degrowth.info https://www.degrowth.info/en/stream-towards-degrowth/ Web portal on degrowth en Thu, 22 Jul 2021 11:01:42 +0000 Thu, 22 Jul 2021 11:01:42 +0000 wp-degrowth@aboutsource.net Towards a more radical European Society for Ecological Economics https://www.degrowth.info/en/2019/07/towards-a-more-radical-european-society-for-ecological-economics/ The time has come for ESEE to take a firmer stand and address the impossibility of tackling the monumental ecological crisis we are facing with partial solutions. In order to remain relevant ESEE needs to empower its members to speak the truth, confront power and focus their energies on finding meaningful, holistic and truly transformative The 13th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE) took place in Turku, Finland, on the 18th-21st of June 2019. Gathering around 330 people in the beautiful setting of an endless daylight of the mid-summer in Finland, we had the opportunity to discuss the topic of “Co-creation – Making ecological economics matter”. The program of the four days was quite busy with keynotes, presentations of papers and posters as well as some interactive sessions. If you would like to have an idea of the topics that are currently discussed in Ecological Economics, have a look here.

Co-creation as a keyword

At the Conference, as well as at the ESEE19 Summer School preceding it, a strong emphasis was made on a keyword: co-creation. The most valuable insight that we have gained about co-creation is that designing a truly inclusive process necessitates actively restraining voices which normally dominate discussions, giving a larger platform to marginal groups (students, non-institutional academics, etc.), and ensuring that underlying power structures are exposed and challenged. Without these features the entire process risks becoming a façade for reproducing the status quo. We are therefore thankful to the organizers of the Turku conference for their valiant effort in bringing such issues to the forefront. However, by dedicating all keynotes to the understanding of co-creation in different types of settings, other important discussions were sidelined. The desire of the organizers to open the conference to outside voices and points of view, especially ones that have the potential to be informative to the members of the Society, is understandable and even laudable. However, given the sense of urgency, proclivity to post-normal science, and a degrowth world-view, which seem to be shared by a large number of ESEE members, perhaps a more pertinent conversation would have been on the topic of how ecological economics fits into the emerging paradigm of ‘new left economics’ (see here). Or, indeed, on how it can seek systemic transformations which are needed to address the magnitude of the current ecological crisis. Thankfully, some of these issues were addressed in two sessions that were dedicated to opening up the debate about the identity of the ESEE and the main challenges it faces.

Identity crisis at the ESEE?

The first of these two sessions was the ESEE ordinary general meeting. To discuss and define what is (and what should be) the ESEE, a brainstorming amongst the audience was organized. Each participant had to give three keywords that would define what Ecological Economics meant for them. The outcome was quite striking: the word “degrowth” came up as first. This encouraging result contrasted with a recurring feeling we had at most of the keynotes, where the distinction between environmental and ecological economics seemed rather blurry at times. However, it must be added that the audience was generally very engaged and challenged the speakers on such issues. The second session was a round table on the topic “Ecological Economics: the next thirty years”, where five academics, well-established in this field, debated on the future of ESEE. Finding the right balance between integrating diverse ideas and keeping a clear stance on what defines ecological economics is challenging. Nevertheless, it should not reduce the emphasis given to the views and concerns that unite a vast majority of ESEE members. The worry was voiced that giving too much space to views that tend more towards environmental economics would have the effect of alienating others, such as degrowthers. An important point of agreement that came from these discussions, and our own conversations with many members, is that ESEE is moving in the direction of seeking radical social transformations that can tackle the severity of ecological problems facing humanity, while simultaneously ensuring wellbeing. Moreover, ideas of ‘green growth’ and ‘green capitalism’ are, according to our interlocutors, being ever more sidelined. It would have been invaluable, especially to young researchers and newcomers to the Society like ourselves, to have these values clearly communicated and emphasized throughout the conference. While we are somewhat sympathetic to the views of a segment of ESEE members that stress the importance of seeking objectivity and incremental progress in scientific research (see Gallant's opinion here), we should be careful not to confuse objectivity with neutrality. Given our shared understanding about the root cause of the looming ecosystem collapse (the growth imperative), and the lack of this awareness in other schools of economics as well as the general public, there seems to be a need for ecological economists to provide clarity. Objectivity, in the sense of siding with the more reasonable position, would then necessitate stressing the need for radical social transformation instead of being reluctant to take a stance (neutrality) in the hopes of currying favor and gaining influence with current decision-makers and political structures. One’s identity as a scientist should not be challenged by seeking the truth regardless of the implications, but rather strengthened. And perhaps the most important question that we need to be asking ourselves is not what our appropriate role is, or how we can be most effective, but that timeless question of: cui bono - who benefits from our silence? Given that next year's International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE) conference will be a joint endeavor with the 7th International Degrowth Conference in Manchester speaks for itself: there is a willingness to give more visibility to voices pointing to the radical implications of an ecological economic worldview. ESEE should feel emboldened to do the same. It is crucial if we are to strengthen ESEE’s cohesion, empower ourselves for the arduous road ahead and “make ecological economics matter”.  ]]>
Wed, 03 Jul 2019 16:19:40 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2019/07/towards-a-more-radical-european-society-for-ecological-economics/
A Post Growth Event: Free Money Day https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/09/a-post-growth-event-free-money-day/ This Article was written by Jennifer Hinton and Donnie Maclurcan of the Post Growth Institute for the postconference “Stream towards Degrowth”. An annual event, Free Money Day, was created in 2011 and is run by the Post Growth Institute. Each September 15th, people all over the world hand out their own money to complete strangers, two [...] by Jennifer Hinton and Donnie Maclurcan 

An annual event, Free Money Day, was created in 2011 and is run by the Post Growth Institute. Each September 15th, people all over the world hand out their own money to complete strangers, two coins or notes at a time, asking the recipients to pass half on to someone else. The event seeks to inspire a more sharing world, and offer a liberating experience that encourages critical and creative thinking about our relationship with money and how we can have healthier types of economic activity.

