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

Digitalization and energy consumption. Does ICT reduce energy demand?

This article investigates the effect of digitalization on energy consumption. Using an analytical model, we investigate four effects: (1) direct effects from the production, usage and disposal of information and communication technologies (ICT), (2) energy efficiency increases from digitalization, (3) economic growth from increases in labor and energy productivities and (4) sectoral change/tertiarization from the rise of ICT services. The analysis combines empirical and theoretical findings from debates on decoupling energy consumption from economic growth and from debates on green IT and ICT for sustainability. Our main results: Effects 1 and 3 tend to increase energy consumption. Effects 2 and 4 tend to decrease it. Furthermore, our analysis suggests that the two increasing effects prevail so that, overall, digitalization increases energy consumption. These results can be explained by four insights from ecological economics: (a) physical capital and energy are complements in the ICT sector, (b) increases in energy efficiency lead to rebound effects, (c) ICT cannot solve the difficulty of decoupling economic growth from exergy, (d) ICT services are relatively energy intensive and come on top of former production. In future, digitalization can only boost sustainability when it fosters effects 2 and 4 without promoting effects 1 and 3.

Ecological Economics, vol. 176, October 2020

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Sustainable structures of living together and degrowth in the energy sector

This presentation outlines an approach to imagine an energy policy break from the growth status quo.

Wachstum schadet dem Klima. Wir brauchen neue Wege zum Wohlstand

Technologische Wunschträume und die Fixierung auf ewiges Wachstum verhindern seit Jahrzehnten eine effektive Klimapolitik

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Science and degrowth

Presentation by Fabrice Flipo

Political prayers lie on the growth’s comeback to ensure financial incomes to be given out. That for science is seen by many essentially as a tool to provide techniques able to raise productivity, whatever the environmental or social consequences. For those reasons, and especially since the second half of the 20th century, public policy and investment have allowed unprecedented technical development and the economy of promises, the genuine aim of those efforts being hidden by the general concept of progress. Links between science and economical growth should be underlined and questioned. After rigorous definition of science and technoscience concepts, we will demonstrate and illustrate their entanglement with growth, thanks to economical theories and many examples of business-driven research. We will discuss the multiple roles of research and innovation for growth, which are broadening knowledge but also contributing to the emergence of problems and limiting the funding available for other kind of science activities. Taking into account that economical growth will no more be achievable, partly due to innovation stagnation, and no more desirable, members of the French NGO Citizen Sciences are questioning the future research and innovation system, pointing out the necessity of accurate choices for research agenda. According to a degrowth scenario, this scientists and citizens community imagines democratic tools, such as citizen conventions and research modalities promoting non-scientists engagement, in order to allow science that benefit to all citizens. We underlined the need for transdisciplinarity, low tech orientations and social innovations in research.

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Can technologies help to reduce the physical and human degradation in transition towards a degrowth society?

Presentation by Pasqua L’Abbate

This article outlines the role that technology has to play in order to enable human beings to move towards a degrowth society. Against the background of the problems we face today, the authors E.E. Schumacher, N.Georgescu-Roegen and others have been re-examined. This work also explains the concepts of entropy and emergy and the “fourth” principle of thermodynamics revised in the light of the thinking of Prigogine, Odum and the Maximum Em-Power Principle. Readings of authors like Shumacher, Tawney, Huxley, Illich and the suggestions from Pallante, with the support of thermodynamics, emphasise the need for a new interdisciplinary approach to technology and eco-innovation. This study suggests to do an analysis of local systems, and the involvement of the stakeholder, to adapt the technology to the territory, to local needs while respecting the traditions, the knowledge and the “know how to do it” of the population. Absolute dematerialization is extremely important. Waste of material and energy can be eliminated using tools designed to calculate flows of material and energy such as: LCA, IOA, virtual water. Last but not least, technology has to be careful to its targets. It should help develop a lifestyle which assigns material things to their rightful place – as a secondary, not primary, aim – and it should improve the use of useful material and energy. The Green economy and Circular Economy, are certainly improving in comparison to the Brown Economy, but they are not able to resolve the problems of physical and social degradation, and they continue to create market relations rather than social relations.

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Framing the Privacy Debate and Big Data Governmentality in Degrowth Theory

Presentation by Julien Rossi

Data surveillance by private companies and public intelligence agencies is intricated, and research has shown how citizens have become willing participants in their own surveillance. This brings forth a new type of governmentality that is legitimised by hegemonic imaginaries on “Big Data” and innovation which are closely related to the imaginary of technological growth.

The Snowden disclosures made this a topic of public debate.

Yet a review of Degrowth literature shows that while there is a rich theoric framework allowing us to think critically about technology, little has been written about privacy, data protection and data surveillance.

As was shown in France during the COP21 conference, the extension of the notion of terrorism to some categories of activists is a threat for the Degrowth movement itself. Furthermore, Quantified Self, Big Data and algorithmic surveillance fit into technical, managerial and social trends that are the continuation of the bureaucratic process of rationalising societies to promote productivity.

This paper first reviews existing Degrowth literature on information technology to analyse the technocapitalist imaginary on Big Data. It then explores the case of a “concrete utopia”, Free Software, in a critical perspective to see whether and how it could help Degrowth philosophy to shape alternative imaginaries and practices. It concludes that not only does Degrowth provide the ability to frame the debate on Privacy and technology in a way that challenges technocapitalist imaginaries on “Big Data”, but also sketches the outline of future research into alternatives in line with the principles of a future, desirable convivial society.

