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Give progress a chance: Embrace degrowth

Give progress a chance: Embrace degrowth

Continuing to prioritise economic growth is not a recipe for being a good ancestor. Nor is it a recipe for human progress, writes Jack Santa Barbara.

A large and growing number of scholars from many disciplines, are advocating for a reorientation of our social and political priorities by abandoning economic growth as our overriding priority.

Even some progressive economists are making these arguments. This degrowth movement argues for prioritising genuine progress in terms of both human wellbeing and ecological sustainability.  Indeed, these scholars argue that abandoning economic growth is essential for achieving these more important objectives.

While recognising the need for social and economic change, others, mostly economists and business leaders, argue that economic growth is essential to achieve human wellbeing and ecological sustainability. They cite examples of green growth with clean technologies as pointing the way forward.

Obviously, both groups cannot be right; their views are mutually exclusive. Green growth and degrowth cannot both provide a guiding framework for a just and sustainable future. Which is most likely to be helpful?

Given the extent of our disruption of natural systems at a planetary level, our rapidly worsening social and political problems, and the growing investments in green growth technologies, this seems an important question.

Are we basically on course with the green growth, technology-driven initiatives that most major governments have embraced? Or do we need a radical rethink of our priorities and how we organise our economies and societies, as degrowth advocates argue?

Green growth is a more comforting option, as it implies we can continue pretty much as we are, and largely rely on technology to do the heavy lifting to clean up our environment, and deliver wellbeing in all its guises.

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