What is the Post Growth Institute?

Behind Free Money Day is a network of activists and researchers who form the Post Growth Institute. Our team works to inspire, support and engage in activities and ideas that are bringing about prosperity for everyone in ways that don’t rely on endless economic growth.

Since being founded in 2010, we have operated ‘virtually’, as a largely volunteer-based organization without a physical location.  Our co-directors are located all over the world; in Australia, Greece, Sweden, Canada and the U.S. While the PGI is not linked to any activist or political networks, all of its co-directors are involved in a variety of other work, including activism. The organization is presently incorporating as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, in the U.S.

How is a Free money Day organized?

Free Money Day events are organized locally, and participants choose how much money they want to give out. Anyone can ‘register’ their event at www.freemoneyday.org. Past events have been organized in all kinds of creative ways - from a video rental shop giving out free rental coupons, to one couple giving away half their land, to street musicians giving away money, rather than seeking it.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to sharing.

Free Money Day 2012 was the most successful to date, with 138 events held across 24 countries.  The Post Growth Institute is giving the event a big push this year to make Free Money Day 2014 the greatest yet. Get involved by registering an event here. It can be as simple as giving away a few coins on your way to work, or leaving some money in your neighbours’ letterboxes with an anonymous note saying ‘It’s Free Money Day!’ #freemoneyday.

What is the difference between post-growth and degrowth?

Post-growth and degrowth approaches both acknowledge the need to go beyond growth-based economic systems in ways that allow all beings (human and other) to flourish.  The Post Growth Institute agrees that economic degrowth does need to occur, as outlined in our Starting Positions. So, the main difference between post-growth and degrowth largely relates to framing. Post-growth seeks to identify and build on what’s already working, rather than focusing on what is not. In order to appeal to a wide audience, post-growth thinking and action aims to harness the best aspects of a failing economic system, while simultaneously drawing a line in the sand, by saying ‘some parts of this can never work for us all’.

That said, the Post Growth Institute definitely supports ‘degrowth’ as part of the spectrum of ideas and activities in the alternative economics space. Indeed, the Club for Degrowth and Un projet de Décroissance, are part of the recently-developed Post Growth Alliance.

Is a post-growth world possible?

We believe a post-growth world is already evolving, and that the ongoing transition entails fundamental changes in our financial system and our relationship to money.  It is rooted in collective narratives that engage a sharing mentality (e.g., “human nature has an enormous capacity for compassion, collaboration and generosity” rather than “human nature is mostly competitive, greedy and selfish”). This shift is about fostering approaches to economic activity and business that reflect a “not-for-profit ethic”.  It involves building towards a 100% not-for-profit financial and banking system (read more about this in our forthcoming book, How on Earth: Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050). And what better way to start degrowing towards a post-growth future than by sharing money and ideas on September 15?

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Thu, 11 Sep 2014 10:11:48 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/09/a-post-growth-event-free-money-day/
Rob Hopkins: Transition Town is the practical manifestation of a postgrowth society https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/07/rob-hopkins-transition-town-is-the-practical-manifestation-of-a-postgrowth-society/ Rob Hopkins is the founder of the Transition Movement. We interviewed him for the Stream towards Degrowth during the launch of his new Book “The Power of just doing Stuff – How local Action can change the World” in Bielefeld. Watch the video to hear more about the connections and differences between the Degrowth and

Rob Hopkins is the founder of the Transition Movement. We interviewed him for the Stream towards Degrowth during the launch of his new Book “The Power of just doing Stuff - How local Action can change the World” in Bielefeld. Watch the video to hear more about the connections and differences between the Degrowth and the Transition Movement.

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Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:00:20 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/07/rob-hopkins-transition-town-is-the-practical-manifestation-of-a-postgrowth-society/
The End of the Industrial Society as a Business Concept. Caution – Satire! https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/07/the-end-of-the-industrial-society-as-a-business-concept-caution-satire/ As a manager for “Bios funeral directors“, Dr. phil. Haimo Schulz Meinen, ex-journalist, teacher and writer, suggests the next steps to relieve the planet from the human objective of growth. In fact, “Bios Funeral” appears to be a very profitable start up and worthy of investment. After a short moment of surprise we finally published [...] As a manager for "Bios funeral directors", Dr. phil. Haimo Schulz Meinen, ex-journalist, teacher and writer, talks about the steps that were necessary to relieve the planet from the human objective of growth. In fact, "Bios Funeral" appears to be a very profitable start up and worthy of investment. After a short moment of surprise we finally published the interview for the Stream towards Degrowth.

