An Introduction to Convivial Degrowth
Convivial degrowth is a relatively new concept, especially in North America. Degrowth or decroissance has been around for a number of years in France and other parts of Europe, with some proponents even calling it a movement. It is not just about negative economic growth, as the English word might imply, but rather represents a complex paradigm shift away from our current industrial society and its model and culture of consumption and accumulation.
There are a number of similar currents of discussion with close affinity or at least similarities: post-development, steady-state economics, ecological economics, eco-socialism, sustainable economics, voluntary simplicity and the (mainly Andean) indigenous concept of “buen vivir” or “sumak kawsay“, “living well but not better”.
As one would expect with any idea which proposes a radical rejection of and move away from our current industrial society, degrowth is a complex subject, with many elements and many diverse proponents arguing passionately about their particular interpretation and/or priorities for an urgently needed new society. In some ways, some of these arguments sound like differences over who has more angels on the head of his or her pin, rather than a celebration of the fact they are only slightly different “angels”, often with features adapted to the multiple cultures and identities that make up our diverse world. Fortunately, celebration and thoughtful collaboration on research, building and experimenting with elements of the degrowth paradigm shift is becoming more common.
Some of the many elements of degrowth being discussed around the world today include:
Which alternative indicators to the monolithic and strictly economistic measurement of GDP better point us toward progress toward convivial degrowth?
What kinds of alternative currency and exchange tools can wean us from the existing ponzi scheme of monies dominated by banks and international financial institutions?
What kinds of democratic power sharing and consensus building arrangements do we need to replace existing inequitable forms of local, regional, national and international “governance”?
How do we deal with issues of population and migration in a situation where human numbers already greatly exceed the earth’s carrying capacity, yet their impact is grossly skewed by huge, unjust inequities of distribution? How do we avoid the distraction of reactionary and racist proponents of limits on population and migration to protect their own status quo?
- How do we de-link personal incomes from wages in ways which foster growth of non-material leisure and cooperation while maintaining adequate and equitably distributed material production which does not exceed the material and energy equilibriums inherent in a closed, limited planetary system?
- Which social, cultural and value systems, traits, world views, epistemologies, etc. are more likely to facilitate a paradigm shift from our current industrial “model” to a degrowth “model”, while respecting the plurality of human and other life on our planet?
Many of these issues were discussed at international degrowth conferences in Paris in 2002 and 2008 and in Barcelona in 2010, the proceedings of which are available in the bibliographies page of this web site. There is also growing interest in degrowth within North American and European ecological economics circles and in Latin America, the progressive news network ALAI has begun to publish new and valuable material on the related concept of “sumak kawsay” or buen vivir” – living well but not better – which has been incorporated into the formal Constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador.
A recent overview article in the journal “Ecological Economics” by Joan Martinez Alier, Unai Pascual, Franck-Dominique Vivien and Edwin Zaccai provides a good comparative review of the various degrowth “schools”, including the French decroissance movement, steady-state economics, ecological economics and sustainable development – opting for a process they call sustainable de-growth and making recommendations for research, analysis, strategies for social change and other work necessary to move beyond the fragmented body of existing work to political strategy and change. One still weak area of the growing literature on de-growth is a good synthesis of the Andean indigenous concepts of “buen vivir”.
Drawing from previous degrowth conferences in Paris and Barcelona, the Montreal conference, a co-operative effort of four Montreal Universities, focussed on the particular situations and dynamics of the Americas. What does degrowth mean for our Hemisphere with its rich geographical, cultural, social and economic diversity? How can degrowth models apply to different contexts from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego? What does degrowth mean for the indigenous peoples of the Americas and their aspirations for their lands and peoples?
In the spirit of seeking alternative societies, the conference brought together a diversity of social actors to share a deeper understanding of the degrowth paradigm, and build networks and relationships over six days. It included a convivial degrowth fair, with exhibits, art/video/cultural events, opportunities for international participants to exchange beyond that possible in most formal academic conferences. Tours and interaction with Montreal, Quebec and regional social movements and local, alternative food, housing and cooperative experiences were organized. Every effort was made to reduce the ecological footprint of the event and to maximize its benefits in relation to the ecological and carbon impacts of traditional travel and research activities. Trilingual translation was available for larger sessions and a cadre of volunteer personal translators for French, Spanish and English speakers were recruited.
