How ‘Degrowth’ Pushes Climate and Well-Being Over GDP

“In recent years, a group of economists, ecologists, and anthropologists has gained attention for trying to overturn a core tenet of economic policy — that growth is good for everyone. Known as the “degrowth” movement, these scholars suggest a reframing of humanity’s goals along ecological lines to address the climate crisis, along with a reconsideration of using gross domestic product as a metric for progress. The upheaval of the coronavirus crisis has added fuel to the debate.”

 

The case for degrowth in a time of pandemic

The time is ripe for us to refocus on what really matters: not GDP, but the health and wellbeing of our people and our planet.

How Private-Equity Firms Squeeze Hospital Patients for Profits

One of the risks of not providing an universal Health Care system is not just related to the threat  represented to life itself. Debt and despair can be easily taken advantage of and the article encloses how this dispossession process of hospital patients is all possible in the current financial system and kept legal by the same government.

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Five principles for a human rights based approach to degrowth

Focusing on human rights, we are led to rethink the relationship between wealth and wellbeing and the role of cultural freedom in this process.

Measuring rural–urban disparity with the Genuine Progress Indicator: A case study in Japan

Japan, often regarded as one of the world’s most egalitarian societies, has faced increasing rural–urban disparity since the late 1980s. However, even if the wages and income levels of rural populations are lower than those of urban residents, some people will remain in the rural areas or, in some cases, return from the cities. These observations imply the necessity of measuring the rural–urban disparity in Japan as well as the need for an alternative indicator to the conventional economic tools for taking this disparity measurement. The objective of this paper is to measure rural–urban disparity with GPI based on a case study in Japan. The results of this analysis present two key findings. First, the rural–urban disparity measured by the GPI is much smaller than that measured by GDP. Second, the GPI disparity has been an increasing trend, particularly after the 2000s, due to the increased cost of climate change in rural areas. GPI can identify some strengths of rural areas that are not captured by GDP, but these advantages are cancelled out by the increasing cost of climate change.

Ecological Economics, vol. 120, December 2015, p.260-271

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Money and subjective well-being

Academic special session, with Filka Sekulova, Christopher Boyce, and Martin Fritz

Interest in subjective well-being in public policy has been growing steadily over the last decades arriving at a voluminous and thematically diverse literature. A reoccurring theme for debates is the extent to which short and long-term income growth relates to well-being. Although many studies have shown that income growth at the societal level contributes little, if any, to well-being over time (Brockmann 2009, Clark et al. 2008, Di Tella and MacCulloch 2006, Blanchflower and Oswald 2004, Gardner and Oswald 2001, Easterlin 1974) others maintain that income growth does contribute meaningfully to well-being (Sacks et al. 2012). Nevertheless, a consistent significant positive causal relationship between income and happiness growth in a country over time is difficult to find (Easterlin 2012). A slightly different picture emerges when individual income and well-being is considered. Research consistently suggests that income changes may have some influence on well-being (Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Frijters, 2004; Kahneman & Deaton, 2010; Layard, Mayraz, & Nickell, 2008). However, the magnitude of this effect is often found to be small owing to psychological tendencies to adapt (Di Tella, Haisken-De New, & MacCulloch, 2010) and/or compare (Clark et al. 2008).

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Weal. The reorientation of well-being

Presentation by György Folk

Degrowth may appear for the majority in the developed world a sacrifice of the human comfort we live in, a loss of the present standard of life or well-being. Weal proposes a radical reorientation of our understanding about the human good. Biological and social research produced a multitude of partial results that shed light on how humans live well. Equating the level of production, consumption or happiness with well-being becomes more and more problematic.

Enhanced sustainability and the improved provisions for the quality of human life seem to be mutually exclusive given the limitless pursuit for economic growth and the finiteness of any earthly system. Endless development as a final good descends from positive incrementalism: the more – the better.

A non-infinite conceptualisation of the human good can be built on evolutionary, anthropological, physiological and psychological evidence on human needs. What makes up for good human existence is shared by all humans as the fundamental factors of liveable human reality. Humans grasp them regardless acculturation, historical period and geographical relatedness. This is a whole, non-dividable and unalterable oneness that human communities with actual livelihoods always live up to. A descriptive understanding yields aspects that are indispensable for well-living. A limited set of aspects will suffice to map this human whole(some)ness.

Weal is conceived as a oneness approachable by eight cardinal needs, each satisfiable by elementary satisfiers. Weal is operationalised as a domain in multidimensional space between the extremes of drastic insufficiency and harmful excess.

Old Man on a Bike: a story of how cycling keeps us all young

Mark Cramer, commentator on the subject of cycling into later life and best practice infrastructure has released a new book filled with incredible stories of how cycling contributes positively to society the world over.

Eco-social divides in Europe: public attitudes towards welfare and climate change policies

In the face of accelerating global warming and attendant natural disasters, it is clear that governments all over the world eventually have to take measures to mitigate the most adverse consequences of climate change. However, the costs of these measures are likely to force governments to reconsider some of their tax and spending priorities, of which social spending is the largest expenditure item in developed welfare states. Unless carried out in a way that is considered as fair by most citizens, such trade-off is likely to add a new, ecological dimension to the existing social cleavages in people’s preferences for public provision. Whether or not the possible tensions between the two sets of policies have already resulted in the emergence of a new, eco-social divide in Europe is an open question. In this paper, we hypothesise that there are four distinct attitude groups in relation to welfare and climate change policies, and that the probability of belonging to any of these groups is influenced by individuals’ socioeconomic and ideological characteristics, as well as the country context in which they live. We test our hypotheses using data from the eighth round of the European Social Survey conducted in 2016/17 in multinomial regression models. Results suggest that across Europe people are considerably divided in their support of public welfare and climate policies, but that support for both dimensions is highest in the Nordic countries. At the micro level, we find political ideology and trust in public institutions to be the most important drivers of a newly emerging eco-social divide

