Towards an urban degrowth: Habitability, finity and polycentric autonomism

Abstract: Over the last decade, degrowth has offered a concrete alternative to eco-modernization, projecting a society emancipated from the environmentally destructive imperative of competition and consumption. Urban development is the motor of economic growth; cities are therefore prime sites of intervention for degrowth activists. Nevertheless, the planning processes that drive urban development have yet to be questioned from a degrowth perspective. To clear a path for a degrowth urban agenda, this paper rethinks the institutions governing urban development in growth-dependent contemporary economies. It starts by problematizing the regional territorialization of economic competition, ideology of land scarcity, and institution of zoned property rights, which together make urban development an engine of growth. It then outlines three transitions toward urban degrowth, arguing for a regional imaginary of polycentric autonomism, a paradigm of finity in development, and care for habitability as principle of spatial organization.

Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, January 2021

Apologists for growth: passive revolutionaries in a passive revolution

Popular authors and international organizations recommend transformation to a ‘new economy’. However, this is misleadingly interpreted as radical or revolutionary. Two problematic positions are revealed: being pro-growth while seeking to change the current form of capitalism (e.g. Ha-Joon Chang), and being anti-growth on environmental grounds but promoting growth for poverty alleviation and due to agnosticism about growth (e.g. Tim Jackson and Kate Raworth). Both positions involve contradictions and an evident failure to address, or perhaps even a denial of, the actual operations of capital accumulating economies. Thus, economists ostensibly critical of capitalism turn out to be apologists for growth who conform to the requirements of a top-down passive revolution, that leaves power relations undisturbed and the economic structure fundamentally unchanged. The growth economy is shown to include technocracy, productivism associated with eugenics, inequity disguised as meritocracy, competition concealing militarism and imperialism, imposition of development as progress, and financialization and commodification of Nature.

Globalizations, October 2020

RAVEN DeBriefs: A Podcast – COVID Capitalism: The Case Against Coastal Gas Link with Caily DiPuma

RAVEN DeBriefs are conversations between Indigenous thinkers, legal experts, organizers and community leaders exploring the shifting legal landscape upon which moments of crisis — and opportunity — are built.

Season 1, Episode 4 – COVID Capitalism: The Case Against Coastal Gas Link with Caily DiPuma:

Find out how Wet’suwet’en Nation are pushing back against fracked gas with a legal challenge calling out Coastal Gas Link for failing to care for the Indigenous People in whose territory they operate.

(Excerpts from Raven’s website.)

The stories Michael Shellenberger tells

“Men in power have rationalized all those forms of domination by claiming that they facilitate economic development, which is purportedly great for people and nature. Sound familiar?”

The degrowth side of post-development (and vice versa)

Although it’s been over 20 years since the first edition of “Development Dictionary” (Sachs, 1992), which marks the beginning of the debate on the end of the era of development and the transition to the age of post-development, and about 15 years since the emergence of the degrowth discourse as an activist slogan (Demaria et al, 2013), and despite the many similarities shared by the two discourses, the dialogue between them is still quite limited. The present paper attempts to shortly overview this (very) recent discussion.
The aforementioned common elements identified in the existing literature are summarized below: a critique on the development paradigm and in general on the economic representations constructed by the theory of homo economicus, aiming at the disengagement from them, an emphasis on ecology and social justice, the support of local autonomy, the academic orientation and the risk of co-optation (Escobar,2015, Latouche,2010). Despite their common elements, the examination of the relevant literature also highlights the differences between the two discourses concerning the range of transformative policies that they address and their relationship with the State, their dissemination practices, their relationship with the movements, and finally the extent to which they criticize scientific knowledge and modernism (Escobar, 2015, Ziai, 2014). The aim of this article is to investigate the above arguments concerning the convergences and divergences of the two discourses, and if possible to expand these arguments.

Degrowth Vienna 2020 – Book launch: Degrowth in Movement(s)

Special session

Degrowth as an emerging social movement overlaps with radical activism for systemic change such as anti-globalization and climate justice, commons and transition towns, basic income and Buen Vivir. The book “Degrowth in Movement(s). Exploring Pathways for Transformation” (Zer0 books, June 2020) reflects on the current situation of social movements and their relationship to degrowth. In this book launch, we present the book and critically discuss its key results with 2 authors and a commentator.

Presenters: Nina Treu (Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie), Matthias Schmelzer (Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie / University of Jena), Tadzio Müller (Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation), Julianna Fehlinger (ÖBV / Via Campesina Austria), Brototi Roy (tbc) (Research & Degrowth / Degrowth India)

Language: English with translation to German

Technical details: SP A5_Bookpresentation- Degrowth in movements.webm, WebM video, 233.1MB

This is a link to a torrent video file. By clicking on ‘external content’ you will be opening a magnet link that will allow you to download the corresponding video with a torrent client. To learn more about downloading torrents see here.

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Pluriverso: Cómo articulamos diferentes alternativas al desarrollo?

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Martes por Federico Demaria: “Pluriverso: ¿Cómo articulamos diferentes alternativas al desarrollo?”

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – The destruction of vernacular resources and know-how by industrial technoscientific development: a French perspective

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Martes por Daniel Cerezuelle: “La destrucción de los recursos y conocimientos técnicos vernáculos por el desarrollo industrial y tecnocientífico, una perspectiva francesa.”

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Decrecimiento o aceleración?