Holly Dressel, a best-selling author and researcher and professor at McGill’s School of the Environment, is one of Canada’s most recognized names in teaching, environmental studies, health care, economic concern s and aboriginal issues. Dressel is best known for her work with celebrated environmentalist David Suzuki on film and radio programs, as well as the three books they have written together: From Naked Ape to Super-species, Good News for a Change and More Good News. She is also the writer, producer, broadcaster or researcher for too many radio and television series and documentaries to enumerate here, mostly done for CBC and the NFB. In addition to her extensive involvement with environmental subjects, Dressel wrote Who Killed the Queen? The Story of a Community Hospital and How to Fix Health Care, which particularly addresses the global economic components of social systems like health care. Dressel has worked for many years with native and traditional communities around the world, from the Quebec Cree and Mohawk to the people of Colombia’s Choco and the Kerala region of India.
Joshua Farley is an ecological economist and Associate Professor in Community Development & Applied Economics and Public Administration at the University of Vermont. Josh holds degrees in biology, international affairs and economics. He has previously served as program director at the School for Field Studies, Centre for Rainforest Studies, as Executive Director of the University of Maryland International Institute for Ecological Economics, and as adjunct faculty and licensed examiner at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. He recently returned from a Fulbright fellowship in Brazil, where he served as visiting professor at the Federal Universities of Santa Catarina (UFSC) and Bahia (UFBA). His broad research interests focus on the design of an economy capable of balancing what is biophysically possible with what is socially, psychologically and ethically desirable.
John Fullerton is the Founder and President of Capital Institute, a collaborative space working to transform finance to serve a more just, resilient, and sustainable economic system. Through the work of Capital Institute, his syndicated “Future of Finance” blog, regular public speaking engagements, and university lectures, John has become a recognized thought leader in the New Economy space generally, and the financial system transformation challenge in particular. Previously John was the seed funder and CEO of Alerian Capital Management, and before that a Managing Director of JPMorgan where he worked for over 18 years. He launched the Capital Institute in 2010. He is a Co-Founder and Director of Grasslands, LLC, a holistic ranch management company in partnership with the Savory Institute, and a Director of New Day Farms, Inc., New Economics Institute, and Savory Institute.org. He is the creator of the weekly Blog, “The Future of Finance” on the Capital Institute website.
Alain Gras est actuellement professeur émérite à l’Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Il a fondé le Centre d’études des techniques des connaissances et des pratiques (CETCOPRA) et le parcours « techniques, environnement, sociétés » de l’option sociologie du Mastère de philosophie et société. Socio-anthropologue des techniques, il a vécu ou participé à des recherches approfondies dans divers pays, en particulier en Suède, au Ghana, au Brésil, au Maroc, en Espagne. Il a beaucoup travaillé sur les problèmes posés par l’introduction des technologies de pointes dans l’aéronautique puis il s’est intéressé à la question de l’énergie. Cette question est prise d’abord comme un problème historique : la société thermo-industrielle, c’est-à-dire fondée sur l’usage du feu au détriment des autres éléments, s’est imposée non pas en continuité d’une évolution technique mais en rupture avec celle-ci.
John Grim is a Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University, where he has appointments in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies. He teaches courses in Native American and Indigenous religions and World religions and ecology. He has undertaken field work with the Crow/Apsaalooke people of Montana and Salish people of Washington state. His published works include: The Shaman: Patterns of Religious Healing Among the Ojibway Indians (University of Oklahoma Press, 1983) and, with Mary Evelyn Tucker, a co-edited volume entitled Worldviews and Ecology (Orbis, 1994). With Mary Evelyn Tucker, he directed a 10 conference series and book project at Harvard on “World Religions and Ecology,” He edited Indigenous Traditions and Ecology: The InterBeing of Cosmology and Community (Harvard, 2001) and co-edited the Daedalus volume titled Religion and Ecology: Can the Climate Change? (2001). He is co-founder and co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale with Mary Evelyn Tucker.
Andrea Levy has a PhD in History from Concordia University and completed post-doctoral studies in Sociology at the Université de Montréal. She currently works as an independent scholar, journalist and editor. Her research areas include peace and ecology as social movements, the nature of work and precarious labour, and the intellectual history of the New Left, among other interests in connection with which she has contributed to various journals and written chapters for a number of edited volumes. She is also a regular contributor to and longstanding member of the editorial committee of Canadian Dimension magazine and a member of the Le Collectif de recherche inter et transdisciplinaire sur les impasses de la croissance (CRITIC).
