Is Degrowth the Solution for the Modern World?
Degrowth proposes decreasing the frenetic rhythm of modern capitalism and changing the production system so it can be more respectful to the environment and to collective happiness.
The degrowth movement is based on the ecological economic theory developed by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, a brilliant Romanian mathematician and economist. Its basic idea is to progressively reduce production to restore the balance between humans and the natural world. This would lead to a more sustainable social dynamic.
Growth is perhaps the number one goal of all economies in the modern world. It’s a mantra of capitalism. The idea is increasing production and consumption. However, unfettered growth has undesired consequences. The first is a systematic attack on nature and the natural processes. The second is a notable decrease in the quality of life of humans and other living things.
According to the degrowth movement, human beings should work less and have more free time. That should be the foundation of a new model in which production is regulated in a way that would satisfy our needs without destroying the environment or turning humans into robots.
“The main purpose of downscaling as a slogan is to mark clearly the abandonment of the insane objective of growth for growth’s sake, which is driven only by unbridled search for profit for the holders of capital.”
Degrowth of consumption
These days, most of us spend most of our time working. In the past, people worked to meet their basic needs. That isn’t true anymore. Over time, humans have developed new needs which are all associated with consumption.
For many people, a “good” job is one that allows you to increase your purchasing power. We want to have more so we can buy more. It doesn’t matter if what we buy is relevant or useful or not. A few decades ago, people only needed one kind of soap to clean themselves. Now, we “need” five or more! There’s hand soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, etc.
Purchasing power has also markedly increased in many societies. However, that doesn’t mean that people are happier or more fulfilled. In a study carried out in Canada, researchers asked a group of volunteers if they thought they were happier than their parents. Only 44% of the group answered yes, in spite of the fact that purchasing power had increased by 60%.
The foundation of degrowth
The world has reached a point where the imbalance between production and nature has become dangerous. We have doubts about the availability of certain resources for future generations. It seems that we’re doing something wrong. Degrowth believes that the problem is unbridled production. Consequently, the degrowth movement proposes eight solutions for the modern world:
Solutions for unchecked growth
- Reevaluate: People who believe in regrowth think that we need to change our values. We have to stop valuing individualism and consumerism above all. Instead, we should focus on cooperation and the humanist meaning of life.
- Reconceptualize: This has to do with redefining ideas like poverty, wealth, necessity, and consumption. As a society, we need to adopt a new perspective on scarcity and abundance.
- Restructure: We have to orient production towards different goals, like the protection of the environment and human happiness. We should opt for eco-efficiency and simplicity. As a society, we have to let go of the idea that more is better.
- Relocate: Degrowth believes in the importance of a regional economy. Multinational production is harmful. Instead, the focus should be on finding a way for each region to produce enough to meet its needs.
- Redistribute: This means becoming more community-minded and making sure that everyone has enough to meet their basic needs. That would require reducing the purchasing power of the big, global consumers and avoiding ostentatious consumption.
- Reduce: This is degrowth applied to production and consumption, which includes working hours. It implies decreasing the consumption of medication and predatory tourism.
- Reuse: This has to do with increasing the lifespan of different products. We need to change the culture of disposable things.
- Recycle: This means appropriately dealing with waste, avoiding products that can’t be recycled, and taking responsibility for the trash we produce.
New paradigms for a new era
In conclusion, it’s obvious that our current economic system isn’t making us happy. On the contrary, it’s causing neurosis, alienation, and inequality. New paradigms, like degrowth, are taking hold in the world and propose a kinder and more human direction.