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Technologies for a Degrowth Transition. A Faustian Bargain?

Presentation by Tomislav Medak

I’ll broach the degrowth transition from the combined perspective of social construction of technology and world system theories. I’ll seek to demonstrate how dominant technological complex functions to integrate yet thwart the advancement of semi-periphery.

Narratives of a socially more just and ecologically more sustainable future would frequently have us believe that exising technologies lend themselves either to a wholesale repurposing or a strategic cherry-picking of renewable, microproduction and recycling technologies. Yet they fail to register that technological systems are co-substantial with the existing social metabolism: the division of labor in the integrated capitalist world system is only made possible by interlocking technological systems. Globe-spanning complex of cybernetic, logistic and natural resources management technologies is essential for its continued reproduction. And, in turn, the techno-scientific development is directed by the process of capitalist valorization. The de-intensification of capitalist system would thus lead to the disruption of technological development.

This has a triple consequence I’ll develop in my paper: a) technologies do not lend themselves easily to disaggregation and thus the technological aspect of transition requires an integrated approach, b) degrowth transition is likely to be disruptive and thus cannot be technologically pre-figured with any certainty, c) development through technology is a negative-sum process for capitalist periphery and thus holds a strong incentive for a trajectory of alternative development. Finally, I’ll indicate what technological policies might be meaningful from these constraints.

Entropy, environment, and endogenous economic growth

This paper investigates the proper modeling of the interaction between economic growth and environmental problems, summarizes under which conditions unlimited economic growth with limited natural resources is feasible, and describes how sustainable growth can be achieved. It synthesizes the results from various environmental endogenous growth models.

The physical dimension and the value dimension of economic activity have to be treated as conceptually distinct. Accumulation of natural variables is bounded due to biophysical laws (notably, the entropy law). However, economic value may grow through the substitution of reproducible human inputs for natural inputs. The properties of knowledge, which is the primary human input, do not contradict unlimited new knowledge creation.

International Tax and Public Finance, Vol. 2, pp. 319–340 (1995)

How to start a repair café?

Shareable’s guide to setting up a repair café.

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Technology, Growth & Sustainability

Chair : Florent Marcellesi, MEP (Greens/EFA)
Panellists: Guillaume Pitron (Author of “La guerre des métaux rares”), José Bellver (Researcher at FUHEM Ecosocial, Member of the Transitions Forum and the Inclusive Economy Group), Paul Hodson (European Commission, DG ENER, Energy Efficiency Unit), Doris Schroecker (European Commission, DG Industrial Technologies, Research and Innovation, Head of Strategy Unit)

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Energy Sufficiency

Chair: Molly Scott-Cato, MEP (Greens/EFA)
Panellists: Riccardo Mastini (Friends of the Earth Europe, campaigner Resource justice and sustainability), Blake Alcott (Cambridge University, Author of The Jevons Paradox and the Myth of Resource Efficiency Improvements), Fulvia Raffaëlli (European Commission, DG GROW, Head of Unit responsible for Clean Technologies and Products), Philippe Tulkens (European Commission, DG Research & Innovation, Energy Directorate, Deputy Head of Unit), Peter Zapfel (European Commission, DG CLIMA, ETS Policy Development and Auctioning)

Unlocking wise digital techno-futures: Contributions from the Degrowth community

Many of the benefits anticipated from technology in the 1960s remain unrealized today. Alongside the optimism that drives technological development, more sceptical views that regard the promises of technology with reflection, mistrust, and even hostility, have emerged within Western societies. One such group is the Degrowth community, a heterogenous group of researchers and activists who question technological advancements that contribute to environmentally and socially harmful economic growth. In this vein, the movement critically observes the current hype surrounding digital technology, which seems to reflect a mantra of “the more digital technology, the better”. This paper presents perspectives that emerged from a dialogue among members of the Degrowth community, who were asked to imagine wise and unwise futures of digitalisation in 2068. Key concerns of unwise futures include increasing disconnection of humans from the natural environment and from one another as individuals, the use of digital technology for optimising the allocation of scarce resources to the benefit of the wealthy few, and authoritarian governance of technologies and life itself. Wise technological futures, in turn, allow people to freely access digital technologies that are convivial, just, environmentally sustainable, and guided by democratic deliberation. It remains controversial how far digital technologies and the interests and skills surrounding them can facilitate the principles of Degrowth, and the extent to which the harmful effects of digital technologies are already shaping social, ecological and technological futures. However, the dialogue clearly emphasised the need to develop more detailed socio-technological imaginaries that provide practically feasible alternatives.

Futures, vol. 114, December 2019

Dr. Stuart Newman: “It Seems to Me That We Are Headed for A Techno-Eugenic Future”

An interview with Dr. Stuart Newman on the excesses of biotechnology and its ramifications with the world of money. Newman is a professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY, United States.

Grünes Wachstum oder Verzicht – wie retten wir die Welt?

Die natürlichen Ressourcen müssen geschont werden. Darüber herrscht große Einigkeit, jedoch nicht über den Weg dorthin: Die einen plädieren für ein „grünes Wirtschaftswunder“ mit Zukunftstechnologien. Die anderen fordern den Abschied vom Wachstum.

Zeitfragen, Beitrag vom 01.10.2019