Joan Martinez-Alier is Professor of Economic History and Institutions at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona since 1975. He was Director of the Doctoral Programme in Environmental Sciences at ICTA-UAB between 1997 and 2009, where he helped to create a strong international group on ecological economics and political ecology. During his career, he has been Research Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and has held visiting positions at Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Sao Paulo), Freie Universität Berlin, Stanford University, the University of California (Davis), FLACSO (Ecuador) and Yale University. He was a founding member and president of the International Society for Ecological Economics. He is a member of the editorial board of Ecological Economics, Environmental Values, Journal of Agrarian Change and Journal of Peasant Studies. He is the author of numerous renowned books and articles that have contributed to illuminating the relationship between economic systems, resources (materials and energy) and social issues. A fundamental contributor to the development of ecological economics and political ecology, he has also engaged with social movements at local and international levels. His latest edited volume is Ecological Economics from the Ground Up (Earthscan-Routledge, London, 2012).
Serge Mongeau est écrivain, éditeur et conférencier. Il est l’auteur de 25 livres dont La simplicité volontaire, plus que jamais… Parce que la paix n’est pas une utopie, La Belle vie, Moi, ma santé et Non, je n’accepte pas; il a aussi dirigé le collectif responsable du livre Objecteurs de croissance. Pour sortir de l’impasse : la décroissance, tous parus aux Editions Ecosociété. Il est l’un des fondateurs des Éditions Écosociété, auxquelles il continue à collaborer. Il a étudié la médecine (Université de Montréal) et a pratiqué en tant qu’omnipraticien pendant deux ans; a aussi étudié en organisation communautaire (Université de Montréal) et en sciences politiques (à Santiago du Chili).Il est membre du comité de coordination du Mouvement québécois pour une décroissance conviviale, du comité exécutif du Réseau Transition Québec et du comité de coordination du Collectif Décroissance conviviale de Québec solidaire. Tout au long des 50 dernières années, Serge Mongeau s’est impliqué dans un grand nombre de luttes pour une plus grande justice sociale et pour la sauvegarde de la planète.
Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán is Director of the Solon Foundation, a recognized institution in Bolivia for its work on human rights, integration and culture. Is the author of some books, various reports, articles and videos about social, economic and cultural rights and as water and gender activist took part in international campaigns linked to the World Social Forum. Between 1999 and 2003 was the National Coordinator of the Solidarity Committee on Domestic Workers Rights in Bolivia promoting the approval of an specific law to protect their rights. Since 2006 coordinates the “Blue October” Campaign in Bolivia, a big social yearly mobilization for the right to Water as a common good and human right. She is a Board Member of Food and Water Watch in the USA. belongs the Women’s Net Transforming the Economy in Latin America and is part of the LA Committee for an International Tribunal on Climate Justice.
William Rees is an ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning in Vancouver, Canada. His research focuses on the biophysical prerequisites for sustainability and on behavioral and cognitive barriers to progress. He is the originator and co-developer (with his former PhD student, Dr Mathis Wackernagel) of ‘ecological footprint analysis’. Prof Rees has lectured widely across North America and in 25 other countries. He is a member of the Global Ecological Integrity Group; a Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute; a founding member and past President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics; and founding Director of the One Earth Initiative. The Vancouver Sun has named Prof Rees one of British Columbia’s top public intellectuals. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada In 2006, awarded a prestigious Trudeau Foundation Fellowship in 2007 and recently received an Honorary Doctorate from Laval University.
François Schneider is degrowth researcher and activist that contributed to the start of the degrowth movement in France. Earlier he worked on the development of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and recycling methodology at the INSA engineering school in Lyon and at the CML in Holland. He finished his PhD in 1996. Later, he worked on material flow and rebound effect in institutes in Austria and Portugal. Since 2001, he is active in the development of the degrowth concept and debate in France and Europe. In 2004-2005 he did a one year tour to debate degrowth in France, with the help of a donkey. He founded the research group Research and Degrowth in 2006. He organised many events focussing on participative processes. Among them he initiated and organised the first scientific conference on degrowth for Sustainability and Equity in Paris in 2008 as well as the second in Barcelona in 2010 (barcelona.degrowth.org). He now based in Can Decreix, a project of degrowth hub in Cerbere, France and works part time at the Autonomous University in Barcelona, Spain.
Juliet Schor is Professor of Sociology at Boston College. Her most recent book is True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans are Creating a Time-Rich, Ecologically Light, Small-Scale, High-Satisfaction Economy (previously published as Plenitude). She also wrote the national best-seller The Overworked American, The Overspent American and Born to Buy. Schor is a co-founder of the Center for a New American Dream, a former Guggenheim Fellow, winner of the Herman Daly Prize, and a member of the MacArthur Connected Learning Research Network, for which she is studying connected consumption.
