In this Medea Vox episode, we discuss degrowth. How can we build societies where economic growth is no longer important?
This year, the first of August was the date when we had used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. Are we about to eradicate our own habitats? This conversation between scholars Miriam Lang, Ruth Kinna and Alicia Smedberg explores what needs to be done to avoid it.
Guests are Miriam Lang, professor in Social and Global Studies at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Quito, Ecuador, and Ruth Kinna, a political theorist specialising in anarchist history and politics based at Loughborough University, UK. Alicia Smedberg, PhD candidate in participatory design at Malmö University, is host.
This episode was produced in collaboration with the 6th International Degrowth Conference, which this year took place in Malmö, Sweden.
These are authors, works, concepts etc. that are discussed in the podcast. Text within quotation marks is transcribed from the podcast.
Earth Overshoot Day | The introduction of this episode quotes the Global Footprint Network’s initiative Earth Overshoot Day, which marks the day when humanity has used more than the planet can renew in a year.
What is degrowth?
Ruth Kinna: My perspective is informed by an anti-capitalist critique which thinks of growth as something which is essentially driven by profit – the desire to satisfy a market rather than meet the needs of the people. We’re increasingly driven by incentives to dispose of things, to buy new things, to replace things, in order to feed the market. Clearly, we can’t keep doing this. The evidence is in front of our eyes. We’re killing species at a rate the world has never seen and people are realising – as climate change really kicks in – that this isn’t a fiction any more and that we are in serious danger of eradicating our own habitats. And therefore we have to rethink the ethics and the principles on which we want to organise our lives.
Miriam Lang: To me, degrowth is a movement and a discourse which claim paradigmatic change – a profound change of the way we conceive society and economics. I came to this from an eco-feminist stance where the claim is that the economy must serve life, not vice versa: life must not serve the economy. Also from the critique of development – I’m living in Latin America and since the ‘90s, there is this very vivid movement that says that development really causes harm, because it obliges the societies of the south – in their broad diversity – to fit into the capitalist world market with all its unjust rules.
It is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism | In Mark Fisher’s book Capitalist Realism, he attributes this quote to both Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek.
Prefigurative practices | “… that we begin to make those changes we are able to make, so that we can get the experience of what it feels like – because that what’s convinces us that it’s worthwhile to change.”
How a small town reclaimed its grid and sparked a community revolution, The Guardian, 28 February 2018
Donna Haraway’s book Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, freely available at monoskop.org
Half of all US food produce is thrown away, new research suggests, The Guardian, 13 July 2016
The buen vivir principle | “… which is about not growing or accumulating but living in harmony and equilibrium with other human beings and other species.”
Iceland’s crowd-sourced constitution: hope for disillusioned voters everywhere, The Conversation, 28 October 2016.
Anarchist views on degrowth (suggested reading)
- 12 lines of flight for just degrowth, by Alexis Passadakis and Matthias Schmelzer
- Anarchist responses to the ecological crisis, by Coordination des Groupes Anarchistes
- The post-growth economy needs a degrowth vocabulary! Review article by Ekaterina Chertkovskaya in the journal Ephemera
- Entitle: A collaborative writing project on political ecology
- Whose Streets? Anarchism, Technology and the Petromodern State, introduction to the journal Anarchist Studies’ special issue on technologies, edited by Uri Gordon and Michael Truscello
Featured image credit to Flickr user Paul Sableman