How to construct the alternative to capitalism? Discovering the commons in the environmental justice movements

Environmental justice movements are taking place at an ever accelerating rate through out the world. Through mobilization of people with diverse societal backgrounds, race, ethnicity, age, gender and income levels, they not only challenge the existing state-society-economy spectrum but also contain important clues about an alternative to capitalism. As crisis vocabulary has become a chronic part of today’s neoliberal world, an alternative to capitalism is sought by many. Since environmental justice movements are one of the most widespread counter-hegemonic movements, and that they counter capital by their nature, understanding the demands of the participants might shed a light on an alternative world design. All in all, only an alternative design which addresses and understands the demands of the people challenging the current system can offer a true alternative to it. Accordingly, this article aims to find out what originates from community based environmental justice movements in the South about an alternative world design. It aspires to empower the link between the de-growth paradigm and the grassroots community demands. It comparatively evaluates the protestors’ demands, and visions about an alternative world design in two environmental justice movements, Bergama and Artvin protests.

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.

Synergies between the degrowth movement and the global ecovillage network

The primary question of this analysis relates to specific key issues fostering actual and potential synergies between the degrowth and the ecovillage movement. As analysis frame, first some distinctive perspectives around de-growth are introduced on the basis of interviews with experts of the Global South and the Global North. More than reinforcing the criticism of growth societies and conceiving new strategies for degrowth, the focus is set on the key issue of conviviality between alternative world-views attempting the transformation towards sustainable societies. In which way can the debate of European degrowth be considered the other side of the debate about Latin American post-extractivism?

Secondly, the bridges of collaboration created between intentional communities by the global ecovillage network are studied by selected Good-Practice examples on both sides of the Atlantic. One key issue investigated here are practices and experiences of self-empowerment. A particular focus will be given to processes of self-empowerment based on community building concepts and methods developed by intentional communities. In which way can these specific processes of self-empowerment contribute to the degrowth movement?

Thirdly, another key issue to be considered relates to combining different patterns of knowledge as scientific and activist knowledge. How can scientists and activists nurture each other’s field of experience and knowledge unifying their efforts to support the degrowth and ecovillage movement? A final prospect will address the new qualities that the degrowth and the ecovillage movement offer in the transformation process towards diverse sustainable futures.

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Austeridad y convivencia: hacia una comprensión sensible del decrecimiento en América Latina

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Miércoles por David Barkin: “Austeridad y convivencia – Hacia una comprensión sensible del decrecimiento en América Latina”

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Culturas, entre Norte y Sur Global: reflexiones sistémicas hacia una transición socio-económica

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Miércoles por Silvio Cristiano: “Culturas, entre Norte y Sur Global. Reflexiones sistémicas hacia una transición socio-económica”

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”

Ecological economics and degrowth: Proposing a future research agenda from the margins

Research by ecological economists on degrowth is a flourishing field. Existing research has focused on limits to (green) growth and on economic alternatives for prospering without growth. Future research, we argue here, should pay more attention to, and be written, from the “margins” – that is from the point of view of those marginalized in the growth economy. We conduct a comprehensive systematic review of the prevalent themes in the existing literature on the ecological economics of degrowth, and its engagements with North-South relations and gender issues. The analysis identifies seven research areas where ecological economics can better integrate these matters, namely: the study of post-growth policies for the Global South; the unequal exchanges that sustain an imperial mode of living; the deconstruction of ecological economic concepts that reproduce problematic Western or gendered assumptions; the study of the clash of metabolisms in peripheries of the Global South; the metabolism of care-work in growth economies; the leading role of women in ecological distribution conflicts, and the reproduction of gender inequalities in alternative post-growth spaces. We propose that ecological economics should welcome more contributions from critical feminist scholarship and scholars from the Global South.

