Wednesday, June 16 2021

Quote of the Day

The whole world at your fingertips, the ocean at your door
The live-action Lion King, the pepsi Halftime Show
Twenty-thousand years of this, seven more to go
Carpool Karaoke, Steve Aoki, Logan Paul
A gift shop at the gun range, a mass shooting at the mall
There it is again
That funny feeling

Bo Burnham, “That Funny Feeling”, Inside

Sometimes Falling For Clickbait Titles Works Out

Our Changing Climate, “How We End Consumerism”, YouTube

I don’t really know if I was expecting a wholesale answer to ending consumerism in a 12-minute video, but I didn’t want to get up and start cleaning the apartment so I decided to find out. I’m glad I did, because while the video is pretty light on specifics, it introduced some interesting new vocabulary: degrowth and ecosocialism.

Degrowth: Oh wow, so there’s a lot about this thing I’ve never heard of.

Degrowth is an idea that critiques the global capitalist system which pursues growth at all costs, causing human exploitation and environmental destruction. The degrowth movement of activists and researchers advocates for societies that prioritize social and ecological well-being instead of corporate profits, over-production and excess consumption. This requires radical redistribution, reduction in the material size of the global economy, and a shift in common values towards care, solidarity and autonomy. Degrowth means transforming societies to ensure environmental justice and a good life for all within planetary boundaries.

“What is degrowth?”,

Well, ok, it’s a grand vision, I guess. I’m totally for prioritizing social and ecological well-being over profit. Interestingly, their requirements to realize this re-prioritization seem to still have a system of money. So less of a Star Trek-ian future model. I’m also interested in what “autonomy” looks like next to “solidarity”, with no mention of community, just society. Hmm.

Like a snake eating its own tail, our growth-orientated civilisation suffers from the delusion that there are no environmental limits to growth. But rethinking growth in an age of limits cannot be avoided. The only question is whether it will be by design or disaster…

The idea of the steady-state economy presents us with an alternative. This term is somewhat misleading, however, because it suggests that we simply need to maintain the size of the existing economy and stop seeking further growth. 

But given the extent of ecological overshoot – and bearing in mind that the poorest nations still need some room to develop their economies and allow the poorest billions to attain a dignified level of existence – the transition will require the richest nations to downscale radically their resource and energy demands. 

This realisation has given rise to calls for economic “degrowth”. To be distinguished from recession, degrowth means a phase of planned and equitable economic contraction in the richest nations, eventually reaching a steady state that operates within Earth’s biophysical limits.

At this point, mainstream economists will accuse degrowth advocates of misunderstanding the potential of technology, markets, and efficiency gains to “decouple” economic growth from environmental impact. But there is no misunderstanding here. Everyone knows that we could produce and consume more efficiently than we do today. The problem is that efficiency without sufficiency is lost…

This is the defining, critical flaw in growth economics: the false assumption that all economies across the globe can continue growing while radically reducing environmental impact to a sustainable level. The extent of decoupling required is simply too great. As we try unsuccessfully to “green” capitalism, we see the face of Gaia vanishing.

The very lifestyles that were once considered the definition of success are now proving to be our greatest failure. Attempting to universalise affluence would be catastrophic. There is absolutely no way that today’s 7.2 billion people could live the Western way of life, let alone the 11 billion expected in the future. Genuine progress now lies beyond growth. Tinkering around the edges of capitalism will not cut it. 

Samuel Alexander, “Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it”, The Conversation

Well that’s a much clearer call to action and explanation. And hey, I think I actually have run into this idea before under the guise of the “doughnut economics“:

Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer. The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.

Kate Raworth, “What on Earth is the Doughnut?…

Ok, I’m running out of time today for more introspection and research about degrowth, so here’s a bunch of the links I unearthed but didn’t read:

And no time to even look up ecosocialism! Next post I guess.