“Degrowth is a planned reduction of energy and resource use in rich countries designed to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a safe and equitable way.”
The Degrowth movement of activists and researchers advocates for societies that prioritise social and ecological well-being instead of corporate profits, over-production and excess consumption. This requires radical redistribution, reduction in the material size of the global economy, and a shift in common values towards care, solidarity and autonomy. Degrowth means transforming societies to ensure environmental justice and a good life for all within planetary boundaries.
English speakers sometimes find the word ‘Degrowth’ problematic and it can lead to misunderstandings. Reading just the word, it has a negative, and for some, a non-ecological connotation. But the origin of the term is anything but that. It is to be found in Latin languages, where “la décroissance” in French or “la decrescita” in Italian refer to a river going back to its normal flow after a disastrous flood. The English word “Degrowth” became prominent after the first international Degrowth conference in Paris in 2008. It has since then been established in academic writing as well as in the media and is used by social movements and practitioners. An advantage of using a term which does not roll off the tongue easily in English is that it creates disruption.. disruption in a world where the critique of economic growth is a radical position.
Some great articles addressing the name of the Degrowth movement:
Those making decisions about resource extraction should be the communities who are most directly impacted by these decisions, who are knowledgeable about ecosystems, and who assume the responsibility of stewards towards nature.
(2) Sustainability: Never deteriorate supporting ecosystems.
The economy’s throughput should remain within the regenerative capacities of renewable natural resources, within the stocks of non-renewable resources that one has morally allowed oneself to consume, and within the assimilative capacities of nature.
(3) Circularity: Waste not, want not.
The flow of energy and materials within the economy should remain as circular as possible with the goal of minimising the extraction of virgin resources and the excretion of unrecyclable and unassimilable waste.
(4) Socially useful production: What is not needed should not be made.
Being only a means to an end, production should satisfy needs and contribute to well-being.
(5) Small, not-for-profit cooperatives: People and planet, not profit.
All businesses should be centred around the pursuit of a social benefit (including ecological missions), be small enough as to allow a directly democratic governance, and take the form of a cooperative.
(6) Proximity: Produce local, consume local.
The shorter the distance between producers and consumers the better.
(7) Convivial tools: Technology as a tool, not a master. Technology should be fit for a purpose determined outside of itself. Technology should be democratically manageable, controllable, reversible, and easily intelligible.
(8) Postwork: Work less, play more.
The ultimate purpose of economic organisation is to liberate time for non-economic purposes. The time and effort dedicated to activities of provision should be determined autonomously, constitute only a small part of social life, and take place in decent settings, both regarding the condition of work and its finality.
(9) Value sovereignty: Wealth is nothing but stories.
The process of economic valuation should always be informed by social and moral values. What is considered “valuable” can vary in from one context to the next, with different values being fundamental incommensurable with each other.
(10) Commons: Decide together.
Strategic resources should be managed as commons.
(11) Gratitude: Communities instead of commodities.
The provision of goods, services, and amenities determinant for the satisfaction of needs should remain outside of the market domain and be organised politically.
(12) Sharing: Sufficiency for all, excess for none.
Any surplus should be treated with caution because it bears the possibility of inequality. When in doubt, liquidate the surplus in a way that benefits the worse off.
People should regain autonomy over their needs and wants and reflect on the consequences of their consumption. They should pursue non-materialistic sources of satisfaction and meaning and adapt their relation with possessions accordingly.
(14) Relational goods: Less stuff, more relationships.
People should consume with, and not against, each other. Consumption should focus on the ends (feelings, friendship, love, etc.) and not on the means (products).
(15) Joie de vivre: If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your economy.
There is no wealth but life (Ruskin). Economic organisation should be a means to guaranteeing joie de vivre and life should be lived by enjoying the abundance of nature and culture.