Public Support for Sustainable Welfare Compared: Links between Attitudes towards Climate and Welfare Policies

Abstract: The emerging concept of sustainable welfare attempts to integrate environmental sustainability and social welfare research. Oriented at a mid-term re-embedding of Western production and consumption norms into planetary limits, it suggests the development of “eco-social” policies in the rich countries. In this theoretical context, this article empirically investigates the relationships between attitudes towards welfare and climate policy in 23 countries. Using 2016 data from the European Social Survey, we explored patterns of synergy between both kinds of policies as well as effects of crowding-out, where support for one kind of policy involves refusing the other. Since previous research addressed the role of welfare states and their institutional foundations in establishing environmentally sustainable societies, we studied how attitudes towards welfare and climate policies differ according to welfare regime affiliation. Additionally, we examined how a range of socio-demographic and political factors such as class, education, income, and political position shape people’s views on welfare and climate policy goals. The results of a multiple correspondence analysis indicate that the simultaneous support of welfare and climate policies follows welfare regime lines in that this support is the highest among social-democratic countries. However, also some conservative and Mediterranean countries score high in this regard. At the individual level, people with a higher education, employees in socio-cultural professions, and voters of moderate left and green parties display the highest mutual support for welfare and climate policies.

Sustainability, June 2019

Challenges for the degrowth transition: The debate about wellbeing

Degrowth scholars and activists have convincingly argued that degrowth in developed nations will need to be part of a global effort to tackle climate change, and to preserve the conditions for future generations’ basic needs satisfaction. However, the barriers to building a broader degrowth movement appear to be very entrenched at present. To improve the political feasibility of degrowth it is important to better understand these structural obstacles and develop arguments and strategies to address them. To contribute to the degrowth debate we focus in this paper on current generations in rich countries and their concerns about possible short- to medium term wellbeing outcomes of degrowth. In particular, we highlight the ‘growth lock-in’ of current societies and how a transition away from this model might therefore affect wellbeing. We also argue that taking the basic human needs framework as a new ‘measuring rod’ for wellbeing outcomes is suitable for a degrowth context, but likely to clash with people’s current expectations of ever improving health and wellbeing outcomes. We propose that deliberative forums on future needs satisfaction can help establish a ‘dialogue’ between current and future generations which could support cultural shifts on wellbeing thinking which will be much needed for advancing the cause for degrowth.

Sustainability, Wellbeing and the Posthuman Turn

This book examines how the way we conceive of, or measure, the environment changes the way we interact with it. Thomas Smith posits that environmentalism and sustainable development have become increasingly post-political, characterised by abstraction, and quantification to an unprecedented extent. As such, the book argues that our ways of measuring both the environment, such as through sustainability metrics like footprints and Payments for Ecosystem Services, and society, through gross domestic product and wellbeing measures, play a constitutive and problematic role in how we conceive of ourselves in the world. Subsequently, as the quantified environmental approach drives a dualistic wedge between the human and non-human realms, in its final section the book puts forward recent developments in new materialism and feminist ethics of care as providing practical ways of re-founding sustainable development in a way that firmly acknowledges human-ecological relations. This book will be an invaluable reference for scholars and students in the fields of human geography, political ecology, and environmental sociology.

An Equilibrium Framework for the Analysis of a Degrowth Society With Asymmetric Agents, Sharing and Basic Income

Abstract: This paper presents a novel equilibrium framework, allowing for asymmetries in the initial wealth allocations, labour supplies as well as in the preferences of optimizing agents. The framework is applied to study a degrowth society where a subset of agents voluntarily limit their material consumption, thereby complying with voluntary simplicity (VS). At micro-level, the utility-maximization problems of asymmetric agents are formulated and solved for optimal labour supplies. New macro-level equilibrium solutions, accounting for wealth inequality, are presented based on different labour supply models. The equilibrium welfare is measured using a Bernoully-Nash aggregate. An increase in the share of the VS-type agents implies a degrowth transition to a lower level of average consumption. Analysis of the equilibrium framework shows that degrowth, whereby average market-based consumption falls, improves the equilibrium welfare, assuming the VS-type agents have sufficient resources, enabling a reduction in labour supplies. Sharing, collaborative consumption and basic income support welfare-increasing degrowth. Any growing economy can eventually reach the size at which degrowth would improve the welfare. Simulations suggest that degrowth can also yield a Pareto-improvement in welfare.

Is Degrowth the Only Way to Save the World?

Introduction: Unless us folks in rich countries drastically reduce our material living standards and distribute most of what we have to people living in poor countries, the world will come to an end. Or at least that’s the stark conclusion of a study published earlier this month in the journal Nature Sustainability. The researchers who wrote it, led by the Leeds University ecological economist Dan O’Neill, think the way to prevent the apocalypse is “degrowth.”

Vice, pestilence, war, and “gigantic inevitable famine” were the planetary boundaries set on human population by the 18th-century economist Robert Thomas Malthus. The new study gussies up old-fashioned Malthusianism by devising a set of seven biophysical indicators of national environmental pressure, which they then link to 11 indicators of social outcomes. The aim of the exercise is to concoct a “safe and just space” for humanity.

French researcher shares how less is more through de-growth

Introduction: For the first time in Malaysia, the concept of sustainable de-growth was presented and discussed in a public meeting here recently.

Five large conferences on the subject have been held in various part of the world with 200 published articles.

French industrial ecologist and de-growth researcher Dr François Schneider explained this new concept to an audience at the Sarawak Museum Pub on Feb 21.