Degrowth Vienna 2020 – Dépense as a degrowth strategy

Presentation [part of the standard session “Limits, Ethics, Unsustainability and Change“]

This presentation will discuss the usefulness of both the concept and the practice of dépense for the degrowth project, and will make suggestions on how to frame proposals based on it for the purposes of informing a transition to a degrowth society.

Presenters: Oxana Lopatina (Autonomous University of Barcelona)

Language: English with German translation

Technical details: Standard A5_Oxana Lopatina_Dépense as a degrowth strategy.mp4, MPEG-4 video, 41.0MB

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Degrowth Vienna 2020 – Connecting degrowth to Epicurean hedonism: pleasure as a political ethics of limits

Presentation [part of the standard session “Limits, Ethics, Unsustainability and Change“]

The session will explore the relations between Epicurean hedonism and degrowth, showing how such connection has the potential to enrich and refine degrowth transformative proposal of a frugal society based on shared simple pleasures, relational goods and friendship, leisure, idleness and dépense.

Presenters: Roberto Sciarelli (Centre for Social Studies – University of Coimbra)

Language: English with German translation

Technical details: Standard A5_Roberto SCIARELLI_Connecting degrowth to Epicurean hedonism_ pleasure as a political ethics of limits.mp4, MPEG-4 video, 44.0MB

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.

Degrowth Vienna 2020 – Limits, Ethics, Unsustainability and Change

Standard session (discussion following 4 presentations)

  1. The Awesome Life: Why Degrowthers Need to Talk about the Feeling of Entropy – video
    Critical views of consumerism are widely shared among degrowthers. However, there is a risk of overlooking a particular affective dimension of consumption: the ‘entropic feeling’. The latter is triggered when we surpass the biophysical limits of our human body and come to enjoy the pleasures of dense energy, e.g. when we drive cars or drink coffee. Taking a critical and re-constructive stance towards what we call the ‘awesome life’ might increase the affective and strategic capacity of degrowth.
    Presenters: Michael Deflorian, Karoline Kalke
  2. Connecting degrowth to Epicurean hedonism: pleasure as a political ethics of limits – video
    The session will explore the relations between Epicurean hedonism and degrowth, showing how such connection has the potential to enrich and refine degrowth transformative proposal of a frugal society based on shared simple pleasures, relational goods and friendship, leisure, idleness and dépense.
    Presenters: Roberto Sciarelli
  3. Cosmologies of Growth and Degrowth
    Growth cannot be unseated as a paramount goal without wrestling with its cosmological foundations, the way that fantasies of continuous expansion are woven into the narratives and myths that organize modern life. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork in India, I sketch an alternative cosmology of degrowth, one that roots the possibility of a livable future in the truth of impermanence. Decay is an essential principle of ecological livelihood, a way to cultivate awareness of our human finitude.
    Presenters: Anand Pandian
  4. Dépense as a degrowth strategy – video
    This presentation will discuss the usefulness of both the concept and the practice of dépense for the degrowth project, and will make suggestions on how to frame proposals based on it for the purposes of informing a transition to a degrowth society.
    Presenters: Oxana Lopatina

Language: English with translation to German

Technical details: Standard A5_Limits, Ethics, Unsustainability and Change_trimmed.mp4, MPEG-4 video, 441.7MB

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 – 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 – Managing degrowth: is this an oxymoron?

“Maybe it’s not by foresight and manipulation of a means of organizing, to institutionalize substantive values that a convivial degrowth society may be nourished.”

The Conservation Revolution: Radical Ideas for Saving Nature Beyond the Anthropocene

A post-capitalist manifesto for conservation

Conservation needs a revolution. This is the only way it can contribute to the drastic transformations needed to come to a truly sustainable model of development. The good news is that conservation is ready for revolution. Heated debates about the rise of the Anthropocene and the current ‘sixth extinction’ crisis demonstrate an urgent need and desire to move beyond mainstream approaches. Yet the conservation community is deeply divided over where to go from here. Some want to place ‘half earth’ into protected areas. Others want to move away from parks to focus on unexpected and ‘new’ natures. Many believe conservation requires full integration into capitalist production processes.

Building a razor-sharp critique of current conservation proposals and their contradictions, Büscher and Fletcher argue that the Anthropocene challenge demands something bigger, better and bolder. Something truly revolutionary. They propose convivial conservation as the way forward. This approach goes beyond protected areas and faith in markets to incorporate the needs of humans and nonhumans within integrated and just landscapes. Theoretically astute and practically relevant, The Conservation Revolution offers a manifesto for conservation in the twenty-first century — a clarion call that cannot be ignored.

