Any scientist would be able to recognize that a system with a positive feedback loop usually leads to instability and collapse.

An exponential curve is not something commonly found in nature, and when it is, it is usually dangerous. Just like how populations in an ecosystem have a carrying capacity, our economy should be limited. A lot of times people say that the economy needs to grow to keep up with the continually growing human population, but I would argue that they are less dependent on one another than one would think, and if there is no stabilization factor, they are both going to reach an undeniable, disastrous natural limit or “carrying capacity.” This limit is already being shown, in the very real threat of climate change, deforestation, mass extinction, population density, food scarcity and the list goes on.

This idea of “degrowth” may be radical and non-capitalistic, but the idea of zero/negative economic growth is very appealing. It is clear that as our economy grows, the amount of waste and use of fossil fuels also grows. A quote from the article states that, “to date, there are hardly any countries who can claim an absolute reduction in material use or carbon emissions while growing.” This is very important because while some people would think that we can continue to do what we are doing as long as we just make an effort to clean up waste better or invest more in renewable energy, the reality is that we are already past the point of human destruction. We are in the Anthropocene. We have caused species to go extinct, we have changed the chemical makeup of the atmosphere, we have put so much plastic in the oceans that it has essentially created land mass. We need to stop what we are doing, and so a radical idea actually isn’t so far out of the range of thinking.

I don’t think that the idea of “degrowth” is perfect. The focus on the evils of capitalism seem pointed and accusatory. The article states that ecological technological advancements are not in the scope of degrowth because they also promote growth and consumption, but I would argue that we need more technology to make processes more efficient so that they consume less.  It also assumes that this new society of simplicity and care/education/environment is something everyone would be susceptive to, however I don’t believe that is something our era of humans could transition to, maybe an earlier, more primal era would be. However there are things about degrowth that I find promising. Such as the idea that science should become more political, or the argument that growth can never produce enough for everyone because if everyone is growing, then no one is actually gaining anything. The main idea I appreciate from the degrowth argument is the criticism of the social idea that growth is a good thing. As I mentioned earlier, anything with unlimited growth is bound for an unwanted fate. The idea of limiting our growth before nature does is mature, productive, and maybe even revolutionary.

The Degrowth Theory Seems Great! …In theory

This article had an extensive review of the word “degrowth.” There was so much going on that it took me a while to understand what I wanted to take away from the three authors. At first, I agreed with what Kallis, Demaria, and D’Alisa where saying about the negative environmental impact of growth. I particularly connected with the quote “To date there are hardly any countries who can claim an absolute reduction in material use or carbon emissions while growing.” This rings so true in a way that I don’t believe a lot of people had thought of. Every country (especially developed countries) wants to advance faster and better than the next – but they will just outsource their dirty energy practices to countries behind them. Especially with the fact that our natural resources will run out eventually, we need every country working on ways to be sustainable. The degrowth transition includes a transition to renewable energy as a way to keep advancing technologically but making sure that we don’t take the Earth down with us.

However, I was sort of confused when the article went deeper into the economic and political aspects of degrowth. It didn’t seem to match the rest of what they were saying – and I really didn’t understand their reasoning. I think they were being a little too optimistic in hoping people would accept this change. There is a reason America is a democracy – everyone wants their opinion to be accounted for. I don’t think this “degrowth principle” would sit well with a majority of the people in America – much less across the globe. America likes to be set in its ways – which may mean it is time to change some of those. However, if we had an “unconditional basic income” granted to all citizens no matter what, a lot of people would not put effort into their work. On paper, this theory seems to work, but when the work ethic of a good amount of people is put into play, one realizes that it just wouldn’t work the way it would need to.

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You can take the growth out of economy, but you can’t take it out of human population

Gorz proposes a reduction in economic growth as a method of ecological conservation. He proposes that we should have “no-growth – or even degrowth – of material production” in order to preserve nature and its scarce resources. This sounds all good and excellent as we’ll have cleaner air, water, and soil as less oil and natural resources are taken out of the ground when fewer commodities are produced. But is it actually feasible?

The “American way” or quite frankly the “modern world’s way” of dealing with our natural resources is to commodify and put a price tag on them. We have been so accustomed to doing so – since ancient times even – that it would be difficult to reverse our economies into a simpler shared commons system. It would be hard to convince anyone of that fact. Yes, it is true that “growth can never satisfy positional competition” and that “growth does not increase happiness”, but I don’t think a degrowth would either.

