Special Issue "Degrowth: The Economic Alternative for the Anthropocene"
A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2012)
Dr. Nicolas Kosoy
McGill School of Environment (MSE), 3534 University Avenue, Montreal, QC H3Z 2A7, Canada
Phone: +1 514 398 7944
Fax: +1 514 398 7990
Interests: ecological economics; degrowth; theory of value; markets for nature
The special issue on “Growth, Recession or Degrowth for Sustainability and Equity?” (edited by François Schneider, Giorgos Kallis, Joan Martinez-Alier), published by the Journal of Cleaner Production (Volume 18, Issue 6, 2010 ), constitutes a keystone in the analysis of this emerging economic paradigm. That collection of articles has contributed to trigger debates about the most appropriate way to conceptualize degrowth. The editors have built their theoretical approach mostly on European thinkers, which offers a clear and consistent framework. However, according to our view, this theoretical background―though useful in some circumstances― has not yet been extended so as to grasp the wide variety of alternative social movements and views that promote degrowth but do not call it as such. In particular, we refer to Latin American environmental justice organizations that use the term “Buen Vivir: or “Suma Kausak” (good living in English) to refer to alternative economic and social paradigms that take into account social and ecological complexities and boundaries. In addition, the emphasis among some ecological economists in North America on economic valuation of ecosystem services and other non-market values makes the Americas a context for degrowth that provides an opportunity to emphasize particular issues in the degrowth discussion.
This Special Issue, outlined below, is the result of the collective effort of the organizers and participants to the International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas in Montreal, May 2012. The Special Issue has considerable added value as it builds upon and enhances previous theoretical frameworks, so different world views within the community of degrowth and environmental justice are better represented in degrowth debates.
This special issue starts with an introductory paper from the editors, providing a shared framework to conceptualize degrowth and environmental justice as alternatives to the growth paradigm. The Special Issue is then divided in five (5) interrelated sections matching most of the six (6) main topics of the International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas. Each theme will be covered by a selection of the most relevant theoretical and empirical papers presented at the conference.
- Knowing. How can the physical, biological and social sciences help us in understanding how to enhance the flourishing of the Earth’s life systems?
- Relating. What means of relationship and exchange can help enhance the continual flourishing of the Earth’s life systems?
- Consenting. How can the major political, economic, development, social, technical, and scientific priorities of society be developed with broad and informed public dialogue and consent?
- Sharing. How can the radically unjust inequalities between people be eliminated; and how can the human fair share of the Earth’s life support systems be defined and achieved?
- Experiencing. What would a flourishing society look and feel like for individuals and collectives at various temporal and spatial scales?
Dr. Nicolas Kosoy
Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.
Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.
biology; physics; chemistry; life sciences; ecology; boundaries; limits; thresholds; life systems; cycles; evolution; cosmology; thermodynamics; research; uncertainty; risk; indicators; metrics; technology; scale; momentum; traditional knowledges; stocks; flows; bioproductivity; biocapacity; life support capacity
interconnectivity; relationship; exchange; materiality; commodification; commensurability; valuation; commonwealth of life; economics; ownership; sacredness; empathy; rationality; industrialisation; sense of place; localism; conviviality; simplicity; cooperation; waste; employment; capitalism; reciprocity; symbiosis; altruism; competition; money; currencies; banking systems; gender; multiculturalism
discourse; deliberation; advertising; media; politics; education; deception; brainwashing; hegemony; propaganda; truth; dialogue; democracy; public sphere authoritarianism; conviction; trust; fear; honest brokers; expertise; governance; regulations; subsidiarity; consent; accountability; norms; laws; institutions; capitalism; socialism; other “isms”; imperialism; militarism
sharing; fairness; justice; inequality; differentiation; fair share; distribution; limits; sufficiency; greed; us-them dynamics; intergenerational; intragenerational; interspecies; north-south; developed; developing; overconsumption; poverty; biodiversity; extinction; population; imperialisms; exploitation; accumulation; appropriation; privatization; commons; theft; Ponzi schemes; casino economy; taxes
psychological wellbeing; interspecies wellbeing; happiness economics; public health; environmental integrity; risk prevention; security; public services; conservation; diversity; sufficiency; beauty; dignity; reverence; respect; slow movements; creativity and imagination; regenerative cycles; maintaining; evolving; innovation; involution; biosystems mimicry; change; foresight; hindsight; fufillment; reflection, challenge, restorative justice, self-sufficiency; provisioning; food; energy; entertainment; work, community; housing; transportation; education; communication systems; day-to-day life
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 276-297; doi:10.3390/su5010276
Received: 14 November 2012; in revised form: 31 December 2012 / Accepted: 5 January 2013 / Published: 21 January 2013| Download PDF Full-text (226 KB) | Download XML Full-text
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 316-337; doi:10.3390/su5010316
Received: 13 November 2012; in revised form: 7 January 2013 / Accepted: 14 January 2013 / Published: 22 January 2013| Download PDF Full-text (225 KB) | Download XML Full-text
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1067-1079; doi:10.3390/su5031067
Received: 8 November 2012; in revised form: 31 January 2013 / Accepted: 4 February 2013 / Published: 7 March 2013| Download PDF Full-text (407 KB) | Download XML Full-text
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1282-1303; doi:10.3390/su5031282
Received: 30 October 2012; in revised form: 7 January 2013 / Accepted: 7 February 2013 / Published: 20 March 2013| Download PDF Full-text (119 KB) | Download XML Full-text
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1545-1567; doi:10.3390/su5041545
Received: 23 January 2013; in revised form: 16 February 2013 / Accepted: 25 March 2013 / Published: 11 April 2013| Download PDF Full-text (1109 KB) | Download XML Full-text
The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.