David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way. Dr. Suzuki is a geneticist. He graduated from Amherst College (Massachusetts) in 1958 with an Honours BA in Biology, followed by a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961. He is now Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia. He has won numerous academic awards and holds 25 honourary degrees in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada and is a Companion of the Order of Canada. Dr. Suzuki has written 52 books, including 19 for children. His 1976 textbook An Introduction to Genetic Analysis (with A.J.F. Griffiths), remains the most widely used genetics text book in the U.S. In 1974 he developed and hosted the long running popular science program Quirks and Quarks on CBC Radio for four years. He has since presented two influential documentary CBC radio series, It’s a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. His national television career began with CBC in 1971 when he wrote and hosted Suzuki on Science. He was host of Science Magazine (1974-79), and in 1979 became the host of the award-winning series, The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. He has won four Gemini Awards as best host of different Canadian television series. His eight part television series, A Planet for the Taking, won an award from the United Nations. His eight part BBC/PBS series, The Secret of Life, was praised internationally, as was his five part series The Brain for the Discovery Channel. On June 10, 2002 he received the John Drainie Award for broadcasting excellence. Dr. Suzuki is the recipient of UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize for Science, the United Nations Environment Program Medal, UNEPs Global 500 and in 2009 won the Right Livelihood Award that is considered the Alternative Nobel Prize.
Mary Evelyn Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University where she has appointments in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies. She teaches in the joint MA program in religion and ecology and directs the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale with her husband, John Grim. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Japanese Confucianism. Since 1997 she has been a Research Associate at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard. Her concern for the growing environmental crisis, especially in Asia, led her to organize with John Grim a series of ten conferences on World Religions and Ecology at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard (1995-1998). After the conference series she and Grim founded the Forum on Religion and Ecology at a culminating conference at the United Nations in 1998. They now direct the Forum at Yale where they also teach in a joint master’s program in religion and ecology. Tucker and Grim studied world religions with Thomas Berry and are the managing trustees of the Thomas Berry Foundation. To bring Berry’s work forward she has also worked closely with evolutionary philosopher, Brian Swimme, for some 25 years. Together they have created a multi-media project called Journey of the Universe which consists of an HD film, a DVD series of interviews, and a website. The companion book which they authored is published by Yale University Press (2011). She is also a co-editor of another volume bringing science and religion together, When Worlds Converge (Open Court, 2002). Tucker has been involved with the Earth Charter since its inception. She served on the International Earth Charter Drafting Committee from 1997-2000 and is a member of the Earth Charter International Council. She also serves on the Advisory Boards of Orion Magazine, the Garrison Institute, and Climate Central.
Peter Victor, author of Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, not Disaster, is a Professor in Environmental Studies at York University. He has worked for over 40 years in Canada and abroad on economy and environment as an academic, consultant and public servant. Dr. Victor was the founding president of the Canadian Society of Ecological Economics and a past-president of the Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science. Currently he is Chair of Ontario’s Greenbelt Council, a member of the Board of the David Suzuki Foundation, the New Economics Institute, and the Centre for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy as well as belonging to several advisory boards in the public and private sectors. In 2011 Dr. Victor’s work on ecological economics and managing without growth was recognised through the award of the Molson Prize in the Social Sciences by the Canada Council for the Arts.
