Featured image for blog post: "THE DEGROWTH MOVEMENT - Lowering Our Environmental Footprint" by State of Matter, depicting a stenciled message on a wall that reads "THE ONLY SUSTAINABLE GROWTH IS DEGROWTH," against an urban backdrop.

Degrowth Movement: What is it and Why is it Important?

Some economists believe we must drastically reduce global consumption to save our planet. This is the premise of degrowth – a political and economic theory gaining traction as fears grow over climate change, but can it work?

The global economy has more than tripled in size since 1970 and is on track to double again by 2030. This growth has come at a huge environmental cost. It now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a single year.

Degrowth advocates argue that this level of consumption is not only ecologically unsustainable but also socially unjust. They point to the fact that, despite decades of economic growth, levels of inequality have increased.

What is the degrowth movement?

The Degrowth Movement is a growing social movement that aims to reduce the number of resources humans use to achieve a more sustainable future.

This movement has been gaining traction in recent years as people worldwide have become increasingly aware of the need to take steps to protect our planet from global warming.

Why does degrowth matter?

According to the Global Footprint Network, as of 2021, humanity uses the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means that by July, humans have already exhausted nature's budget for the entire year.

Degrowth is important because it offers a way to reduce humanity's impact on the environment while still maintaining a high standard of living.

The degrowth movement envisions a future in which we live within our means and focus on the quality of life rather than quantity of stuff. This is a crucial shift that we need to make if we want to create a sustainable future for our planet. It is an alternative to the current growth-based economic model, which has led to environmental destruction and inequality.

The degrowth movement is gaining traction worldwide as people become more aware of the need to take action on the climate crisis. In recent years, there have been degrowth conferences in Europe and North America, and the movement is also gaining popularity in other parts of the world. This is a hopeful sign that we are beginning to change our thinking about growth and development.

There are several obstacles in the way of degrowth, but critical work must be done if we want to maintain a future for our planet. We must move away from the current growth-based economic model and towards a degrowth model that focuses on quality of life.

This shift will require changes in our behavior, as well as changes in government policy. But it is a necessary change if we want to preserve our planet for future generations.

When did the degrowth movement begin?

The degrowth movement, based on the French idea of "décroissance" or "decrease," started approximately 30 years after the term's first appearance. Serge Latouche, a French philosopher, sociologist, and economist, was the first to use it in relation to economic theory in his 1981 book La Décroissance: Entropie – Écologie – Économie. In it, he argued that our society needed to experience a decrease to be sustainable.

The term "degrowth" first surfaced in English-language publications during the early 2000s. The inaugural academic degrowth conference took place in 2008 Barcelona. Since then, various other nations have hosted their degrowth conferences.

What are examples of degrowth?

There are many examples of degrowth, but some of the most common include:

  • Reducing energy consumption: This may be accomplished by using energy-efficient equipment, insulating buildings, and utilizing alternative renewable energy sources such as solar power.
  • Reducing resource use: Recycling and composting, lowering meat consumption, and curtailing consumerism are all good methods.
  • Reducing transportation: This can be done by walking, biking, or taking public transportation instead of driving.
  • Reducing waste: You can help save the environment by avoiding single-use plastics, repairing items you already have, and composting food scraps.
  • Eliminating unnecessary consumerism: By reducing your possessions and focusing on experiences, you may have more time to enjoy life.

These are just a few examples of how we can change our behavior to reduce our impact on the environment. The degrowth concept is to help us make these sorts of adjustments in our lives so that we may have a long-term sustainable planet.

Degrowth and fashion

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. It's responsible for 20% of global water pollution, and it's the second largest consumer of water, after agriculture. The average person in the US consumes about 80 pounds of clothing per year, more than any other country worldwide.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation reported in 2017 that the textile industry emits around 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually.

The fashion industry is also one of the most wasteful industries in the world. It's estimated that Americans throw away about 68 pounds of clothing annually. This waste has a huge environmental impact, as it takes a lot of energy and natural resources to produce new clothing.

The degrowth movement is working to change the fashion industry for the better. There are many ways to do this, but some of the most common include:

  • Reducing consumption: This can be done by buying less clothing and repairing items instead of buying new ones.
  • Recycling and upcycling: This can be done by donating clothes to thrift stores or reusing them to create new clothing.

Sustainable consumption is a key part of the degrowth movement, and the fashion industry is a great place to start. We can make a big difference in the environment by making small changes in our consumption habits.

Degrowth and climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 outlined that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid and significant changes in all sectors. Current policies put the world on track for a 3°C rise.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to our planet. It's caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity like burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agriculture. These emissions trap heat in the atmosphere and cause the Earth's temperature to rise.

This leads to several problems, like more extreme weather events, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels. Climate change is a major threat to human health, as it can cause respiratory problems, heat stroke, and even death.

The degrowth movement is combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By making small changes in our behavior, we can make a big difference to the environment.

The debate between economic growth and degrowth

The degrowth movement is regularly misunderstood as promoting economic growth. Yet, they are two separate things.

