By The open letter working group

New Roots for the Economy: academics, experts, artists, activists and organizations from around the world demand a farewell to our economy’s growth dependency to avoid further crises.

In the turmoil of the crisis, our everyday lives are being shaken up. We need to reinvent, adapt, organize ourselves. This is also true for the degrowth movement: this crisis has driven us to connect, debate, and set up projects. Today, an open letter has emerged from this brainstorm of ideas, and is hopefully the beginning of many more collaborative projects.

The Degrowth open letter, signed by more than 1,100 experts and over 70 organizations from more than 60 countries, calls for Degrowth as a way to tackle the crisis induced by COVID-19 in order to build a more just and sustainable society and prevent further crises. Among the signatories are Alberto Acosta (author, Ecuador), Jason Hickel (researcher, UK), Carola Rakete (activist, Germany), Jean Ziegler (author, Switzerland), George Monbiot (author, UK), Inge Røpke (researcher, Denmark), Giorgos Kallis (researcher, Greece), Julia Steinberger (researcher, UK), Arturo Escobar (researcher, Colombia/US), Ashish Kothari (environmentalist, India) and Marta Conde (researcher, Spain). The letter has been respectively published in openDemocracy (UK), Mediapart (France), The Wire (India), HGV (Hungary), Pagina 12 (Argentina), Yeşil Gazete (Turkey) and ctxt (Spain) among other media outlets.

The letter urges national and international institutions as well as civil society and economic actors to follow five principles in their efforts to counter the current societal and economic crisis, taking into account social and environmental ills. It calls for Degrowth: a democratically planned yet adaptive, sustainable, and equitable downscaling of the economy, leading to a future where we can live better with less. This requires transforming the current profit-oriented capitalist system. It opposes blind faith in market forces and dismiss a pursuit of ‘green growth’ and decoupling as main strategies to solve environmental and social problems.

The crisis triggered by the novel coronavirus has already exposed many weaknesses of our growth-obsessed capitalist economy: insecurity for many, healthcare systems crippled by years of austerity and the undervaluation of essential professions. This system, rooted in the exploitation of people and nature, was considered normal – but this so-called ‘normality’ was already a crisis. For decades, the dominant strategies were to leave economic distribution largely to market forces and to reduce environmental degradation through decoupling and green growth. This has not worked, and it will not work in the future.

The letter offers five principles for the recovery of the economy and as the basis for creating a just society:

1) Put life at the center of our economic systems.
2) Radically re-evaluate how much and what work is necessary for a good life for all. 
3) Organize society around the provision of essential goods and services.
4) Democratize society. 
5) Base political and economic systems on the principle of solidarity. 

Read the full version of the open letter here

The current economic downturn is not Degrowth, even if some people misleadingly call it that. Degrowth means ensuring everybody’s basic needs are met by transforming our societies. With policies in place to do that, we could shut down much of the economy for months and everyone would still have enough food, shelter, and healthcare. In a Degrowth society, with relocalized economies, a pandemic like COVID-19 would be less likely, would spread less, and would cause less suffering. The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic is related to our dependence on growth.

All interested individuals and organizations are invited to engage in an open debate to re-envision economy and society in the wake of the corona crisis. From May 29 to June 1, the (now online) international conference “Degrowth Vienna 2020: Strategies for a Social Ecological Transformation” will be held, and the Global Degrowth Day on June 6th.

You can find the translations of the open letter here:

Catalan
Croatian
Danish
Dutch
French
German
Greek
Hungarian
Italian
Korean
Mandarin
Portuguese
Russian
Slovenian
Spanish
Swedish
Turkish

You can find the press release here

 

Author

The open letter working group