1. In what respect did society depend on growth?

First of all, their calendars were counting upward. All of them. Stupid. As if time was something that could be amounted, numbered or summarized. In the year christians called 2015 a movement starting in Germany implemented an oppositional calendar. We count from 50 downwards. Now we are in the year 35, meaning we have another 35 summers and winters to 0. The same applied to the  muslim, jewish, hindu, or buddhist calendar. These imaginations of progress have been turned upside down. (490 characters)

2. What obstacles impeded a turning away from economic growth?

The alliance of rich, wealthy and less wealthy but still commanding were the major problem. All of them knew that their privileged positions, access to fresh water, heat, and to artificially produced alimentation was basically depending on their corruption, their alignment to the crusade against the independently naturally grown. Although there always were some heretics calling themselves „degrowth“ activists, the vast majority was and kept aligned. (454 characters)

3. How did your actions contribute to a society beyond growth?

„Bios intelligent decline“, a branch of „Bios Bestattungen“/ „Bios funeral directors“, was the first to sell letters of indulgence. Following the example of the roman-catholic church in medieval times “Bios intelligent decline” confronted everybody with his or her personal balance of crimes against animals, nature, and the poor. Possible death penalty in view, a growing number of people decided voluntarily to buy such a letter of indulgence. With the money, ground and its defense was financed. (498 characters)

4. From your point of view, what does well-being imply in a society that consciously chose low production and consumption levels?

Well-being means that no species is held captive or gets tortured. No species has exclusive first-choice rights or “possesses” a certain area, ground, or region. No species is entitled to populate all five continents. Nobody should burn fossil coal, gas or oil just to make a living in cold latitudes. Dismantling the historically given masses of industry, infrastructure, and population step by step in the end will enable a well-being for few humans with no possession, scattered in warm regions. (497 characters)

5. Which signs for a world beyond growth did you already notice in 2013?

The organization “Rewilding Europe” (NL) pointed to areas in Europe where the retreat already had started. The first managed areas were Western Iberia, Eastern Carpathians, Danube Delta, Southern Carpathians, Velebit (Croatia) and Central Apennines. In Argentina and Chile other areas had been secured against industrial growth and exploitation greed, similarly in other continents. For the first time in 200 years of industrialization history, some of the reaching ranges began to shrink. (490 characters)

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Wed, 16 Jul 2014 20:31:15 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/07/the-end-of-the-industrial-society-as-a-business-concept-caution-satire/
Degrowth Downunder: A Movement Gathering Momentum https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/07/degrowth-downunder-a-movement-gathering-momentum/ Australia’s two-speed economy, in which those engaged in mineral extraction flourish while the rest flounder, seems to have only one direction: up. Not that people really stop to think why. Most Australians, if you asked them, would stare blankly if you mentioned degrowth, or crack a joke about how it’s tantamount to devolution. It seems [...] Kari McGregor

Australia’s two-speed economy, in which those engaged in mineral extraction flourish while the rest flounder, seems to have only one direction: up. Not that people really stop to think why. Most Australians, if you asked them, would stare blankly if you mentioned degrowth, or crack a joke about how it’s tantamount to devolution. It seems the citizens of this sunburnt country are, as of yet, unmoved by the degrowth movement.

But a peek beneath the surface of our consumer culture reveals a wealth of of academics, writers, activists and community leaders advocating degrowth, and whose offerings to the movement include progressive opinion leadership, think tanks, grassroots groups, a political party, and even an independent magazine.

The movement is in its infancy, however, and like a toddler taking its first steps, it needs support, guidance and coordination, and forming alliances will prove vital. The message of degrowth needs to resonate above the cacophony of consumer culture and seize its place in the public and political discourse if it is to reach beyond the choir of the already converted.

Theory and practice

Degrowth theory is gaining traction among Australian academics, with a number of progressives questioning the growth paradigm and proposing transitional pathways to a sustainable economic system. Prominent intellectuals including Ted Trainer and The Simplicity Institute’s Samuel Alexander have collaborated over the Simpler Way Project, a practice-based resource for living more lightly upon our planet.

Packaging de-growth theory into a digestible form for a population whose passion for material consumerism is rampant is not an easy task. `Organizations such as The Center for Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) have yet to find an effective messaging strategy for their advocacy for fundamental economic reform. The Post-Growth Institute has enjoyed greater success by offering novel ways for the public to engage in degrowth, with fun events such as Free Money Day.

On the political front, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA), and the Sustainable Population Party (SPP) have taken on the unenviable challenge of advocating for population stabilization policies to align our collective footprint with carrying capacity. At this point SPP is the only Australian political party that explicitly states the pitfalls of the economic growth trajectory.

At the grass-roots level, the Transition Towns Movement has had patchy success in Australia. Some groups thrive, with well-attended workshops, skillshares, speaker events, produce swaps, and regular get-togethers, while others dwindle. Doing It Ourselves, a Transition-based initiative, offers a more systemic perspective – as presented in their introductory video – articulating the need for community resilience in our era of peaking resources and economic collapse. With their clever and relatable communication strategy alongside practical community-based action this up-and-coming organization is one to watch.

David Holmgren, Founding Father of Permaculture and outspoken critic of our growth-obsessed culture, has aroused controversy with his 2013 essay, Crash on Demand. Holmgren suggests that our civilization is on a dangerous trajectory of resource depletion that will lead to eventual collapse, leaving a ravaged Earth much less capable of supporting human life, and argues for a deliberately precipitated economic crash that will stall the behemoth of destruction, averting ecological collapse.

Degrowth in Australia enjoys a paltry media presence at best, and access is largely denied to those whose message goes against the grain. Culture-jamming its way past the mainstream media, SHIFT magazine is anew independent tplatform for the voices of the movement to streamline and amplify their message.

Uniting a movement

Personal and community actions of the kind advocated by Transition Towns and Doing It Ourselves are the driving force of change. However, in our consumer-oriented society the choice to adopt a simpler lifestyle consistent with degrowth is not easy, as the very structure of our society locks us into high-consumption pathways. Political engagement is required in order to remove barriers to degrowth, and strength will come with numbers.