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Martes por Humberto Beck: “¿Decrecimiento o aceleración? Miradas críticas sobre los modelos de desarrollo dominantes, luchas ecoterritoriales e imaginarios alternativos”

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Críticas al desarrollo en tiempos del Antropoceno: enfocues relacionales e imaginarios alternativos desde el Sur

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Martes por Maristella Svampa: “Críticas al desarrollo en tiempos del Antropoceno: enfocues relacionales e imaginarios alternativos desde el Sur”

Degrowth in Movement(s): Exploring Pathways for Transformation

A dictionary of social movements and alternatives for a future beyond economic growth, capitalism, and more

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Alternative territorialities for black peoples in Colombia: a reading of the post-development approach

Esta presentación explica el concepto de ‘territorio’ de las comunidades negras del Pacífico colombiano y su interpretación judicial como alternative descolonizadora del modelo de desarrollo.

Rivers of empire : water, aridity, and the growth of the American West

The American West, blessed with an abundance of earth and sky but cursed with a scarcity of life’s most fundamental need, has long dreamed of harnessing all its rivers to produce unlimited wealth and power. In Rivers of Empire, award-winning historian Donald Worster tells the story of this dream and its outcome. He shows how, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, Mormons were the first attempting to make that dream a reality, damming and diverting rivers to irrigate their land. He follows this intriguing history through the 1930s, when the federal government built hundreds of dams on every major western river, thereby laying the foundation for the cities and farms, money and power of today’s West. Yet while these cities have become paradigms of modern American urban centers, and the farms successful high-tech enterprises, Worster reminds us that the costs have been extremely high. Along with the wealth has come massive ecological damage, a redistribution of power to bureaucratic and economic elites, and a class conflict still on the upswing. As a result, the future of this “hydraulic West” is increasingly uncertain, as water continues to be a scarce resource, inadequate to the demand, and declining in quality.

Rivers of Empire represents a radically new vision of the American West and its historical significance. Showing how ecological change is inextricably intertwined with social evolution, and reevaluating the old mythic and celebratory approach to the development of the West, Worster offers the most probing, critical analysis of the region to date. He shows how the vast region encompassing our western states, while founded essentially as colonies, have since become the true seat of the American “Empire.” How this imperial West rose out of desert, how it altered the course of nature there, and what it has meant for Thoreau’s (and our own) mythic search for freedom and the American Dream, are the central themes of this eloquent and thought-provoking story–a story that begins and ends with water.

Lessons for blue degrowth from Namibia’s emerging blue economy

Globally there has been recognition that there is little consensus attributed to the definition of the blue economy. However, despite this acknowledgement, the blue economy is championed for its development potential by the African Union and subsequently, several African states. Having formalised the agenda in its fifth National Development Plan Namibia is working to implement a governance and management framework to “sustainably maximise benefits from marine resources” by 2020 (Republic of Namibia in Namibia’s 5th National Development Plan (NDP5) 2017resssfdsq). Concurrently, new entrants, such as marine mineral mining projects, have emerged in recognition of the potential offered within the state’s Exclusive Economic Zone. This article argues that the uptake of the blue economy is shaped by multiple, and often conflicting, interests. The emergence of the agenda is not apolitical, nor has it been established in isolation from exogenous actors and interests. Subsequently, this article suggests that the critique of the emerging blue economy should be applied to discussions of a blue degrowth movement, to avoid transposing a new agenda over another. As demonstrated with reference to Namibia, contextual and historical issues need to be recognised by degrowth discussions, and their inherent and continued structural effects analysed. This is of particular importance when considering whose voices are represented or excluded by such agendas, complicated by the (geo)physical characteristics of the marine sphere.

Sustainability Science, vol. 15, 2020

‘Re-grabbing’ marine resources: a blue degrowth agenda for the resurgence of small-scale fisheries in Malta

The era of blue growth, underpinned by neoliberal policy discourses, has been pervasive in the promulgation of European marine governance and policies in the past decade, with little or no regard for the sustainability of small-scale fisheries. In this paper, we engage with theoretical and empirical observations to reflect on how the promise of sustainable economic growth arising from the convergence of international conservation policies and the blue growth paradigm, has failed to materialise and caused huge social and economic inequities among local fishing communities and the catastrophic disruption of the socio-ecological system of fisheries. Drawing on various interventions in Malta, we illustrate how neoliberal policies, lauded and promoted as part of a national blue growth strategy, are suffocating and marginalising small-scale fishing communities by concentrating fishing opportunities into fewer, larger corporate hands, and by a hegemonic anti-small scale fishing narrative that seeks to replace traditional fishing with the ‘darlings of the new blue economy’, aquaculture and coastal tourism. With artisanal-commercial fishing in Malta on the verge of extinction, we call for reversal of neo-liberal policy measures to re-create a more resilient and stable fisheries economy through specific blue degrowth measures including improved access to fisheries resources and markets, and the establishment of marine protected areas that recognize the value of small-scale fisheries to conservation. This could be achieved through equity-based governance systems, including improved profit distribution systems within community economies, that grant small-scale fisheries the possibility of re-institutionalizing their sector and promoting their existence and viability into the future. Ultimately, we demonstrate that through a blue economy roadmap for small-scale fisheries, small-islands states like Malta, can rescue an important component of their maritime traditions, and be better placed to reach the obligations set out within the United Nations sustainable development goals.

Sustainability Science, vol. 15, 2020