Is less more… or is more less? Scaling the political ecologies of the future

Imagining progressive environmental futures, especially among critical scholars, can be a fraught enterprise. While some theorists and activists turn towards the social emancipatory power of modern technological interventions at scale, others point to the revolutionary power of degrowth, simplicity, and conviviality. These competing political geographical imaginaries are often strident in their response to one another, though they share core materialist commitments. This essay reviews these contrasting approaches in light of the tradition of political ecology, within the context of an Earth economy that is trending towards higher levels of energy and lower levels of human labor, weighing the degree to which the work and conclusions of political ecologists are congruent with either perspective, neither perspective, or both. The conclusions suggest that, while these two traditions have inverse, or at least orthogonal, views of economic scale, they may not be beyond compromise. Socialist modernism and degrowth sprouted from the same seed, share a political ecological tradition, and may indeed require one another. Eschewing both utopian and dystopian aspirations may open the door to progressive reconciliation and action.

Political Geography, May 2019

The nowtopia of the riverbank: Elder environmental activism

Abstract: Degrowth imaginaries offer alternative ways of envisioning future societies. Those, predominantly working age and working class people, seeking to purposefully enact degrowth in the here and now are termed ‘nowtopians’. Based on empirical work undertaken along the River Adur valley in West Sussex, UK, this paper argues that dynamic examples of nowtopian initiatives can develop from alternative and overlooked demographics, such as rural community elders. Explored through a series of interlinking activist narratives, orientated around collective responses to changing riverbank environments, this paper argues that the genesis of this elder activism is a desire to re-assert agency in older age that can be linked to degrowth sensibilities. Contending with the new realities of living under ‘austerity localism’, many of these elders have undergone a personal, if not political, epiphany and have turned to forms of environmental activism to articulate their agency and demonstrate solidarity with fellow humans across generations. This paper argues that these elder nowtopians champion direct action, conviviality and living well. Ageing and place connectivity are the motivators which underpin one of the key nowtopian concepts: ‘redefining life’s purpose’. Reflecting back, projecting forward, but operating in the ‘now’, these elders help us to consider a ‘politics’ of degrowth through grassroots activism along a rural river catchment.

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, August 2019

Building new foundations: the future of education from a degrowth perspective

Abstract: Considering education in the context of making and unmaking sustainable futures, a growing relevance is attributed to the role of shared beliefs or mental infrastructures which shape the way people perceive crises and solutions. The currently dominant capitalist economic paradigm is seen as one such powerful belief that generates imaginaries which cannot accommodate sustainable futures. At the same time, in educational practice, social movements, and academic discussion, the perspective of degrowth has gained attention as an approach which challenges this paradigm. In this article, we address the role of education in processes of socioecological transformation in the context of degrowth. We do this from a perspective of practice, linking our experiences in non-formal education to academic discussions on education and sustainability. The aim of this article is to contribute to a pedagogy of degrowth as one path within a complex search for ways to imagine and support sustainable futures, which address root causes of the current crises. Analysing these crises as crises of conviviality, resulting from imperial modes of living and producing, we sketch the framework for sustainable futures marked by world relations of interconnectedness and solidarity. Relating a theory of transformative learning to a critical-emancipatory understanding of education, we propose two interlinked aspects for pedagogy of degrowth: creating spaces for reflection and emphasizing the political in educational settings. We discuss our practical experience as learning facilitators in non-formal educational contexts. As a cross-cutting challenge, we will touch upon the role of strengthening psychological resources in education for a degrowth society.

Sustainability Science, Volume 14, Issue 47, May 2019, pp. 1-11

The Paradox of Sustainable Degrowth and a Convivial Alternative

Abstract: Insofar as development implies economic growth, the term ‘sustainable development’ appears to some as a contradiction in terms. However, such conclusions still lack a thorough examination of the conceptual structure of the two terms between which there is a purported contradiction. In order to address this issue, the present paper scrutinises some of the assumptions which underwrite the ideologies of sustainability and of development. It is argued that there are key assumptions which both ideas have in common, and that sustainable development is thus perfectly coherent on a conceptual level. It is alternatives which retain either term (such as ‘sustainable degrowth’) that are embroiled in paradox. The paper then examines two concepts for criticising the ideology of economic growth in other terms: dépense and conviviality. It is argued that the latter is preferable to the former for the purpose of developing post-sustainable critiques of growth.

Environmental Values, Volume 28, Number 2, April 2019, pp. 233-251(19)

Sharing, togetherness and intentional degrowth

Abstract: This article proposes a social phenomenology of intentional sharing and togetherness from a degrowth perspective: extending human relations instead of market relations; deepening democracy; defending ecosystems; and realizing a more equal global distribution of wealth. Social phenomenology looks beyond individual mutual exchange to the rich but fragile social construction of collectively negotiated ethical purpose. Intentional communities of cohousing are identified as part of a solution to dismantle privatized, conspicuous consumption. This approach challenges the tendency in popular sharing economy discourse to conflate different types of togetherness, highlighting instead the social significance of skilful cooperation and conviviality in groups and associations.