List of Conference papers
Karen Bell. Is Socially-Just Degrowth Compatible with Capitalism? Presentation S018
John E. Carroll. DE-GROWTH AND RE-GROWTH: The Story of New England Food and Farming. Presentation E039
Chiung Ting Chang. The Parallel World: Substituting Physical Capital with Social Capital and Human Capital? Presentation R069
Cristian Julián Díaz Álvarez. La Ciudad: Entre el Espejismo de Crecimiento y la Utopia Metabolismo Sostenible, Caso Bogotá D.C. Presentation C075
Craig Dilworth. Overpopulation and the Vicious Circle Principle. Presentation K074
Joshua Farley, Matthew Burke, Gary Flomenhoft, Brian Kelly, D. Forrest Murray, Steve Posner, Matthew Putnam, Adam Scanlan and Aaron Witham. Monetary and Fiscal Policies for a Finite Planet. Presentation R108
Geoffrey Garver. Introducing the Rule of Ecological Law. Presentation C046
Brian Gilmore. Degrowth, Black America, and Restorative Justice. Presentation S012
John Gowdy and Lisi Krall. Agriculture and the Evolution of Human Ultrasociality. Presentation K116
Randy Hayes and Suzanne York. The True-Cost Economy: Toward a Model To End Cheater Economics, Ensure Fair Play, & Long-Term Survival. Presentation R073
João Luís Homem de Carvalho. Deux propositions de decroissance visant diminuer les disparités sociales au Brésil. Presentation S158
Bruce Jennings. Another Governance: Kicking Democracy’s Growth Habit. Presentation C079
Kent Klitgaard. Heterodox Political Economy and the Degrowth Perspective. Presentation K156
James Magnus-Johnston. Deep Debt and the Invention of Conscious Capitalism. Presentation C139
Harvey L. Mead. L’empreinte écologique et l’Indice de progrès véritable : Des pistes pour l’avenir du Québec. Presentation C154
Judy Nagy. Compassionate Communities: A Breeding Ground for Innovation. Presentation R071
Anitra Nelson. Degrowth Equals Regrowth: A Discussion of Eduardo Galeano’s Work. Presentations R043
Anitra Nelson. Symposium on Degrowth and Money: Future Scenarios. R011
Dina Padalkina. The Macroeconomics of Degrowth. Can a Degrowth Strategy be Stable? Presentation C153
Stephen J. Purdey. Global Governance and the World Economy:
Impressions from Complex Adaptive Systems Analysis. Presentation C033
Derek Rasmussen. The Priced versus the Priceless. Presentation R072
Richard H. Robbins. The Myth of Sustainability and the Quadrillion Dollar Economy: Why Must the Economy Grow? Presentation R008
Sylvie Robert. Vieillissement et décroissance. « Comment offrir une vie digne à nos personnes âgées, dans un monde en bouleversement? » . Presentation C040
Izarelly Rosillo Pantoja. Epistemología de la Sustentabilidad Contemporánea. Presentation S090
François Schneider. What shall degrow? Proposals of bottom-up degrowth of capacity to produce and consume.
Margo Sheppard. The Relevance of permanent land conservation in a society fixated on growth. Presentation C025
Miguel Valencia. El descrecimiento en México. Presentation G059
Sara Wolcott. Co-constructing an economy of “Right Relationship”: from theory to practice. C084
Table of Contents Sustainability Journal
Special Issue Editor
Dr. Nicolas Kosoy
McGill School of Environment (MSE), 3534 University Avenue, Montreal, QC H3Z 2A7, Canada
Phone: +1 514 398 7944
Fax: +1 514 398 7990
Interests: ecological economics; degrowth; theory of value; markets for nature
The special issue on “Growth, Recession or Degrowth for Sustainability and Equity?” (edited by François Schneider, Giorgos Kallis, Joan Martinez-Alier), published by the Journal of Cleaner Production (Volume 18, Issue 6, 2010 ), constitutes a keystone in the analysis of this emerging economic paradigm. That collection of articles has contributed to trigger debates about the most appropriate way to conceptualize degrowth. The editors have built their theoretical approach mostly on European thinkers, which offers a clear and consistent framework. However, according to our view, this theoretical background―though useful in some circumstances― has not yet been extended so as to grasp the wide variety of alternative social movements and views that promote degrowth but do not call it as such. In particular, we refer to Latin American environmental justice organizations that use the term “Buen Vivir: or “Suma Kausak” (good living in English) to refer to alternative economic and social paradigms that take into account social and ecological complexities and boundaries. In addition, the emphasis among some ecological economists in North America on economic valuation of ecosystem services and other non-market values makes the Americas a context for degrowth that provides an opportunity to emphasize particular issues in the degrowth discussion.
This Special Issue, outlined below, is the result of the collective effort of the organizers and participants to the International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas in Montreal, May 2012. The Special Issue has considerable added value as it builds upon and enhances previous theoretical frameworks, so different world views within the community of degrowth and environmental justice are better represented in degrowth debates.
This special issue starts with an introductory paper from the editors, providing a shared framework to conceptualize degrowth and environmental justice as alternatives to the growth paradigm. The Special Issue is then divided in five (5) interrelated sections matching most of the six (6) main topics of the International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas. Each theme will be covered by a selection of the most relevant theoretical and empirical papers presented at the conference.
Knowing. How can the physical, biological and social sciences help us in understanding how to enhance the flourishing of the Earth’s life systems?
Relating. What means of relationship and exchange can help enhance the continual flourishing of the Earth’s life systems?
