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Can Degrowth Still Bring Growth?

I have given up meat, all my clothes are second-hand, and I choose a train instead of flying. Why is the world still not fixed? The earth's state, as highlighted by 2023 IPCC report makes me think: are our individual actions hindering the salvation of the world? And I conclude that the problem is not our ignorance. Young people have shown their commitment in sustainability multiple times with their active participation in climate strikes and green initiatives. The real obstacle lies within the countries that are structured to grow at all costs: exploiting resources, energy, and humans.

The global north known for its development, over-uses resources from the global south, without even managing to meet the basic needs of its citizens. In the USA, aka the world's largest economy, ¼ of the population struggle with housing and ½ cannot afford health insurance. How can a family struggling to pay the energy bills be expected to worry about biodiversity loss?

It is evident that our cities are designed to primarily serve capital interests, leaving little room for environmental justice. Policies such as Carbon Taxation are blocked from governments because they do not serve the capital accumulation. Is this ongoing ecological destruction worth concentrating wealth among the already privileged?

What is degrowth and how can it help?

Degrowth is a movement that challenges this capitalist lifestyle and aims to abandon the western paradigm of excess consumption. The current belief is that countries must constantly grow, compete, produce, rush, and consume. Degrowth, on the other hand, calls for a reduction in less necessary production, such as private jets, fast fashion, platistic, and meat. For degrowth, priority is the fulfilment of the basic human needs, alongside the Sustainable Development Goals. Their goal is to create a post-capitalist, eco-social world, where public services (i.e., housing, health, nutritious food) are expanded and job security is ensured.

The focus is on social and ecological well-being, shifting values towards equity and solidarity. People will then want to participate to collective initiatives aimed for sustainability, whether it’s through insulating houses, restoring ecosystems, or supporting local communities. Ultimately, a degrowing economy will provide a good quality of life with fewer resources.

However, degrowth is criticised for its core beliefs and the feasibility of its application. This movement emerged due to the slow transition towards green economy. Yet, a complete reformation of the system to degrowth would require much longer to establish, missing the “deadline” of nature. In any case, degrowth is a developing concept, with economologists, lawyers, biologists and other professionals working together to gradually reform the idea.

Lastly, it is worth sharing the meaning of the word degrowth: in Italian, “la decrescita” refers to the river returning to its normal flow after a disastrous flood. In our case, the flood is our economic system growing in all costs. Just as a river returns to its normal flow, we must guide our economic system towards a safe, equitable and balanced world.

Our global economy has failed to achieve sustainable development targets. There is no space for sustainability in such a fast-producing world that leads to dangerous ecological breakdowns. Let’s opt for a system that respects planetary boundaries and prioritises social justice for a sustainable, equitable, democratic world.


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