One thing that is going to be hard to “degrowth” is the human population. This is always going to grow unless we all agree not to have kids. Even if everybody decides to have only one kid per family, there would still a net population growth. Global GDP grows every year because there are more people every year to produce and use goods and services. In order to support that growth, the economy must grow. More cars need to be made, more houses built, more food grown, more medicine discovered, and more basic necessities must be produced to accommodate a growing human population. In my opinion, there are really only a few ways to remedy this situation. One way is reducing our impact by reducing our dependence on non-renewable resources and focus on renewing energy and waste. That is not a complete degrowth of the economy but focusing on moderate consumption. The other way is to perhaps look beyond our planet.

 

 

 

A Great Economy – If you can keep it

My title is a spinoff of a well-known quote by Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers. After the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman walked up to Mr. Franklin and asked if they had established a republic government or a monarchy. Franklin then wisely said, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

One of the blessings of this new Republic, one of which the World had never witnessed before, was the incredible amount of freedom ordinary citizens had. Now, it took many years before EVERYONE enjoyed those freedoms, and there are still those who face challenges with injustice today, but the foundation for those freedoms remains. That could change if our economy, and its capitalistic ideals, were altered.

The concept of Degrowth, in an ideal setting, is very convincing. Our current economy is consuming products that will eventually run out and will be very difficult to replace when they are gone. Additionally, the impact an expanding human population has had on the environment will continue to be traumatic if we don’t change many of our polluting habits. It is not surprising for people to conclude that the problem is our way of business.

However, the capitalistic “problem” is actually the solution. Instead of taking the free market away from the people (which doesn’t usually work out – see Soviet Union), we should let the market fix itself like it always has. When coal became too inefficient, we as a society turned to gas. Now, oil is the resource that is becoming scarce and costly. When there becomes a better option, like solar, wind, or electric energy, the market will follow accordingly.

Leaning towards a government regulated economy that sabotages its own growth and dictates what you can and cannot consume based on what a group of people thinks is “good” or “bad” is very dangerous. Ever since becoming the lone superpower on this Earth, American has inherited a responsibility to help and defend its allies. How can we do that if we limit our own abilities?

Only a free capitalist economy can ensure a fair and successful marketplace. Implementing Degrowth would certainly help preserve selected resources and limit the damage to certain ecosystems, but we would no longer be “keeping” the freedoms our first leaders established.

All Things in Moderation

History has often been characterized by radical ideas—that, and disagreements over which radical ideas are better, or should be put into place. For every position that a government has had on a certain topic, there’s a person or group with an opposing view. With so many brains on this earth that have so many different opinions, it’s not unrealistic to believe that there is always someone who will disagree with you. For example, it feels like it has been rooted into our world that the idea of growth is a way of measuring success, or improvement. Most people won’t argue that when something or someone has grown, it’s typically a positive thing. However, this article disagrees with that mindset, and argues that growth is actually “uneconomic, unjust, and ecologically unsustainable.” Instead, it is ideal to strive for the idea of “degrowth,” in which societies will use fewer natural resources and will organize and live differently than they do today. The author believes that degrowth will provide change in every aspect of our lives that will in turn provide a net positive impact on the world.

In my opinion, the idea isn’t completely awful—I do think there’s some good points brought up in the article. Capitalism does lie on the idea that material production is necessary for the survival of the system. Obviously, not every resource is renewable and if we continue upon this capitalist idea in every aspect of our lives, our world will start to crumble. However, I don’t necessarily agree that degrowth is the solution to that problem. Some ideas in the article remind me of some of the ideals of communism, an economic and political system that failed in many of its applications. Humans at their foundation are rooted in competition and personal growth. I mean, think of how much wouldn’t get done if everyone was equal and no one strived for better. Although, ecologically, degrowth may be necessary in order to cut down on use of fossil fuels and develop more renewable energies. In this way, I consider everything in moderation to be the best mindset. This applies to our use of resources as humans—our creation of waste, our technological developments. Too much growth too fast could end up being harmful. But degrowth in moderation as well. There are some good points brought up in the article that could do well in application, but changing every aspect of our lives for this idea may be unattainable. If everyone puts a little effort forwards, that would make a great difference on its own.

Seems great, but is it for us?

On paper, this idea of degrowth seems great. We just have to convince the country and the rest of the world that is great as well and put into practice. Easy, no? Wrong. In today’s political and economic environment, I feel as though it would not be as effective as the paper suggests because not everyone would be on board. Its too drastic of a change. For example, our “American way” does not support equal income playing fields and would face serious uproar and opposition if even suggested.

Change is important and necessary, especially in the face of never-ending environmental issues, such as climate change. It is completely reasonable to advocate for something new, something different. We collectively as a country, and frankly as a whole planet, need to do something other than what we are doing. Is it a radical change that we need, or is it taking it one step at a

Image result for degrowthtime? I personally do not feel that a radical change will be effective nor ever initiated. For us as a country to have a system other than what we are have, especially one that does have benefits for all, we need to system and enact small, effective changes consistently. It is the only way to hopefully get the majority of the country involved.