Earlier this month, on June 6th, the 2020 Global Degrowth Day (GDD) was celebrated around the world. Around 40 events in more than 18 countries were registered and there were many social media posts using the hashtag #GlobalDegrowthDay, which was also celebrated by the Green European Journal and the European Environmental Bureau. Pictures were shared on our facebook event page.
Due to the pandemic, many of the planned events were transitioned to an online format. There were webinars, group discussions and book presentations. Some events involved walks and bike tours, often connecting to other community projects and activist movements or local struggles. Some groups joined anti-racist demonstrations which occurred on the same day. For some, the meetings were gatherings of known friends and activists, and in other cases the events brought together new people joined by a common interest in degrowth.
As the activist working group of the international degrowth movement, we were delighted to read about the rich and multiple ways in which the GDD was celebrated. Through all these events we can see enthusiasm for discussing, sharing and creating alternatives to a growth-dependent society. We welcome you to read below the creative and inspiring ways in which groups around the world celebrated GDD.
Jocelyne Sze, Qiyun Woo and Sammie Ng, who organized the event
On Global Degrowth Day, we organised a reading group discussion covering the introduction of Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era (edited by D’Alisa, Demaria and Kallis) as a way of introducing the concepts and ideas behind degrowth to a Singaporean audience. The term has not been widely used or discussed in the local media or the public consciousness, and we wanted to introduce these concepts, start some discussions about how degrowth could or would apply in the Singapore context, and build a degrowth community in Singapore.
We had a turnout of 21 people for this virtual reading circle, which was a pleasant surprise to us. During the discussion, we clarified and reaffirmed our agreement with the core degrowth principles of critiquing the growth imperative and not growth itself, the discourses of growth and (sustainable) development as neocolonialism, the importance of revaluing care work, and re-working the relations of production both in the workplace and home to overcome hierarchies and exploitation. We also discussed the role of money, alternative community currencies and alternative forms of economy like gift economies and cooperatives.
Given Singapore’s position as a small city-state that is reliant on the international financial services sector, international trade (both as an economic sector and for import of food, since more than 90% of the food consumed in Singapore is imported), and which has a high population density, as well as a dominant state, questions were raised about how degrowth principles could be enacted in Singapore. We did not have much time to discuss further, but hopefully this will be the beginning of a community in Singapore which will continue to explore and imagine degrowth futures together.
We held a lively meeting that gathered 56 people from all over Latin America (in Spanish). We had a short introduction to the topic by Alberto Acosta, who framed the basic principles and diagnosis of degrowth and how it makes sense (or not) for the context of our region. We also exchanged different areas of activism, research and debate that we and our communities have been working on, and how we thought we could enrich these through a dialogue with degrowth. Some of us had worked with the idea of degrowth for a while, while for others, it was an introductory session.
We expect to keep this space as an open forum to meet once a month and move towards more concrete forms of action, learning, networking and collaboration. If you want to join this space please email Gabriela at email@example.com
Here in Australia interest in degrowth is growing. All my activities were conducted via Zoom. I participated in a 90 minute pre-Global Degrowth Day — on World Bicycle Day (3 June) — event organised by NENA — talking and discussing degrowth. The next day I gave a guest lecture on degrowth for the alternative Marrickville School of Economics again engaging with participants (2 hour event). Finally, at 7pm on Global Degrowth Day and 11am CEST Vincent Liegey and I went into conversation in a 90 minute event on our forthcoming Pluto Press book Exploring Degrowth: A Critical Guide.
Warsaw degrowth group
Here in Warsaw we attended the #blacklivesmatter demonstration in front of the US embassy and afterwards had a lovely picnic and chat. We met like last year in the community garden Motyka i Słońce and were really happy to meet in person even if only a small group. Among others we were discussing the book How Forests Think, as a way of thinking of ourselves as back inside the living environment and also about astronomical events that shape our calendars. We plan to meet again this June.
Budapest degrowth group
The COVID-19 pandemic never seriously touched Hungary. So the restrictions started to be lowered in May. We finally decided to organize something convivial but safe. What is better than bike riding and gardening (of course, whilst keeping our distance from each other)?
Some of us first participated in the online conversation with Anitra Nelson and Vincent Liegey on their forthcoming book Exploring Degrowth: a Critical Guide (Pluto Press, August 2020). After, we had a nice ride by bike along the Danube from Budapest to Szentendre and finally up in the hills to the Rengeteg Dómőrkapu (30 km). Some friends joined directly there. We cooked organic vegetables from our farm partner, Zsámboki Biokert, in the traditional Hungarian Bogrács. Of course we brought everything by cargobike. Some stayed and slept during the night in the forest, also enjoying a nice walk in the morning in the canyon.
We originally planned to organize there, in this wonderful valley, where a cultural center was open in an old mine, the second edition of a Degrowth Festival. We finally had to postpone it to September. But we nevertheless enjoyed the opportunity to meet with our friends there and feel the great atmosphere in this natural place, while swimming in the river or sleeping in the forest.