For any movement to succeed, a meta-strategy with unified and coherent public messaging is paramount. Still in its infancy the de-growth movement in Australia lacks a unified voice, and there is very little collaboration between the spheres of academia, advocacy, and the grass roots. There is also little in the way of communication with elements of the broader movement for sustainability – including, most importantly, the environment movement, which is just beginning to question the role of the economic growth imperative in the destruction of our ecosystems.

As a fledgling movement the next step for degrowth in Australia is to connect, coordinate, and collaborate. Sharing platforms and resources while cross-pollinating the borderlands between sectors provides opportunities to walk the degrowth talk while facilitating the emergence of a unified movement.

Reaching beyond the choir

For the degrowth movement to really take hold in Australia there is going to need to be a concerted and collaborative effort at reaching beyond the choir. If we are to degrow purposefully, and not just as a response to crisis, concepts have to depart the ivory towers of academia and make their way to Joe Public on his couch facing the TV. A messaging strategy that resonates with the average Australian is vital if we are to reach, and not just preach.

Joe Public, whose kids’ future is riding on a vanishing dream of infinite growth too good to be true, is going to need a better dream. With pro-growth skepticism beginning to set in, now is the time for degrowth to settle into the cracks in the system and pioneer the path less travelled.

> Comment on this article on the German blog "Postwachstum"

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Thu, 03 Jul 2014 22:00:58 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/07/degrowth-downunder-a-movement-gathering-momentum/
Learning for Life: Participation in the Transformation of a Commons https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/06/learning-for-life-participation-in-the-transformation-of-a-commons/ This article is written by Claudia Gómez-Portugal in the scope of the Stream towards Degrowth. As a Mexican activist and promoter of social change she founded the organization SAKBE – Commons for Social Change and the Free Learning Communities for Life Initiative – and commits herself to developing communication strategies for social change, effective participation, [...] This article is written by Claudia Gómez-Portugal in the scope of the Stream towards Degrowth. As a Mexican activist and promoter of social change she founded the organization SAKBE - Commons for Social Change and the Free Learning Communities for Life Initiative - and commits herself to developing communication strategies for social change, effective participation, learning networking and community revitalization.

To build and nurture sustainable communities:

One of today’s most important challenges is to build and nurture sustainable communities. Current environmental, social and existential crises, among others, increasingly lay bare the unsustainability of the global development model. In order to face this systemic crisis we have to recognize the need to create new structures and forms of organization that integrate learning processes into all our life dynamics and contribute to the paradigm shift from being predators of life to being sustainers of life. Today, free learning and education for life are key elements of the progress towards knowledge societies that are able to effect coherent changes according to diverse contexts and needs and to achieve a sustainable present in which we can recognize and regenerate existing connections and relationships with the earth, society and our inner being more harmoniously.

Building new structures and organizational forms that integrate a type of learning that is centered on the regeneration of life is fundamental. Beyond the concept of sustainability, recognizing our interconnectedness involves the construction of sustainable communities and knowledge about how we sustain such communities and life in community—starting from working in particular contexts and between peers. We urgently need to learn how to be community, and being community, learn how to sustain life, as entities who are part of it.

We are an organization that currently devotes much of its efforts to building and nurturing the initiative "Free Learning Communities for Life". The initiative seeks to create propitious contexts of learning in form of a commons —for both children and adults— around the reflection and action on recovering the possibility to learn and live on this planet. It takes up the approach of education for life that focuses on the need to understand how life is sustained and how we take part in this sustaining process based on the multiple and varied ways in which we live — thereby recognizing ourselves, in relation to and in cooperation with others and with nature. As Satish Kumar states, we cannot live apart from each other; we need each other. The journey of education is to learn how to work together which is the great challenge facing humanity.¹

What we are doing:

Learning for Life is a new work line for us that has become essential both for our organizational concept and for our innovation strategies for the commons — learning, communication and knowledge as a condition for change. We work with families, local actors, people interested in deep ecology and free thinkers through three dimensions: action, dialogue and reflection, and build community. For the first, we organize lifelong learning practices focused on two actions: creating community orchards and discovering life in the region (bioregionalism).

For the second, we are generating a discursive proposal through the dialogue with different activists, thinkers, initiatives and organizations related to free learning, alternatives to education and the commons paradigm. We organize cinema debates with kids and parents about related topics, and we are about to start exchange reflection sessions between people from the learning communities in three regions (Tepoztlan-Morelos, Mexico City and Cuautitlan Izcalli-State of Mexico) together with the Universidad de la Tierra² in Oaxaca.

Finally, in the dimension of building community, we have created a learning community in Mexico City and we are setting up a second one at Tepoztlan-Morelos. So far we have organized two encounters of "Free Learning and Education for Life" in which we have started our own orchard. These encounters are meetings for exchanging ideas and knowledge on how to care for the interest and desire to learn, how to offer to both ourselves and our children the possibility to learn in freedom and dignity, how to encourage new forms of conviviality and solidarity organization, how to cultivate joy of life and how to relate to life differently.

SAKBE Commons for Social Change focuses its efforts on reclaiming and regenerating the commons and on building sustainable communities. We work on the agenda for social change around local empowerment, collective construction, free learning and effective participation. Since 2007 we have collaborated with institutions, civil and social organizations, local communities and indigenous groups in order to improve the quality of life and to strengthen democratic participation in environmental and social issues related to post-development, climate change agendas and emerging public policy.