Economic growth is the increase in the value of goods and services produced by an economy. It's usually measured by gross domestic product (GDP). Degrowth, on the other hand, is a reduction in consumption and production.

Green growth vs. degrowth

Green growth is an economic model that is ecologically sustainable. It is based on the belief that we can achieve economic development while protecting the environment. The degrowth movement denounces green growth since they believe it's impossible to have unlimited economic expansion without damaging the ecosystem.

The bottom line is that the degrowth movement attempts to reform our connection with the world. We may significantly impact the environment by curtailing our consumption and waste production.

What are the arguments against degrowth?

There are a few arguments against degrowth, the most common being that it's impossible to achieve. Critics say that degrowth would require such a massive change in our way of life that it's simply not feasible. They argue that we need economic growth to provide for a growing population's needs and improve living standards.

Some people assert that degrowth would result in a lower standard of living. They contend that we depend on economic growth to give us new goods and services; without it we would have to accept less.

Some argue that degrowth is unattainable. They claim it's impossible to lower our effect on the environment without harming our quality of life.

These are all valid arguments against degrowth. . .

However, some counter-arguments show why degrowth is possible and necessary. Many degrowth advocates claim that we don't need economic development to improve our quality of life. They also propose that our present level of consumption is unsustainable and that we must alter our lifestyle regardless of whether or not it leads to higher income.

There are several reasons why degrowth is necessary for the environment. Some researchers claim that we must reduce our environmental impact by 80% to avoid climate catastrophe. This is a challenging target, but it is one that the degrowth movement is attempting to achieve.

How degrowth affects the global economy

The global economy is currently based on a model of unlimited growth. This means that the degrowth movement is challenging the status quo. The current system is not sustainable, and degrowth advocates believe that we need to make a change.

The most obvious way that degrowth would affect the global economy is by reducing consumption. If people consume less, there will be less demand for goods and services. This would lead to a decrease in production, which would, in turn, result in job losses.

Degrowth would also have an impact on the financial system. The current system is based on credit, which requires growth to function properly. If growth slows down or stops, then the system will collapse.

Degrowth is a controversial topic, and there are many valid arguments for and against it. However, the most important thing to remember is that degrowth is necessary for the environment. We must reduce our consumption and waste production to protect our planet.

What's next for the degrowth movement?

The degrowth movement is still in its early stages, but it's already having an impact. In recent years, many people have been interested in reducing their consumption and living more sustainably. This has led to an increase in the number of businesses and organizations supporting the degrowth movement.

As the movement continues to grow, we expect to see more changes in how we live our lives. We may see more people moving away from cities and into rural areas. We may also start to see a decrease in the amount of stuff we own and an increase in the number of experiences we have.

The degrowth movement is about much more than just lowering our environmental footprint. It's also about transforming the current economic system so that how we live may be happier and healthier. Human well-being and health are the driving forces behind the movement.

We may discover happiness in smaller things, such as spending quality time with family and friends, appreciating nature, and doing activities we enjoy.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the Degrowth Theory?

The degrowth theory is an economic and social movement that advocates for the reduction of a society's production and consumption. It challenges the traditional notion that economic growth is essential for well-being. Instead, degrowth emphasizes sustainability, reduced resource use, and a shift towards a more equitable and ecologically balanced lifestyle. The theory proposes that scaling back on material consumption can lead to improved quality of life, social equity, and environmental health.

What is the Aim of the Degrowth Movement?

The primary aim of the degrowth movement is to create a sustainable and equitable society by intentionally reducing production and consumption. It seeks to transform the current economic system to address environmental degradation, climate change, and social inequalities. The movement advocates for a shift from GDP growth as a measure of success to a focus on human well-being, ecological sustainability, and a more equitable distribution of resources.

What Would a Degrowth Society Look Like?

In a degrowth society, the emphasis would be on ecological sustainability, community living, and reduced reliance on excessive consumption. Such a society would prioritize local economies, renewable resources, and a smaller ecological footprint. There would be a greater focus on social welfare, community engagement, and collaborative living, rather than individual wealth and consumption. Lifestyle changes, such as reduced work hours, sustainable urban planning, and support for local agriculture, would be common.

What are the Key Principles of Degrowth?

The key principles of degrowth include sustainability, equity, simplicity, and community. Sustainability involves reducing environmental impact and preserving natural resources. Equity focuses on fair distribution of resources and opportunities. Simplicity advocates for a lifestyle that prioritizes well-being and meaningful experiences over material possessions. Lastly, community emphasizes the importance of social relationships and collaborative efforts for a sustainable future.

What Does Degrowth Look Like in Practice?

In practice, degrowth manifests through initiatives like local food systems, community-owned renewable energy, sustainable urban planning, and cooperative businesses. It encourages reduced working hours, sharing resources, and prioritizing public services like healthcare and education. Communities practicing degrowth might focus on repairing and recycling, rather than constantly buying new. It also involves policy changes like implementing a maximum income, green taxes, and supporting small-scale, local producers.