Consenting. How can the major political, economic, development, social, technical, and scientific priorities of society be developed with broad and informed public dialogue and consent?
Sharing. How can the radically unjust inequalities between people be eliminated; and how can the human fair share of the Earth’s life support systems be defined and achieved?
Experiencing. What would a flourishing society look and feel like for individuals and collectives at various temporal and spatial scales?
Published Papers (2 papers)
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 276-297; doi:10.3390/su5010276
Received: 14 November 2012; in revised form: 31 December 2012 / Accepted: 5 January 2013 / Published: 21 January 2013
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 316-337; doi:10.3390/su5010316
Received: 13 November 2012; in revised form: 7 January 2013 / Accepted: 14 January 2013 / Published: 22 January 2013
The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.
Title: An Ethics for Ecosystem Services: The Case of Bullfighting
Author: Nicolas Kosoy
Abstract: This paper aims at analyzing bullfighting from an ecosystem services perspective. For such a endeavor, this paper will first de-construct bullfighting in terms of legitimacy, social identity and historical relationships. As this human-nature relationship is established, the concept of ecosystem services is deconstructed, leading to argument for an ethical imperative towards transparency (procedural transparency) in the decision making process regarding human-nature relationship. Procedural transparency then conveys a co-evolutionary construction of values and also a re-assessment of our place in the Universe. Bullfighting as a cultural ecosystem service is, in sum another expression of homo economics whose supremacy (biological imperative) over other species legitimizes the appropriation, exploitation and pillage of all other forms of capital.
Title: Compassionate Communities: A Breeding Ground for Innovation
Author: Judy Nagy
Abstract: How can building a compassionate community fuel degrowth? The true foundation of the degrowth movement is empathy and caring at the individual level. Once individuals are engaged they can be motivated, as a group, to help people and the environment through their behaviours, beliefs and actions. Near Montreal, a group called Circle of Friends, consisting of 150 families in one community, has responded to the needs of neighbours in crisis, saved an old growth forest from destruction, helped protect an endangered bog, and offered up miraculous ‘spiritual gifts’ that have changed lives. The COF is project managed, organized and relies on social media to spread their message. For degrowth to succeed as a movement it requires individuals who have developed and practiced their compassion “muscle”, building compassionate communities is one solid way to accomplish this goal.
Title: Monetary and Fiscal Policy for a Steady State Economy
Author: Joshua Farley et al.
Abstract: Our current interest bearing, debt-based system of money creation exacerbates booms and busts, systematically transfers wealth and resources to the financial sector. Since interest rates exceed economic growth rates, this monetary system would be unsustainable even on an infinite planet, and it can only finance the creation of market goods and services. We must restore the power of money creation to the public sector, with built in mechanisms for reducing money supply over time as the economy contracts. This will allow the public sector to spend money as needed for public goods, including the restoration of natural capital, without going into debt. This paper assumes the necessity of a steady-state economy. A steady-state economy must follow clear rules: renewable resource extraction cannot exceed the regeneration rate, pollution outflows cannot exceed absorption capacity, neither extraction nor pollution can threaten essential ecosystem functions, and essential non-renewable resources cannot be depleted faster than we develop substitutes. Currently, levels of throughput exceed all these rules. De-growth, defined as decreasing levels of throughput, is therefore an essential first step towards a steady-state economy.
Title: The Priced versus the Priceless
Author: Derek Rasmussen
Abstract: In ancient times, markets had a limited prescribed place within societies; today they enclose societies. Markets used to be embedded in and controlled by societies, now societies are embedded in and controlled by markets. So many of nature’s priceless abundances have been walled off and priced that it has become normal for humans to live in fear of being without food and shelter. Living abstract lives dependent on money, we are no longer familiar with nature’s seasonal replenishment of these abundances—free of charge, available to the deserving and undeserving alike. The fear that underlies a civilization like ours emphasizes scarcity instead of abundance. Because our relations—human, natural, financial—are rooted in scarcity, we live in fear of things ‘running out’ and face the sad reality of having no one to turn to. If we can’t turn to “our society” and “our neighbours” for help, then the social agglomerations we live in are too large. Amidst environmental degradation and monetized scarcity, how do we reestablish garden-variety trust in each other? How do we recover and encourage our feeling for abundance and our appreciation of things (and nonthings) without prices? Combining my experience of 12 years of living and working with Inuit in Nunavut along with stories of personal advice from Ivan Illich, Gustavo Esteva, and Noam Chomsky, I hope to provide some practical advice for those of us who want to exercise our compassion muscles without being stymied by market relations at every turn.