Ecological Economics, Volume 169, March 2020

Degrowth and critical agrarian studies

Abstract: Degrowth refers to a radical politico-economic reorganisation that leads to smaller and more equitable social metabolisms. Degrowth posits that such a transition is indispensable but also desirable. However, the conditions of its realisation require more research. This article argues that critical agrarian studies (CAS) and degrowth can enrich each other. The Agrarian Question and the Growth Question should be addressed in concert. While degrowth should not fall into the ‘agrarian myth’, CAS should not embrace the ‘myth of growth’, even when green and socialist. Ideas of one philosopher and four agrarian economists are presented, with illustrations from Bhutan, Cuba and North America, hoping to offer a preliminary research agenda for ‘agrarian degrowth’.

The Journal of Peasant Studies, Volume 47 (Issue 2), January 2020, pp. 235-264

Unlearning: From Degrowth to Decolonization

In Unlearning: From Degrowth to Decolonization, Jamie Tyberg makes a timely intervention into the degrowth discussions, reorienting degrowth as a means to an end, that end being decolonization. Through the lens of the Green New Deal, and later the Red Deal, Tyberg ties together theory and real life examples highlighting how degrowth is, can, and must be, part of the post-COVID-19 response. Both an overview and review of the degrowth literature and an analysis of how degrowth can be utilized critically, Tyberg instructs us how we can use degrowth principles to strive and push for a true decolonized future, one we need to achieve.

(Abstract by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung)

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – On degrowth in the South: The Case of India

A thorough and detailed overview of the socioeconomic situation in India and the extent to which the Degrowth discourse can be extended in countries beyond the Global North. The speaker explores the aftermath of the neoliberalization of India: from GDP and billionaires growth to the extreme wealth gap alongside increasing inequality, unemployment, extreme air pollution, fossil fuels consumption, waste, diseases alongside social plagues such as dispossession and displacement. However, it also shows how everything is not happening unquestioned: social and environmental movements are operating themselves to have a voice in the crowd and they represent the alternative to what looks like a set path everywhere in the world, the westernized neoliberal growth fetish. Still the degrowth discourse must be careful and not reduce the issue to that same fetish alone, neglecting imperialism, extreme poverty and denied basic needs.

Debt, plunder and degrowth

“Debt is essential to the development of capitalism, it forces to produce more and more for foreign markets. Debt is an accelerator of extractivism at the base of capitalist accumulation and a means to appropriate the economic growth of other countries: those in the periphery.”


Is the degrowth debate relevant to China?


In industrialized countries, the idea of degrowth has emerged as a response to environmental, social, and economic crises. Realizing environmental limits to and failures of more than half a century of continual economic growth in terms of social progress and environmental sustainability, the degrowth paradigm calls for a downscaling of consumption and production for social equity and ecological sustainability. The call for economic degrowth is generally considered to be delimited to rich countries, where reduced consumption can save “ecological space” enabling people in poor countries to enjoy the benefits of economic growth. China, as one of the economically most expanding countries in the world, has dramatically improved its living standards, particularly along the Eastern coast, over the latest 30 years. However, China is absent from the international debates on growth. This article discusses the implications of the Western degrowth debates for China. Given the distinctive features of China’s development, the paper aims to enrich the degrowth debates, which have hitherto been dominated by Western perspectives. Based upon reflections on social, environmental, and moral dimensions of economic growth, the paper argues that limited natural resources may not continuously support universal affluence at the current level of the rich countries, a level that China is likely to reach within a few decades. Priority for growth in China should therefore be given to the poor regions of the country, and future growth should be beneficial to social and environmental development.


Economic growth, Degrowth debates, China, Environmental sustainability, Social equity, Morality 

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Ecotecnologías: ¿es una respuesta viable a la vulnerabilidad de la vivienda en Guanajuato?

El principal hallazgo muestra que la viabilidad de las ecotecnologías está correlacionada con la diversidad ecológica, cultural y social de los municipios. Asimismo, su adopción social se fortalece con procesos participativos con perspectiva de género y educación ambiental con base en la mezcla de conocimiento técnico y el conocimiento vernáculo.

¿Tecnociencia para el bienestar o para el capital?

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Suitable Bioenergy options in the South

Suitable Bioenergy options in the South; Traditional vs High-Tech: A case study in Nigeria.

This presentation aims to identify actions that are applicable in developed countries but are not applicable in the countries of the South. It highlights the importance of technology transfer and policy support to promote technology dissemination.