We start from the premise that information, transparency, access to information- and communication technologies, analysis-based participation and collective construction are factors that are closely related to the ability of people to make changes and build new conditions and contexts. We assume that many of the changes that must occur in societies emerge from recovering the organization of life through knowledge sharing, networking and alliances with common goals. And we believe that one of the key moments in any process of change occurs when different groups develop proposals and set spaces for reflection, decision making and action that allow them to improve their living conditions.

Learning and living:

How can we reclaim the possibility to learn and to live on this planet?³ And in this sense, how can we live and work with a greater purpose?4 The way we learn is closely linked with how we live. We learn while we live and we decide how to live on the basis of our learning; if there is a lack of genuine learning we no longer choose how to live. If we want to release learning we have to reclaim the possibility to learn - which requires learning to be integrated into every aspect of life.

In order to boost a paradigm shift, learning has to be understood as a commons, recognizing that education is constantly evolving into the learning of a society by doing; society as a collective and living entity that continuously generates new learnings, ideas and knowledge through the exchange of interests, motivations and needs. Current education systems — although they are meant to teach about life and work— are set outside of a real environment, and are based on curricula that are largely the same whether for a small village or a major world city. This homogenity separates education from the flow of life and limits a real learning that responds to genuine interests and required changes.

Real learning cannot be understood in disconnection from life; free learning is the learning of life. Recovering the possibility of how to live is intertwined with a holistic approach to life, assuming that we are all connected and participate in the weave of life. In this sense, the Free Learning Communities for Life initiative seeks to integrate free learning into family life and into a community environment on the basis of the regeneration of life, starting from the premise that no change will be possible unless we take responsibility for our own dynamics in every aspect of our lives. Its conformation arises as a participative process of free learning, based on the collection and exchange of ideas and the creation of new knowledge.

Systemic proposal:

What do we mean by sustainability of life, and what are the new structures, forms of organization and new commons that are required? How can a new organization help establish a more harmonious relationship with life? How can we face up to educational and non-educational systems that are dissociated from the web of life and promote competitiveness and individualism in direct contrast to collaboration and cooperation in networks?

For Fritjof Capra, the basic pattern of life is the network by which all relationships and connections are supported in continuous collaboration. He points out that ecosystems are living networks of organisms; that organisms are networks of cells, organs and systems; that cells are networks of molecules; and that wherever we see life, we see networks. Capra suggests that living networks in human societies are networks of communications which, like biological networks, are self-generating. Each communication creates thoughts and meaning which give rise to further communications, and thus the entire network generates itself.5

Learning is an active element of society. When the integration and participation of a large number of people is involved, a community it is capable of generating new knowledge; and since communities participate in knowledge or knowledge societies, it is capable of generating the required change from these contexts and its own needs in the face of the major challenges of today. UNESCO recognizes that emerging societies will have to be societies in which knowledge has to be shared in order for them to remain conducive to human and life development: “A knowledge society must ensure the sharing of knowledge as a common good, and must be able to integrate each of its members and promote new forms of solidarity with the present and future generations”.6

The conformation of Free Learning Communities for Life seeks to prove that the initial exercise of sustainability is based on the creation of small learning communities centered on a holistic vision; that the construction of the community itself is an initial learning process to regenerate life; that recovering this possibility — as we grow and learn in relation to others — is the beginning of a new common structure that can contribute to the conformation of an education for life. Friendship is the starting point for the sustainability of life and the generation of new structures; it is an engine of interconnection and generation of networks; it is the first step in any undertaking or project. Like the network, it is the pattern through which we move beyond individualism, indifference and the state of anomie.

Comment on this article on the German blog "Postwachstum".

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¹ Satish Kumar, “You Are, Therefore I Am: A Declaration of Dependence”. Green Books Ltd. 2002. One of the most important educators of the twentieth century, and a representative of the deep ecology and a new education for life, founder of Schumacher College and Small School, editor of the British Magazine Resurgence.

² Gustavo Esteva, “Unitierra, the Freedom to Learn”.

³ Gustavo Esteva, Activist promoter of post-development and founder of the “Universidad de la Tierra”.

4 John Holt, “Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better”. 1976. One of the main promoters of free learning and education without schooling.

5 Fritjof Capra, "The Web of Life”. Featured thinker who integrates science, spirituality and concrete actions for social change. Director and founder of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California.

6 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, “Towards Knowledge Societies. First World Report”. 2005.

]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 22:00:26 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/06/learning-for-life-participation-in-the-transformation-of-a-commons/ “Radical democratization of all public domains” https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/06/radical-democratization-of-all-public-domains/ Interview with Katja Kipping Katja Kipping is chairwoman of the German Left Party and Member of the German Parliament. Besides her engagement for good working conditions in her capacity as spokesperson for social affairs, she supports the exchange between party politics and civil society through engaging in social movements such as the network for unconditional Katja Kipping

Katja Kipping is chairwoman of the German Left Party and Member of the German Parliament. Besides her engagement for good working conditions in her capacity as spokesperson for social affairs, she supports the exchange between party politics and civil society through engaging in social movements such as the network for unconditional basic income. For this interview, she imagines herself living in a post-growth society in 2030, looking back to “past” difficulties and transformative moments on the way. From this perspective, she mainly sees the democratization of public domains as an important step toward a post-growth society.

Please imagine that the world is enjoying a phase of "good living" beyond growth. Let us then take stock of the past decades from the perspective of, say, the year 2030. To what extent was society reliant on growth?