Title: The Macroeconomics of De-Growth: Can a De-Growth Strategy be Stable?
Author: Dina Padalkina
Abstract: This paper examines an alternative strategy for sustainability and economic development based on de-growth assumptions. This concept is proposed by ecological economists, who consider there to be a natural limitation on economic growth, imposed by necessary environmental regulation. Moreover they oppose the neoclassical ideas, which are considered as pro growth theories, arguing that economic growth itself does not contribute to the social and economic development, therefore it should not be sustained. Accepting this proposition the author makes an attempt to verify the feasibility of a de-growth strategy for macroeconomic stability, applying a post-Keynesian methodology for analysis. The Kaleckian model is used as the basic approach to derive the model restrictions for the de-growth strategy that maintains macroeconomic stability. The findings of this paper will provide policy recommendations to sustain macroeconomic stability, while taking full account of the de-growth assumptions.
Title: Deep Debt and the Invention of “Conscious Capitalism”
Author: James Magnus-Johnston
Abstract: On the heels of the global ‘occupy’ movement, there is increasing public consciousness about the inadequacies of the global money and banking system. The system’s requirement for ever-deepening indebtedness represents the primary institutional barrier to degrowth towards a steady-state economy. An institutional reorientation away from debt and towards savings is a prerequisite for a responsible transition; to degrow in a debt-based system is an invitation for financial volatility. A number of theorists have interrogated how the debt-based banking system impels growth. By synthesizing their theoretical arguments and providing a statistical analysis, I demonstrate how debt (used credit) might be said to have a greater ecological footprint than income (savings). Secondly, I speculate how a savings-based economy might resuscitate the term ”capitalism” in critical economic discourse. Mainstream economists and their critics alike have conflated “the economic system” (i.e. “capitalism”), with “the banking system” as the primary subject of argument. Proponents and critics of growth alike are guilty of perpetuating the fallacy that growth is an inevitable consequence of capitalism. It is only in their responses that they diverge — whereas mainstream economists defend the system, critics protest against it. Through my research, I offer a third perspective: capitalism in a savings-based economy might thrive on sustainable seeds of capital that produce yields. Indeed, perhaps a “conscious capitalism” where capital is characterized as “savings” rather than “credit” represents the most promising catalyst for responsible degrowth towards a steady-state economy.
Title: From Theory to Practice for building an economy of ‘Right Relationships’
Author: Sarah Wolcott
Abstract: There is mounting recognition and desire for an economy that enables ‘right relationship’ (Brown & Garver 2012) with ourselves, one another and the earth. It is understood, here, that right-relationship at a global scale is near impossible within the context of an economic system dependent upon a debt-based monetary system which requires continual economic growth. While this situates the author within the ‘de-growth’ framework, the emphasis here is on building an eco-nomy of right relationships. In a complex, rapidly changing system where it is impossible to predict which crisis or surprise will next impact various populations, coming into right relationship means enabling the entrenched, niche-specific knowledge about the concrete reality of the current situation as it is changing in real time to inform collective decision making especially around policy and ongoing management. To do this we need to avoid blue-print solutions, including too much overarching rhetoric about the need to ‘degrow’, and focus instead on building relationships that enable the critical knowledge of the concrete needs of the system to come to the fore. We focus here on knowledge for and relationship to water, and what knowledge needs and approaches are needed to build institutions that enable an economy of right relationships. We focus on case studies in the United States and in India where struggles to enable the connections of the critical knowledges-systems that can support ‘right-relationship’ and of asking the right questions to change the goal of the system are revealed. The people who have the critical knowledge about the ‘right’ things to pay attention are generally those involved in managing and using the resource in question. Researchers and other knowledge-brokers within the ‘degrowth’, ‘right relationship’ and related movements are seen to play a critical role in provoking, revealing and enabling context-specific approaches and can help to re-frame the goals of the system. Doing so is revealed to get to the heart of systemic issues, regardless of the country in question. While this paper focuses on the importance of the concrete and the sub-national in enabling the emergence of a radically different social-economy (thus following in the light of the suggestions of focusing on the local level (DeGrowth 2010) it is recognised that changing the overarching goals of the system requires continuous, active intellectual and practical work across levels.
Title: Can Economic De-growth Combat Poverty and Achieve Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability within a Capitalist Economy?