On the following day, we had a participatory gardening event at our urban agroforestry garden in Zuglo (in the suburbs of Budapest). We finally could collectively plant young old varieties of fruit trees, generously offered by our partner Greendependent (also co-organizers of the 6th International Degrowth Conference) and we also constructed a tipi for malabar spinach.
Throughout the weekend, it was such a great pleasure to feel the conviviality, to finally log out of Jitsi, Zoom, and other dystopic tools, and to enjoy direct human relationships while riding bicycles and connecting to nature.
Last but not least, as degrowth is also, and maybe primarily, about social and environmental justice and rejects any kind of violence, some of us joined the “Solidarity against racism” demonstration in front of the Budapest US Embassy. It turned out to be one of the biggest gatherings in Europe. Wow, also great emotions there! Pictures here.
Kassel degrowth group
In Kassel there was a live event in the central square „Opernplatz“. Together with the groups Attac, AG Bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen (unconditional basic income group), ARIWA (animal rights), Duola (cargobike initiative), Essbare Stadt (edible city), Fairändern (fair change), Foodsharing, Friedensforum (peace forum), Greenpeace, Gemeinwohökonomie (economy for the common good), Mehr Demokratie (more democracy), Seebrücke (safe harbours for refugees), Umwelthaus Kassel (environmental centre) and XR we made our requests and ideas visible. We also presented some sketches and speeches (see pictures here).
The Global Degrowth Day was a great initiative, giving us an opportunity to meet friends around a Discord-Brunch. We were 4 friends talking about our project to improve our world with Good Advertising, with the feeling we are not alone working for the good, but part of a current.
Lisbon degrowth group
The Lisbon hub of the Portuguese Degrowth Network (Rede para o Decrescimento) organized a hiking tour in collaboration with a local initiative (Movimento Preservar a Serra de Carnaxide) that aims to preserve the natural area of ‘Serra de Carnaxide’ which is currently threatened by several ongoing or planned real estate and urban development projects. The hike started in the heart of the old town of Carnaxide (Oeiras township) following the path of the underground aqueduct that used to bring water to its inhabitants. The path took the ca. 35 hikers uphill into a forested area on the southern slope of ‘Serra de Carnaxide’ with a mix of endemic and exotic trees. We then headed to the top of the hill through a bushland area with a rich mix of spontaneous Mediterranean plants (small trees, bushes and herbs). At the top we admired the magnificent southward views towards Lisbon, the Tagus estuary, the Oeiras coast and the south bank, with Arrábida and Espichel cape in the background. As we crossed the border between the Oeiras and Amadora townships, we entered the construction site of an upmarket real estate project (SkyCity), which is being built right at the top of the hill and has already destroyed a significant area of the natural vegetation, but was licensed by the Amadora township. We headed back down the southern slope of the hill towards a small pine wood where we rested and had a picnic. We took the occasion to present the organizing movements and their main aims, followed by a short round of conversation among the hikers. Pictures here.
Porto degrowth group
The Porto degrowth group organised a walk along the riverbank of Gaia, Porto’s sister-city. It was the first time that a few of the attendants were in town after the confinement period. With 17 people, some children and a dog, we walked for a few hours, enjoying the views, sharing degrowth and organizing experiences, and discussing plans for more spaces and practices of urban agriculture, and for proper cycling networks in the Porto Metropolitan Area. Later in the day, some watched together the Planet of the Humans documentary, while others joined the demonstrations against racism, and against a profit-driven economy. Some pictures here.
Our event went very well. 24 participants joined a nice bike tour immersed in nature with some experts who provided many interesting facts about the plants and trees of our area. Everyone was satisfied with the serenity and the community that has been created.
Venice degrowth groups
On June 6th the two Venice degrowth groups met at the little country restaurant “La Botteghetta” in Salzano, near Venice, to hear the “zero waste” experience of Eleonora Marchesan, who shared her story of trying to reduce as much as possible her home waste, reusing, recycling, and avoiding disposable objects. She is also trying to increase her self production of food and vegetables, and invited all the attendees to take part in her Facebook group where advice and experiences can be shared.
Following that, we connected with the national degrowth movement which had arranged a web conference with professor Carlo Maurizio Modonesi, who spoke about the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of biodiversity.
The afternoon ended with a little buffet offered by the restaurant, which has often in the past hosted degrowth meetings and events for free. The meeting was attended by around 20 people and was an interesting mixture of scientific theory and good practice.
Italian degrowth groups
Eight groups of Movimento per la Decrescita Felice and Associazione per la Decrescita had some convivial events and open air picnics (Torino, Rome, Padoa, Venice, Brescia, Cuneo, etc.) before connecting to a webinar organized with Carlo Modenesi (biologist) on the socio-ecological causes of the pandemic (around 80 people). Pictures here and here.