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The Left should embrace degrowth

The Left should embrace degrowth

Stop sign and poppy [Related Image]
Only if we stop the cycle of endless growth will our planet prosper, argue Degrowthers. Jenny Downing under a Creative Commons Licence

Degrowth is a frontal attack on the ideology of economic growth. Some call it a critique: a slogan or a ‘missile word’. Others talk of the ‘theory of’ – or the ‘literature on’ – degrowth; or of degrowth policies’. Many see themselves as the ‘degrowth movement’ or claim they live ‘the degrowth way’. What is degrowth and where did it come from?

Origins

Intellectually, the origins of degrowth are found in the Continental écologie politique of the 1970s. Andre Gorz spoke of ‘décroissance’ in 1972, questioning the compatibility of capitalism with earth’s balance ‘for which … degrowth of material production is a necessary condition’. Unless we consider ‘equality without growth’, Gorz argued, we reduce socialism to nothing but ‘the continuation of capitalism by other means – an extension of middle-class values, lifestyles and social patterns’.

‘Demain la décroissance’ (‘tomorrow, degrowth’) was the title of a 1979 translated collection of essays of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, a Romanian émigré teaching in the US and a proto ecological economist who argued that economic growth accelerates entropy. These were the times of the oil crisis and the Club of Rome. For continental ‘red-green’ thinkers, however, the question of limits to growth was first and foremost a political one. Unlike Malthusian concerns with resource depletion, overpopulation and collapse of the system, theirs was a desire for pulling the emergency brake on the train of capitalism, or, to quote Ursula Le Guin, ‘put a pig in the tracks of a one-way future consisting only of growth’.

The slogan ‘décroissance’ was revived in the early 2000s by activists in the city of Lyon in direct actions against mega-infrastructures and advertising. Serge Latouche, a professor of economic anthropology and vocal critic of development programmes in Africa, popularized it with his books, calling for an ‘End to sustainable development’ and ‘a long life to convivial degrowth’.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The stuff problem

‘Yes to renewables!’ Hundreds rallied outside the Victorian Parliament House, Melbourne, 10 December 2013. Takver under a Creative Commons Licence

How much mined material will we need to build a 100-per-cent renewable world? Danny Chivers works it out.

The problem with wind turbines, solar panels, ground-source heat pumps and electric cars is that they’re all made of stuff. When people like me make grand announcements (and interactive infographics) explaining how we don’t need to burn fossil fuels because fairly shared renewable energy could give everyone on the planet a good quality of life, this is the bit of the story that often gets missed out. We can’t just pull all this sustainable technology out of the air – it’s made from annoyingly solid materials that need to come from somewhere.

So how much material would we need to transition to a 100-per-cent renewable world? For my new NoNonsense book, Renewable Energy: cleaner, fairer ways to power the planet, I realized I needed to find an answer to this question. It’s irresponsible to advocate a renewably powered planet without being open and honest about what the real-world impacts of such a transition might be.

In this online article, I make a stab at coming up with an answer – but first I need to lay down a quick proviso. All the numbers in this piece are rough, ball-park figures, that simply aim to give us a sense of the scale of materials we’re talking about. Nothing in this piece is meant to be a vision of the ‘correct’ way to build a 100-per-cent renewably powered world. There is no single path to a clean-energy future; we need a democratic energy transition led by a mass global movement creating solutions to suit people’s specific communities and situations, not some kind of top-down model imposed from above. This article just presents one scenario, with the sole aim of helping us to understand the challenge.

– See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2015/08/15/material-requirements/#sthash.FQbbzNu7.dpuf

 

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