Reclaiming sustainable space – A study of degrowth activists

Abstract: While degrowth debates typically encompass abstract ecological and economic arguments against growth, our study considers how degrowth-minded activism becomes interwoven with the production and consumption of space and place. Drawing illustrative insights from an ethnographic study in the city of Seville, our findings reveal a configuration of practices (accessibility, self-organisation, reproduction and conviviality) through which degrowth-minded activism infuses urban life with noncapitalist processes and logics. Consequently, our work contributes to a paucity of studies theorising the production/consumption of space in relation to broader processes of capitalist development. In doing so, we also promote a more humane consideration of the spatial dimensions through which more equitable ways of living are constituted.

Agriculture and degrowth: State of the art and assessment of organic and biotech-based agriculture from a degrowth perspective

Abstract: Agriculture stands as the foundation of modern human societies. Any changes in social functioning should seriously consider how to guarantee people a proper supply of food, in terms of both quantity and quality. Degrowth is a movement that aims at achieving a radical change in the societal metabolism of societies, toward a more frugal, sustainable and convivial lifestyle. The movement envisages a society where concepts as sharing, conviviality, care, commons, justice could stand at its foundation, and replace the call for economic growth, which is, obviously, biophysically unsustainable. This paper aims to (1) review how agriculture has been addressed within the degrowth discourse, (2) analyse the relation between agriculture and societal metabolism and its relevance from a degrowth perspective, (3) discuss how different agricultural techniques and technologies may represent appropriate technologies (sensu Schumacher, 1973), and meet the call for conviviality (sensu Illich, 1975). The latter point focusses on a comparison between organic agriculture (OA, which bans the use of agrochemicals and Genetically Modified Organisms – GMOs) and biotech-based agriculture (BTA, reliant on GMOs). The paper points out that although many relevant socioeconomic, political and environmental issues have been addressed by degrowth scholars, agriculture is still poorly analysed. Recommendations are made with regard to studying possible alternative transition paths, by assessing their impact on society’s structure and functioning. It is argued that “conviviality” and “appropriate technology” concepts are rather complex and multifaceted. Therefore, different practices might be considered convivial and appropriate under some criteria, and not under others. With regard to conviviality, organic agriculture might not fully respond to the call for autonomy. Notwithstanding claims made by GMOs supporters, BTA does neither suit the call for appropriate technology, nor represent a convivial tool under any criteria.

A response to the paper by Bartosz Bartkowski: “Degrowth, organic agriculture and GMOs: A reply to Gomiero“.

It’s not (all) about efficiency: Powering and organizing technology from a degrowth perspective

Abstract: Transgressions of ecological boundaries and increasing social inequality question the paradigm of continual economic growth guided by technological efficiency – often cited as the only solution to these crises. This paper develops a critical and diversified viewpoint on technology for degrowth. ‘Classical perspectives’ of Illich’s convivial society, Elull’s critique of technique, Mumford’s tools and machines, and Schumacher’s critique of gigantic techno-infrastructures are explored and combined with Arendt’s instrumentality of technologies and Marxist perspectives on ownership. Two questions are posed regarding technology. First, which technologies are ‘suitable’ for a degrowth context? Previous frameworks by Illich and Schumacher are extended by ecological aspects to assess the suitability of technologies. Second, how should ‘suitable’ technologies be structured to enable egalitarian utilization? Here, Schumacher’s “intermediate technologies” and ownership are central elements. The frameworks and analysis add value for degrowth activists and bridge the gap scientifically between Marxist views and those of degrowth. In conclusion, technologies in degrowth are suitable if they reduce ecological impact, enhance autonomy and conviviality, and are structurally available in an egalitarian way based on open-access regimes. In the discussion further research questions are posed regarding transforming agents and power relations between grassroots and the state. Limitations of the framework include the role of digital technologies for communication, here treated as electric tools, and the focus on industrialized societies.

The Matrix of Convivial Technology?Assessing technologies for degrowth

Abstract: This article introduces the notion of convivial technology as a conceptual framework for technologies suitable for degrowth societies. This paper is inspired by Ivan Illich’s notion of convivial tools but reconsiders it in the light of current practices and discussions. Looking for a definition of convivial technologies it uses qualitative empirical research conducted with degrowth-oriented groups developing or adapting grassroots technologies like Open Source cargo bikes or composting toilets in Germany. The basic ethical values and design criteria that guide these different groups in relation to technology are summed up into five dimensions: relatedness, adaptability, accessibility, bio-interaction and appropriateness. These dimensions can be correlated with the four life-cycle levels material, production, use and infrastructure to form the Matrix for Convivial Technology (MCT). The MCT is a 20-field schema that can be filled in. Experiences with the tool in different fields are presented. The MCT is itself a convivial tool as it allows for degrowth-oriented groups to self-assess their work and products in a qualitative, context-sensitive and independent way. It is a normative schema that fosters discussion concerning degrowth technologies in contexts of political education. And it is a research method as it helps collecting data about underlying ethical assumptions and aspirations of individuals and groups engaged in developing technology.