Over the next 4 weeks we will be sharing with you excerpt from Samuel Alexander and Brendan Gleeson’s new book, “Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary”.
This book addresses a central dilemma of the urban age: how to make suburban landscapes sustainable in the face of planetary ecological crisis. The authors argue that degrowth, a planned contraction of overgrown economies, is the most coherent paradigm for suburban renewal. They depart from the anti-suburban sentiment of much environmentalism to show that existing suburbia can be the centre-ground of transition to a new social dispensation based on the principle of enlightened material and energy restraint.
Prelude: The Great Resettlement
This book opens, as it must, by acknowledging that the human species stands at the precipice of self-made destruction. At the very hour when modern humanity arrived at the pinnacle of triumph – a global market economy promising riches for all—the skies have been darkened by the terrible spectres of ecological and social threat. Global warming is only one of these storm clouds, but this alone has the potential to lay waste to our species, as well as most others. At the same time, vast oceans of debilitating poverty surround small islands of unfathomable plenty, exposing the violent betrayal of the growth agenda, euphemistically (or just deceptively) known in public discourse as ‘sustainable development’. This is a race leading towards an abyss, both enabled and entrenched by a sterility of imagination.
The late German scholar Ulrich Beck spoke of how triumph and crisis simultaneously emerge and remerge in a world pervasively and con- tinuously remade by capitalist modernisation.
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