A mode of production geared towards competition and profit has to grow, because only growth allows us to survive in a competitive environment, and because long-term profit is only possible through an intensive or extensive growth of production - and because the pressure to exploit resources for profit has to result in an increased pressure to consume. Boosting production means increasing the use of resources – be they natural or human. Capitalism thus meant an uneconomic waste of valuable common goods – nature, human skills, cultural and intellectual achievements.

What were the obstacles preventing a paradigm shift in growth?

The main obstacle was the pressure to make profit and to compete, which was ideology-driven and institutionally underpinned and only served the interests of a few – i.e. those who ruthlessly achieved gains in profit and power. And it was a cultural orientation which sought salvation in the accumulation of more and more goods, although an oversupply of the items and abilities required for good living had already existed for decades – a dangerous illusion, as we know today.

What was your contribution to a society beyond growth?

Radical democratization of all public domains including the economy and also with respect to the commons. This was a political task I was happy to take on. In addition, I also campaigned for the introduction of an unconditional material safety-net for all by means of a basic income – along with free access to culture, knowledge and education, public transport and high-quality health care. People who are not worried about making ends meet or anxious about being marginalised in society need not be greedy and need not cling to the promises of salvation made by growth ideologists.

In your view, what constitutes "good living" within a society with a deliberately low level of production and consumption?

Time for leisure, friendships and loved ones, time sovereignty, culture, dance, no worries about making ends meet or being marginalised, political and intellectual challenge, living and working in harmony with nature, producing what we need. Attractive products people can enjoy. As you see, it means a great deal of luxury. Good living is the luxurious life which we live today. How wretched we were 16 years ago, afflicted by the misery of growth.

What signs of a world beyond growth could already be seen in 2013?

There were awareness-raising campaigns by wise people critical of growth, grass-roots movements for a solidary and ecological economy, social movements campaigning for a basic income, for free public transport, for access to education, culture, knowledge and healthcare for all, for time sovereignty. Poorer countries who would have had preferred to refrain from the extraction of oil, environmental destruction, climate risks and the destruction of the social fabric in return for a compensation from the rich countries of the global North – which they unfortunately never received. All of them paved the way for the good life we have today.

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Wed, 04 Jun 2014 03:56:43 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/06/radical-democratization-of-all-public-domains/
Degrowth America 2100 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/05/degrowth-america-2100/ For our project “Degrowth from a future perspective”, we would like to present how Erik Assadourian, Senior Fellow at the World Watch Institute, envisions a Degrowth America in 2100 and looks back to the transiton towards a truly sustainable United States. Will this have become a place where we can still have personal (electric) vehicles, [...] For our project "Degrowth from a future perspective", we would like to present how Erik Assadourian , Senior Fellow at the World Watch Institute, envisions a Degrowth America in 2100 and looks back to the transiton towards a truly sustainable United States. Will this have become a place where we can still have personal (electric) vehicles, the latest smart phones and large “eco” homes? Not quite:

By Erik Assadourian

Climate change has had a devastating impact, and it’s not over yet. The total warming of 3.3 to 4.5 degrees Celsius predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has led to considerable ecological changes. Chicago now has the climate of New Orleans, and New Orleans, well, much of that was claimed by the Gulf of Mexico. The rest of that city, one half of Miami, a third of Manhattan and many other cities were either lost to rising sea levels or proactively converted into wetlands in order to provide a buffer to what habitable land remained. Losing that land was a great tragedy, but a shrinking population, combined with an increasingly agrarian economy made it less painful—in economic terms at least. Nothing will ever replace the loss of the birthplace of jazz.

“Homesteaders”: The New American Way of Life

Perhaps the most striking shift in the United States in 2100 is that a large proportion of Americans now consider their primary occupation to be “homesteaders.” The vast majority live in what were once called “bedroom communities,” suburban infrastructure that was long ago retrofitted into small farmstead communities that provide a secure source of food, textiles and goods both for families living there and the adjacent urban populations. Cities have shrunk in total area and population size as opportunities to become rich dwindled and the security of producing one’s own food became abundantly clear. But cities have also grown denser, with more people living in much smaller homes. The most striking change is the lack of any marginal or underutilized land in cities. Every square foot has its use—to provide shade, food, water filtration, or often a mix of all of these. Nearly every street has a number of urban gardens, parks and artificial wetlands to treat sewage, all managed by a mix of small entrepreneurs and public employees.

Private Car Travel became exceptional

With cars nearly all but abandoned, city streets have been redesigned for bikes, pedestrians, pedicabs, taxis, buses, emergency vehicles and delivery trucks—with this small fleet of motorized vehicles running off renewables-derived electricity. Private car travel is still possible but between the extremely high cost and negative social and cultural pressures few people even want to own a car. Instead, vehicle ownership is relegated to car sharing and rental cars for 99% of the population. Much of the Interstate highway system has also been dismantled as the extreme cost of maintaining it was an unmanageable drain on the public coffers. In the most densely populated areas, highway right-of-ways were reassigned for trains and intercity bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. Transport of goods has declined overall, with more food and goods produced locally, but those products without substitution—tea, coffee, spices, high-tech goods—are mainly transported by rail, BRT highways or the rehabilitated canal systems.

