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.

Image result for renewable energy

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.

Competition or nah?

This isn’t the first time I have heard ideas for drastic societal change, but I am willing to say this article highlighted one of the most dramatic that I have ever seen. Simply the idea of creating a society where everyone lives equally seems insanely foreign to me. I have grown up my entire life on the basis of competition and trying to attain a better life than the next guy. One of my biggest motivations is that one day when I am successful, I can look back at all my competition growing up and reflect on how my hard work paid off.

 

In a society like the one described in the article, it is assumed that people would live hand in hand and not revert back to the ways of today’s competitive society. Although this idea may be a potential reality in the future, I don’t see anything close to it happening in my lifetime. In the world we live in today, competition is what spurs development and technological growth. Without the constant threat of others getting further ahead, I feel that businesses would stop investing their time and money in engineering new technological advancements.

I feel there is a much better way to restructure society so that the environmental toll is kept under control and the number of green technology increases, but creating a completely socialistic society doesn’t seem like a reasonable or even smart idea. I feel like large-scale efforts to clean up the environment and reduce fossil fuels should be taken. I also feel that poverty and homelessness could almost be entirely eradicated with large-scale measures, of which making everyone equal not being one.

 

Maybe it’s just my competitive ways, but I don’t want to live in a society where the people who don’t work hard and don’t show drive receive the same results as those who do.

Sharing is Caring

Common understanding is that growth is a positive and attainable goal, which can be measured.  For a world to thrive and succeed, it must seek the best for its people.  A move which is often interpreted to mean new industrial developments, vast resources, and adaptable technologies.  The concept presented in “Degrowth” is portrayed in a manner which alludes “degrowth” is in fact the real positive and attainable goal our world should be seeking.  In the sense that “degrowth” in fact provides a net positive impact to the world, unlike the method of “growth” which is, “uneconomic and unjust”…”because the benefits accrue to those who hold power and the costs to those who are marginalized.”

The idea presented declares growth to be ecologically unsustainable and claims that above a certain level, growth does not increase happiness.  This in turn exposes “Degrowth”  to be an anti-capitalist manifesto.  Similar to White’s position that Christianity is the root of our world’s current ecological crisis.  “Degrowth” takes a position that Capitalism is the primary cause for our world’s ecological crisis due to our engrained need for growth, and the Earth’s inherent limit of resources.  Capitalism is truly the root of all evil.

Overall, I have doubts that the argument for degrowth could be successfully carried out.  The idea is in a simplistic form similar to the conceptual framework of Socialism.  It simply lacks the official title of such.  Nonetheless, I do not believe humanity has the ability to reach full equality.  The idea is antiquated and the desire to compete is widely accepted to be part of human nature.  Self-limitation can be taught and enforced, but the empathy for others and recognition for the need would be the most difficult task to achieve for the entirety of society.  Sharing is caring, but the world is a tuned to siblings, and sharing is not always easy.

 

It Sure Seems Great in Theory

Is degrowth the only way to save our planet from the effects of climate change? I don’t know. Would it help negate the consequences of our materialistic world? Absolutely. But is it practical? I just don’t see it. I personally love the idea of degrowth in theory, but when thinking about it further, when realizing all the benefits of this “growth centered society” and all its capitalist  comforts would essentially be lost in a degrowth society, my brain gives me pause. Specialization and division of labor is a cornerstone belief of all heavily industrialized societies, like the one we live in in this country. I love the fact that someone else has specialized in agriculture and food preparation so I don’t have to. Going back to a self sustainable economy is an admirable goal to have, but spreading it to the general population will be more easily said than done.

The main problem I see with the degrowth movement is in its implication. In order to truly convince citizens that this is the way to save our future, small steps into these “grassroots nowtopias” the authors of this week’s reading describe will have to be taken, and at the rate the climate is changing, I do not know if we have time for the small steps to be taken. However, that same thing could be said about any movement looking to make radical change. I just know persuading our culture to give up so many of the comforts and conveniences of modern capitalist life will not be a painless endeavor. This is especially the case with a lot of the political ideals proposed by the degrowth movement, such as a wage ceiling, or a living wage. Humans as a whole do not like change, and a movement to such “radical” beliefs by our standards may not go over well, especially among those who are “successful” by the capitalist standards described in the reading.

