Saturday, October 20, 2012

May Degrowth Grow

With hat tip to my ultimate muse (that would be Brigitte), I learned yesterday of a movement called Degrowth. It is related to the Voluntary Simplicity movement, which some trace back to Mahatma Gandhi. Degrowth, however, arose from the Club of Rome Report (1968) and subsequent elaboration of programs to implement change; several prominent thinkers supported it, but the only name I recognize is that of Ivan Ilich (1926-2002), the Austrian philosopher, from whom we also have Deschooling Society, a book about educational reform. Degrowth is a political movement now anchored in ecological economics, thus an economics in harmony with the environment, anti-consumerism, and, therefore, anti-capitalism.

To be sure. When I look up at the towering power of global finance or examine any even tiny part of ordinary life today, when I see huge rivers of cars rushing down I-94 on my way to Costco, when I pick up any ordinary piece of paper covered by print or look at the flicker on my television screen, the notion of eventually achieving a sane society seems absolutely doomed. But the Club of Rome was ultimately right. No curve ever just goes up. Degrowth, in other words, will happen, whether we like it or not. And in that context, such movements have genuine value even if they are not ever likely to succeed, say, in capturing a major capitalist power like the United States. What they accomplish, however, in setting in motion the preparations for action that will follow—say the drying up of fossil fuels. They introduce ideas. They stimulate a small elite to change its behavior. They cause us to think about the subject. And we must think, and accept the idea, before anyone even thinks of acting. We recycle; we turn off lights when leaving a room. That is a start, of course.

The Third International Conference on Degrowth ended September 23, 2012. The web site supporting it is still online (link). Right on. And, come to think of it, Gandhi did ultimately succeed in his mission to liberate India, thereby lifting Britain’s White Man’s Burden just a little. And Degrowth may also succeed, despite my doubts. Right on, I say. May Degrowth Grow.

The movement  has various symbols, but the snail is a favorite among them. I am showing the Hungarian Logo of the movement, and the word there is Degrowth. Why Hungarian? Well, I was born there. And the movement’s presence in such a small country is in itself significant!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the introduction to DeGrowth! I'll read more on the subject, with interest.