Why degrowth is the worst idea on the planet

Despite still growing over the last 50 years, we already figured out how to reduce our impact on Earth. So let’s do that.

The Green New Old Deal: a new industrial policy when we need a de-industrial policy

The most popular poster for the Green New Deals reveals startling assumptions…

Differences in carbon emissions reduction between countries pursuing renewable electricity versus nuclear power

Two of the most widely emphasized contenders for carbon emissions reduction in the electricity sector are nuclear power and renewable energy. While scenarios regularly question the potential impacts of adoption of various technology mixes in the future, it is less clear which technology has been associated with greater historical emission reductions. Here, we use multiple regression analyses on global datasets of national carbon emissions and renewable and nuclear electricity production across 123 countries over 25 years to examine systematically patterns in how countries variously using nuclear power and renewables contrastingly show higher or lower carbon emissions. We find that larger-scale national nuclear attachments do not tend to associate with significantly lower carbon emissions while renewables do. We also find a negative association between the scales of national nuclear and renewables attachments. This suggests nuclear and renewables attachments tend to crowd each other out.

Nature Energy, Oct. 2020

The limits of transport decarbonization under the current growth paradigm

Achieving ambitious reductions in greenhouse gases (GHG) is particularly challenging for transportation due to the technical limitations of replacing oil-based fuels. We apply the integrated assessment model MEDEAS-World to study four global transportation decarbonization strategies for 2050. The results show that a massive replacement of oil-fueled individual vehicles to electric ones alone cannot deliver GHG reductions consistent with climate stabilization and could result in the scarcity of some key minerals, such as lithium and magnesium. In addition, energy-economy feedbacks within an economic growth system create a rebound effect that counters the benefits of substitution. The only strategy that can achieve the objectives globally follows the Degrowth paradigm, combining a quick and radical shift to lighter electric vehicles and non-motorized modes with a drastic reduction in total transportation demand.

Energy Strategy Reviews, vol. 32, November 2020

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 – Extractivismo, generación de riqueza?

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Jueves por Aleida Azamar: “Extractivismo, ¿generación de riqueza?”

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – A critical-integral assessment of Mexico’s Energy Transition Strategy

Socio-environmental issues will continue to emerge if an energy transition project does not include changes in patterns of consumption and resource governance.

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Megaproyectos: minería en América Latina

Esta presentación trata de los impactos económicos, sociales y ambientales del extractivismo en América Latina.

Designing sustainability in blues: the limits of technospatial growth imaginaries

In the midst of a global food crisis, the late 2000s saw tensions between rising food prices and demands for biofuels coalesce into a “food versus fuel” debate. In response to ensuing public outcries, governmental agencies, and researchers across the globe began mobilizing around alternative biofuel feedstock. Among these materials, algae emerged as the most “hopeful” sustainable alternative in producing biofuels. This article examines algal biofuel production systems designed offshore and integrated with wastewater treatment and carbon dioxide absorption processes to revitalize faith in biofuels in the blue economy. It discusses what makes algal biofuels sustainable by examining the ways practitioners talk about and design these integrated systems. Against the common refrain that algae’s photosynthetic and reproductive capacity makes these systems sustainable, this article underlines that there is nothing natural, innate, about algae to add to sustainable blue economies. Rather, algae become naturalized as biofuel source and bioremediation technologies through technoscientific discourses and interventions, which embed and reproduce anthropocentric approach to sustainability that centers on the ideology of growth. By drawing particular attention to the ways that integrated algal biofuel production systems depend on the constant generation of industrial waste, this article problematizes anthropocentric sustainability imaginaries and claims for imagining sustainability otherwise through the lens of blue degrowth to create a radical socio-ecological change.

Sustainability Science, vol. 15, 2020

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

Performing ‘blue degrowth’: critiquing seabed mining in Papua New Guinea through creative practice

Scripted as a sustainable alternative to terrestrial mining, the licence for the world’s first commercial deep-sea mining (DSM) site was issued in Papua New Guinea in 2011 to extract copper and gold from a deposit situated 1600 m below the surface of the Bismarck Sea. Whilst DSM’s proponents locate it as emergent part of a blue economy narrative, its critics point to the ecological and economic uncertainty that characterises the proposed practice. Yet, due its extreme geography, DSM is also profoundly elusive to direct human experience and thus presents a challenge to forms of resistance against an industry extolled as having ‘no human impact’. Against this background, this paper analyses the ways in which ‘blue degrowth’—as a distinct form of counter-narrative—might be ‘performed’, and which imagined (and alternative) geographies are invoked accordingly. To do this it critically reflects upon 2 years of participatory research in the Duke of York Islands focusing on three, community-developed methods of resisting DSM. Practices of counter mapping, sculpture and participatory drama all sought to ‘perform’ the deep-ocean environment imagined as relational whilst simultaneously questioning the very notion of ‘economy’ central to the discourse of ‘blue growth’.

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

The paradox of sustainable tuna fisheries in the Western Indian Ocean: between visions of blue economy and realities of accumulation

For many coastal nations in the Western Indian Ocean, and notably the islands of Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles, the tuna fishery is considered one of the main pillars of economic development, providing jobs and substantial revenues while ensuring food security. However, the fishery is also an illustration of the paradox behind the idea of the blue economy, where economic growth and sustainable use of resources are promoted as jointly achievable. We show that a sustainability narrative, in which the idea of fishing within ecological limits is present within government policy, public discourse, and practices, is, however, in contradiction with the realities of accumulation and growth that prevail in the fishery. When measures towards ecological preservation are to be taken, geopolitics of access to the sea and tuna enter the stage and change the position and narrative of the same actors, governments, and industrial actors that promote sustainability. We emphasize the difficult and nearly impossible path of practicing sustainability in the current model of growth-driven tuna fisheries. We argue for the need to repoliticize the practice of sustainability through the questioning of what we see in tuna fisheries: a hegemonic narrative of sustainability and implicit growth, without positive socio-ecological transformations.

Sustainability Science, vol. 15, 2020

Contesting growth in marine capture fisheries: the case of small-scale fishing cooperatives in Istanbul

The expansion of industrial fishing via technological advancements and heavy subsidies in the Global North has been a significant factor leading to the current global fishery crisis. The growth of the industrial fleet led to an initial increase in global catches from the 1950s to the 1990s; yet, today, several marine fish stocks are harvested at unsustainable rates, and catches are stagnating. As a result, industrial fishers increase investments and fishing effort, reaching farther and deeper, while small-scale fishers face the threat of disappearance as both their catches and livelihoods worsen. The emergent international emphasis on Blue Growth is likely to put further pressure on marine capture fisheries. This paper explores how the growth imperative in the seas has manifested itself in Turkey since the 1970s and how industrial and small-scale fishers responded to this growth spiral in the seas. Based on participant observation methods and in-depth interviews, this paper problematizes the expanding boundaries of industrial fishers and examines the reactions of small-scale fishing cooperatives in Istanbul, in particular their proposed alternative economic model, as a response to the growth imperative. Overall, the paper demonstrates that the crisis that small-scale fishers are facing not only presents economic and ecological difficulties, but also represents an existential threat to the identity and traditional ways of life as a fisher. The strategies adopted by small-scale fishers in response to this crisis in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, are politicizing fishers as they open up new spaces, collaborations, and demands for environmental, social, and economic justice. However, their efforts constitute an ongoing process prone to numerous tensions and contradictions. This paper concludes that challenging the growth paradigm in fisheries via the Blue Degrowth framework can be useful for analyzing emerging alternative imaginaries to the growth-driven capitalist economic system among small-scale fishers.

Sustainability Science, vol. 15, 2020