth from a Marxist perspective was a surprise hit in Japan. “Capital of the Anthropocene” sold nearly 500,000 copies.

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