Author: Karen Bell
Abstract: Continuing economic growth, though proposed as the answer to poverty and inequality, appears to be ecologically unsustainable. Thus, the degrowth movement has emerged with the agenda of reducing over-consumption. Though this may be better for the natural environment, many would argue that it will increase poverty and inequality. Ironically, the rise of the degrowth movement has coincided with economic recession and stagnation in the richer countries, on a scale not seen since the 1930s. The result of this does, indeed, seem to have increased poverty and inequality. This situation forces us to consider whether degrowth is feasible in a capitalist economy, which appears to depend on growth and if not, what this tells us about how we should transition to an equal, just and ecological society.
Title: De-Growth and Re-Growth: The Story of New England Food and Farming
Author: John E. Carroll
Abstract: What has happened in New England (the “Boston States” to Atlantic and Maritime Canadians) in recent decades is a remarkable story of de-growth and re-growth which provides a powerful model to those interested in fundamental change in our society and the decline of the strong but now weakening model of economic growth to which we’ve adhered until now. Industrial agriculture, centralized large and mid-scale commodity or export agriculture, has collapsed in New England. It is being replaced by de-centralized small-scale local agriculture producing food for local consumption in New England. With the demise of a centralized food production system, the epitome of the economic growth model as we’ve known it, we have seen a sharp rise at the grass-roots of the most de-centralized economic model possible, all based on direct sales, farmer to consumer. Such direct marketing is the key to economic sustainability for people on the land and to the maintenance and expansion of a healthy new truly local grass roots economy, with food, both production and processing, at its center. In New England the revolution in local food and farming is at the helm of the new de-centralized economy which is replacing the growth economy of the past. And, in some ways, that new de-centralized New England economy is taking a cue from Quebec and New Brunswick.
Title: What Shall Degrow? Proposals of Bottom-Up Degrowth of Capacity to Produce and Consume
Author: François Schneider
Abstract: The idea of Sustainable Degrowth challenges economic growth. It is also a proposal to reduce the size of the developed economies as a path for sustainability and equity. This article intends to refine the notion of degrowth by clarifying why the idea of reduction of the size of the economy makes sense and what it exactly means. Economy is here understood as the system of production and consumption. Acting directly at the level of emissions, extractions, social problem is bound to fail if we do not take into account the limiting factors to production and consumption. These limiting factors include time, natural resources, infrastructures, money, regulations, satisfaction of needs, awareness and equality and represent different dimensions of what we call the capacity to produce and consume. Some dimensions are more quantitative, others are more qualitative. The size of the economy shall be ultimately related to the limits to production and consumption i.e. with the multidimensional capacity to produce and consume, because the economy transforms and increases its impacts until it reaches these limits. This is what has been described with the macro-rebound effect or Jevons paradox. If the Jevons Paradox does not occur sufficiently (because the filling-up of the capacity to produce and consume is unattainable due to a limit in one of the dimensions) we have economic crises or social crises (e.g. unemployment). It ensues that the only way to solve the multidimensional crisis is with the degrowth of the societal production/consumption capacities, coupled with sufficiency and appropriate efficiency measures. On the opposite, present policies on both local and governmental level are concerned with the increase of the production/consumption capacity. This includes, on one hand, a selection of efficiency innovations that suppress limits to the increase of production and consumption capacity, and, on the other, growth policies that create the framework so that this increase can occur. We propose the combination of frugal innovation i.e. innovations that integrate limits, and degrowth policies consisting of democratic adjustments of capacities at a larger scale so that the macro-rebound is prevented. Adjustments are the completion of the frugal innovation objective at a higher level of complexity. The article suggests practical examples of frugal innovation and adjustment that can be undertaken at micro and macro levels. Using less natural resources can be supported by policies that leave more resources in the ground. Using less cars, producing waste, consuming less energy would be supported by a infrastructure adjustment like a moratorium on road, incineration, fossil energy thermal energy or nuclear plants. Taking time for conviviality would be supported by a reduction of working hours. Earning less and spending less would be supported by finances’ related adjustments going out of the “debt or virtual economy”. Adjustments at the finance level would also imply replacing world currencies by local currencies. A regulation-based adjustment would generally involve an improvement of social, environmental and product quality standards. An adjustment in the area of needs consists of supporting mutualisation, (in housing for example), and sharing throughout the life-cycles of materials by planning reuse and recycling. A key degrowth adjustment dealing with awareness would involve restricting advertising. Finally, inequality adjustment could introduce measures like basic income and more social security in general, and income ceiling to reduce income gaps.