I’m not sure if the world is ready for the commencement of a degrowth society, but for the sake of our future, I hope we are. Or at the very least, leaders of the movement can implicate it in a digestible way for the general human population.  I fear though, like with every utopian society, it sounds better in practice than it will actually transpire in reality.

Image result for degrowth

 

The Economy is on Fire! Stop, Drop, and Roll- Let’s Put it Out.

Gorz’s theory on degrowth and consumption reminded me of the throwaway culture presented in last week’s reading. This is a major concern as our capitalistic society rarely considers the idea of consuming less. The movements supported in the early 2000s, specifically in France were very fascinating to learn about because they exhibit the growth of an early idea. I wonder what particular combination of things lead France to be the center for this birth of political ecology and environmental justice. The term degrowth hasn’t typically been used by others who surround me. In fact, I believe this is the first time I have heard it. However, I do believe that it conveys an important point in environmental sustainability. For instance, there needs to be a larger emphasis on reducing one’s electricity use rather than solely trying to replace fossil fuels with other energy sources (solar, wind, etc.).

In today’s society, particularly America, we base our values of success, happiness, and worth in the form of materialistic goods. The bigger the house, the more successful… Right? This mindset has promoted the growth of our economy and helped us develop at a rapid rate. Degrowth directly contradicts with the motives of growing an economy. So, what would this look like if we suddenly got the majority of our world to embrace the ideals of degrowth? Degrowth criticises growth and capitalism. An economy thrives on consumption and a growing presence of services and companies. Is this simply an ingrained part of human nature? It is noted that negative GDP growth will be a likely outcome if degrowth occurs. Rather, I think that there needs to be a shift in the dispersion of wealth throughout various sectors of industry and geographic regions. This political ideology would shrink the “dirty industries or the financial sector” while promoting health, education, and sustainable practices.

 

The emphasis on critiquing the word “development” seems interesting as I have previously never considered it as a negative word. On the other hand, I would understand if they were concerned with words such as overdeveloped. At the same time, it makes sense as to refrain from confusing anyone attempting to follow the degrowth ideals.

The overarching limits of growth to the entirety of our society seem rooted in a desire for simpler living and happiness. One statement, “growth can never satisfy positional competition; it can only make it worse” struck me as being a cry for fairness and equality. Growth tends to lift someone or something up while leaving others behind. In many facets of life, too much of anything can create a negative impact. At this point in time, I think that degrowth might be human kinds only chance at saving our environment and socially changing to create more equal communities.

Earth Yelp Review: 2/5 Stars

“Unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread water-related diseases… Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming, and industrial activities.”

-Pope Francis

Great scenery and gorgeous wildlife, but poor management. That is what a Yelp review for Earth would read like. If the Earth was a restaurant, it would be immediately shut down by the local health department for severe health and safety infractions relating to unclean water on top of many other things. The managers of the place, the people of Earth, have neglected the establishment to the point of near-irreparability. As Lynn White beautifully stated, “surely no creature other than man has ever managed to foul its nest in such a short order.” We tend to believe that we are masters of nature and try to reign in its riches for our benefits. Yet, it is surely the actions of humans that have accelerated the end of our tenure of our planet.

 

I agree with White’s sentiment that humans have successfully used technology to further our ecological crisis. However, I am hesitant to blame technological and scientific progress as the sole culprits for the problem. I wish to point out that it is what we do with those advancements that contribute to the issue. For instance, the cattle industry has provided us with more beef products than ever before at the cost of huge energy input and greenhouse gas emissions. On the flipside, advances in renewable energy such as solar and wind energy have reduced our reliance on fossil fuels. Thus, rather than pass the blame onto the products of human ingenuity, we need to hold ourselves accountable and focus on new solutions.