Entire Industry Sectors disappeared

Naturally, with dramatic changes in urban design and American lifestyles, entire industry sectors disappeared. The car industry was retooled to make electric buses, trains, taxis and pedicabs. The less competitive and innovative companies—those that failed to read the changing winds—shut down long ago. This shift also contributed to some extent to the shrinking of the coal, oil and natural gas sectors. The largest drivers of this reduction were the fossil fuel taxes implemented in 2019 (and growing ever since) and America’s reduced global military presence. Together these shifts led to a massive contraction of the fossil fuel industry—to about a hundredth of its peak size—and today the sector is state-owned and its products are reserved exclusively for industrial uses that have no effective substitution.

Some argue that we’re regressing to colonial days and in some ways it’s true—most people work in labor-intensive trades like agriculture, education, healthcare, waste recycling, repair, trade and small-scale production of textiles and durable goods. But the gains made since the colonial era in medicine, in human and environmental rights, in planetary science and the arts have not been lost and arguably these aspects of human life flourish more today than ever before.

Less Electricity Consumption

With fossil fuel usage minimized, and an intentional weaning off of nuclear and the decommissioning of aging and ecologically destructive hydroelectric dams, there is a lot less electricity to go around. Strategic investments in sustainable renewables (solar, wind, small hydro) have replaced much of the nuclear and large hydro lost. An evolution in cultural norms to wear more clothing in the winter and less in the summer in one’s home (not to mention the end of the era of air conditioning)—has made this small amount of electricity feel like more than enough. Electricity usage is further moderated by tiered pricing—the graduation of electricity costs based on the total used. The first 100 kWh a household uses each month are very cheap, perceived as a basic need. The next 100 kWh are quadruple that, with every additional 100 kWh growing ever more expensive. Just the richest few Americans use that kind of electricity. But between new cultural norms, other technologies that take the place of electricity and a simpler life with many fewer gadgets, people get by just fine on just a kWh or two a day.

Caretaker Communities

Biodiversity is recovering to some extent—partly driven by abandoning certain areas of the country and letting nature reclaim them and partly because agriculture is almost entirely sustainable and organic. The government realized that instead of paying companies millions of dollars to log undergrowth in forests to prevent fires, many people would do this for free if granted the ability to live in and subsist off of these ecosystems. These “caretaker communities” now play a vital role in maintaining the health of ecosystems and, as many studies have shown, their presence is actively enriching these systems.

The New American Family

One of the effects of a shift to homesteading and an increasingly informal economy has been the return of multi-generational households. The era of outsourcing elder and childcare came to an end as the total number of jobs shrank and cheap transportation declined but this was readily solved by having elders once again taking care of children while younger adults worked either in remaining formal jobs or around the homestead.

Eating for Health

Healthcare also underwent a radical shift over the past century. Some diseases simply disappeared as diets changed and obesity rates went from over two-thirds of the population in 2010 to just over 2% 90 years later. Gone were the vast majority of cases of diabetes, heart disease, many forms of cancer and arthritis.

With more people physically active and eating healthily, medical care focuses more on treating infectious diseases and accidents and teaching people to prevent sickness. Of course, this, too, was not an easy transition. The pharmaceutical industry, making billions on treating the symptoms of unhealthy living, did not go quietly into the night. But as basic access to care finally became a human right in the U.S. and the system became socialized, the government finally had an incentive to refocus the healthcare system on prevention rather than treating symptoms. School food became healthy, junk food became steeply taxed, advertising for unhealthy products and drugs became tightly controlled.

Our diets changed rapidly as cheap fuel and agricultural subsidies dried up. At first, this manifested with the dramatic shrinkage in availability of total number of calories and packaged, processed foods. Over time, total calories increased but the majority came from less calorie-dense, and more nutritional vegetable matter, including a large percentage produced locally either by small-scale farmers or by one’s own family.

Departure of Cheap Air Travel

One of the biggest changes in 2100 America stemmed from the departure of cheap air travel. This loss (along with comparable increases in other long-distance transportation costs) led to the re-rooting of American families, with most families remaining in the towns, or at least the states, in which they were born. Those that do wander far, driven by their dreams or a desire to start anew, rarely return. But with cultural norms that emphasize familial and community responsibility, this kind of reinvention has become rare. While air travel is uncommon, it has not been altogether abandoned. Instead, it became a sacred rite of passage, with most Americans flying a few times in their lives. Intercontinental travel is now a once-in-a-lifetime luxury, the idea of traveling to another continent for a week of fun and sun, however, was relegated to the history books.

Decline in TV Consumption

Day to day, things function much the same way as they have throughout history (the 20th century arguably excluded). People get up, do a few errands like milking the goat or collecting eggs, have breakfast, listen to the news on the radio, work on their homestead or head to their job, come home, have dinner with their family, relax—maybe read a book or play a board game that they borrowed from the library, or on special occasions, watch something on the family laptop. One of the most remarkable shifts is that average TV/video consumption has declined from four hours a day to four hours a week.

How realistic is this scenario?

Admittedly all this adds up to an almost alien world as compared to America in 2012. First and foremost, this vision assumes an ever increasing level of equity—resources better distributed among Americans including employment, land and, most importantly, a fair share of wealth being returned to society by the richest in order to fund public infrastructure and social goods, including a basic level of healthcare for all people. But America is not like that, nor is any country in existence today. Instead, growth in all its forms is celebrated uncritically

More likely, the America of 2100 will have more in common with post-Soviet Tajikistan. Tajikistan in 2012, two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is rabidly inequitable with most people lacking heating in the winter while a small minority lives an affluent consumer lifestyle, complete with iPhones, gym memberships and foreign travel. Much of the infrastructure is old and inefficient Soviet construction—not a comfortable lifestyle for those that can’t afford gas or electricity. Most people eke out a living in the informal economy, but lack any security whatsoever—access to healthcare, a social safety net, even a functioning banking system.

This, sadly, is a more probable path for America, but it is certainly not inevitable. The key to avoiding this, however, will be to have a clear, attainable vision of a truly sustainable society. Even a green consumer lifestyle is directly in conflict with the realities of a finite and increasingly overtaxed planet and is a vision based on denial. Only when people face this reality will a future of true sustainable prosperity for the United States and the planet be possible.

> Comment this artlicle on the German blog "Postwachstum"

Long version first published in E Magazine

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Tue, 20 May 2014 22:00:53 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/05/degrowth-america-2100/
“The dollar is approaching its collapse, which will force a reconfiguration of our systems of money, finance and banking” https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/02/the-dollar-is-approaching-its-collapse-which-will-force-a-reconfiguration-of-our-systems-of-money-finance-and-banking-interview-with-ole-bjerg/ Interview with Ole Bjerg Ole Bjerg is associate professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He writes for the ephemera Journal and is one of the organizers of the conference “Organizing for the post-growth economy”. He gave us a short interview for the Stream towards Degrowth. Ole Bjerg is associate professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He writes for the ephemera Journal and is one of the organizers of the conference "Organizing for the post-growth economy". He gave us a short interview for the Stream towards Degrowth.  
Imagine we're living in the future, say in the year 2030, in a time of well-being. Humanity
enjoys a good life beyond economic growth. Let's look back at the last few decades.
1. In what respect did society depend on growth? Society depends on the growth of living organisms, plants and animals. However, this kind of growth is taking place within a natural cycle of life and death so that nothing grows infinitely. 2.What obstacles impeded a turning away from economic growth? The major obstacle was the creation of money by banks as interest bearing debt. As soon as this obstacle was overcome through a monetary reform the need for perpetual economic growth became obsolete. 3. How did your actions contribute to a society beyond growth? Through my writing and teaching I played an active role in raising the awareness of the detrimental effects of the past monetary system and the benefits of the implementation of a new system based on full reserve banking. 4. From your point of view, what does well-being imply in a society that consciously chose low production and consumption levels? Freedom in the sense of being in control and in contact with the means of one’s own subsistence. 5. Which signs for a world beyond growth did you already notice in 2013? That the dollar is approaching its collapse, which will force a reconfiguration of our systems of money, finance and banking.]]>
Fri, 14 Feb 2014 15:00:40 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/02/the-dollar-is-approaching-its-collapse-which-will-force-a-reconfiguration-of-our-systems-of-money-finance-and-banking-interview-with-ole-bjerg/
“Economic degrowth had to be coupled with political democracy” https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/02/economic-degrowth-had-to-be-coupled-with-political-democracy-interview-with-christine-bauhardt/ Interview with Christine Bauhardt Prof. Dr. Christine Bauhardt is professor for Gender and Globalization at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Her main research interests are society-nature-relations and gender relations, feminist critique of the economy as well as migration and urban development. She took the time to answer our questions for the interview-series of the Stream Christine Bauhardt

Prof. Dr. Christine Bauhardt is professor for Gender and Globalization at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Her main research interests are society-nature-relations and gender relations, feminist critique of the economy as well as migration and urban development. She took the time to answer our questions for the interview-series of the Stream towards Degrowth. Imagine we're living in the future, say in the year 2030, in a time of well-being. Humanity enjoys a good life beyond economic growth. Let's look back at the last few decades. 1. In what respect did society depend on growth? Economic growth at that time was fostered by the demand for conspicuous consumer goods, e.g. cars and clothes. The German car manufacturing was the leading sector for expensive and petrol consuming vehicles. They were bought by affluent male car drivers wanting to display wealth and power. The demand for clothes, either cheap or expensive, was driven by the fashion industry and ideas about female beauty and attractiveness. 2. What obstacles impeded a turning away from economic growth? Turning away from economic growth would have meant dealing with projections about social gender norms and gendered desires. Consumer goods do not only satisfy basic needs. They very often compensate for hidden psychic impulses. Therefore, appeals to less, but more deliberate consumption often remain vain. 3. How did your actions contribute to a society beyond growth? I have always been leading a hedonistic lifestyle. Everyday, I chose which mode of transportation met best my travel needs and provided me with most pleasure. In the sunshine I cycled to my workplace, in the rain I travelled by public transport using the time to read the newspaper. I have ever been passionate about good food and I love cooking so I have been shopping at my local farmer’s market as often as possible. Time affluence has always been of great value to me. 4. From your point of view, what does well-being imply in a society that consciously chose low production and consumption levels? Well-being in this sense would imply for me satisfying and reliable social relations. In a society in which commodities are less available by financial means, economic and social security depends largely on the individual capacity to construct and maintain personal relationships. This is time-consuming and can comprise power relations. In the current debate, I think, these aspects are not enough reflected on. 5. Which signs for a world beyond growth did you already notice in 2013? In 2013, the financial crisis was the most obvious sign that economic growth serves the mighty and wealthy and disempowers the majority of people. A world beyond growth in 2013 looked more like a dystopia of inequality and injustice than a happy and socially rich degrowth society. Economic degrowth had to be coupled with political democracy in order to develop a new vision of prosperity.]]> Fri, 14 Feb 2014 14:53:32 +0000 https://www.degrowth.info/en/2014/02/economic-degrowth-had-to-be-coupled-with-political-democracy-interview-with-christine-bauhardt/