 

Of course, White’s rhetoric does have merits on how we should approach the problem. I take his statement of finding a “new religion or rethink our old one” as saying that we need to rethink our societal values on waste and conservation before relying on new technology to bail us out. According to the BBC article, How many Earth do we need?, if the world lived like the average American, we would need roughly 4 Earths worth of resources to sustain ourselves. The “religion” we need is a stronger awareness for the planet and more importantly acting to preserve it.

 

As Pope Francis has stated, “We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels.” I believe that further support for ecologically mindful technology such as renewable energy and sustainable manufacturing along with being mindful of how much waste we produce will help us save the planet. After all, the “species heading towards extinction” might include us too. In order to have a 5-star planet, we need to give 5-star quality effort in maintaining it.

Go East, Young Man, Go East!

Current ideal often encourages anything which is new or perceived as an advancement.  Little homage, however is shown to previous designs, and rarely are unintended consequences considered.  This ideal influences humanity to diverge from a respect for nature.  As White discusses in The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, a greater awareness and respect may have been more prevalent if humanity felt there was a human-like presence in every object in nature, which comprises our world.  The idea of Paganism is therefore able to establish a sense of camaraderie through animism, with ideally a lesser tendency to exploit those similar to our own kind.  In theory, I find this concept of religion shaping our view of the world, and specifically nature, fascinating.  In reality, I have little faith that religion is the answer.  Religion is only as strong as it’s following.  In truth, I believe we may find our answers in more than one stronghold.   

I believe the act of growing up in nature teaches one more respect for the world that is around them.  Not in the literal sense of run with the wolves, but rather growing up perhaps in Pacific Northwest America, where there are vast forests and abundant primarily, sustainable agricultural communities.  After all, one’s surroundings shape them as they grow, be that concrete jungles or vast forests within reach of their backyards.  Humanity thrives from interaction, and relates based on experience.  When one grows up physically closer to nature the may feel closer to nature.

Reading the two works together felt like a unique opportunity.  White wrote The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis in 1967, decades before Pope Francis was elected, and began to introduce new ideals for modern Christianity.  Nevertheless, White offers Saint Francis as the “patron saint for ecologists”.  I can only hope this means humanity is capable of continuing to heal our world through our faith in one another and a greater admiration for the world which supports us all.

In 1865, in an editorial in the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley wrote, “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”  Today, America has reached tremendous advances with technology and expanded across the states.  Regardless of order, the world has expanded as well.  The current demand for resources outweighs the availability, and the lack of understanding and respect for the world which supports us will continue to drive humanity to a premature death.  To change our ways, humanity must realign its values to persevere. Additionally, the development of technology for the use of supporting the earth—including all its inhabitants—must be established.  Now out with the old ideal.  Go East, young man, and carry a new view for America.  For our world.

You can’t have disrespect without disregard

As humans learn more about the world around us, the more we abuse and exploit it; that much is evident. However, it seems to stem from a lack of respect. This lack of respect came unintentionally because we grew in our understanding of nature. Back when natural phenomena were confusing and scary, that fear incited an essence of awe and reverence. When the veil of mystery was finally lifted though the use of science and technology as outlined by Lynn White, then the wonderment of the unknown was tarnished, and as a result we no longer held nature to any high regard.

Religious teachings have been applied in the past to explain not well understood processes of this world. But as the processes began to be explained by science and technology rather than religion, then the respect for religious lessons and morals went away along with religious reason. White’s explanation of how religion was used as justification for man’s dominance over nature in every which serves as further support for those looking to discredit religious views in place today. It seems to be an ironic and vicious cycle without end: we further technology that pulls us further from faith while using a “God-given” right to justify us doing so.

Worse still, we accept this as a “a normal pattern of action” according to White. And then we have the audacity to take it upon ourselves to fix it and consider ourselves saviors of a world in ruin while completely disregarding the core reasons we got into the predicament in the first place. We go so far as to admit that our previous actions ruined our environment, but we never trace back to shed light on the reason for our actions. From what I have read, I believe humans have a need not just a need to dominate over our surroundings, but to obstinately and insatiably do so as well.