Title: An Ethics for Ecosystem Services: The Case of Bullfighting
Author: Nicolas Kosoy
Abstract: This paper aims at analyzing bullfighting from an ecosystem services perspective. For such a endeavor, this paper will first de-construct bullfighting in terms of legitimacy, social identity and historical relationships. As this human-nature relationship is established, the concept of ecosystem services is deconstructed, leading to argument for an ethical imperative towards transparency (procedural transparency) in the decision making process regarding human-nature relationship. Procedural transparency then conveys a co-evolutionary construction of values and also a re-assessment of our place in the Universe. Bullfighting as a cultural ecosystem service is, in sum another expression of homo economics whose supremacy (biological imperative) over other species legitimizes the appropriation, exploitation and pillage of all other forms of capital.
Title: Compassionate Communities: A Breeding Ground for Innovation
Author: Judy Nagy
Abstract: How can building a compassionate community fuel degrowth? The true foundation of the degrowth movement is empathy and caring at the individual level. Once individuals are engaged they can be motivated, as a group, to help people and the environment through their behaviours, beliefs and actions. Near Montreal, a group called Circle of Friends, consisting of 150 families in one community, has responded to the needs of neighbours in crisis, saved an old growth forest from destruction, helped protect an endangered bog, and offered up miraculous ‘spiritual gifts’ that have changed lives. The COF is project managed, organized and relies on social media to spread their message. For degrowth to succeed as a movement it requires individuals who have developed and practiced their compassion “muscle”, building compassionate communities is one solid way to accomplish this goal.
Title: Monetary and Fiscal Policy for a Steady State Economy
Author: Joshua Farley et al.
Abstract: Our current interest bearing, debt-based system of money creation exacerbates booms and busts, systematically transfers wealth and resources to the financial sector. Since interest rates exceed economic growth rates, this monetary system would be unsustainable even on an infinite planet, and it can only finance the creation of market goods and services. We must restore the power of money creation to the public sector, with built in mechanisms for reducing money supply over time as the economy contracts. This will allow the public sector to spend money as needed for public goods, including the restoration of natural capital, without going into debt. This paper assumes the necessity of a steady-state economy. A steady-state economy must follow clear rules: renewable resource extraction cannot exceed the regeneration rate, pollution outflows cannot exceed absorption capacity, neither extraction nor pollution can threaten essential ecosystem functions, and essential non-renewable resources cannot be depleted faster than we develop substitutes. Currently, levels of throughput exceed all these rules. De-growth, defined as decreasing levels of throughput, is therefore an essential first step towards a steady-state economy.
Title: The Priced versus the Priceless
Author: Derek Rasmussen
Abstract: In ancient times, markets had a limited prescribed place within societies; today they enclose societies. Markets used to be embedded in and controlled by societies, now societies are embedded in and controlled by markets. So many of nature’s priceless abundances have been walled off and priced that it has become normal for humans to live in fear of being without food and shelter. Living abstract lives dependent on money, we are no longer familiar with nature’s seasonal replenishment of these abundances—free of charge, available to the deserving and undeserving alike. The fear that underlies a civilization like ours emphasizes scarcity instead of abundance. Because our relations—human, natural, financial—are rooted in scarcity, we live in fear of things ‘running out’ and face the sad reality of having no one to turn to. If we can’t turn to “our society” and “our neighbours” for help, then the social agglomerations we live in are too large. Amidst environmental degradation and monetized scarcity, how do we reestablish garden-variety trust in each other? How do we recover and encourage our feeling for abundance and our appreciation of things (and nonthings) without prices? Combining my experience of 12 years of living and working with Inuit in Nunavut along with stories of personal advice from Ivan Illich, Gustavo Esteva, and Noam Chomsky, I hope to provide some practical advice for those of us who want to exercise our compassion muscles without being stymied by market relations at every turn.
Title: The Macroeconomics of De-Growth: Can a De-Growth Strategy be Stable?
Author: Dina Padalkina
Abstract: This paper examines an alternative strategy for sustainability and economic development based on de-growth assumptions. This concept is proposed by ecological economists, who consider there to be a natural limitation on economic growth, imposed by necessary environmental regulation. Moreover they oppose the neoclassical ideas, which are considered as pro growth theories, arguing that economic growth itself does not contribute to the social and economic development, therefore it should not be sustained. Accepting this proposition the author makes an attempt to verify the feasibility of a de-growth strategy for macroeconomic stability, applying a post-Keynesian methodology for analysis. The Kaleckian model is used as the basic approach to derive the model restrictions for the de-growth strategy that maintains macroeconomic stability. The findings of this paper will provide policy recommendations to sustain macroeconomic stability, while taking full account of the de-growth assumptions.
Title: Deep Debt and the Invention of “Conscious Capitalism”
Author: James Magnus-Johnston
Abstract: On the heels of the global ‘occupy’ movement, there is increasing public consciousness about the inadequacies of the global money and banking system. The system’s requirement for ever-deepening indebtedness represents the primary institutional barrier to degrowth towards a steady-state economy. An institutional reorientation away from debt and towards savings is a prerequisite for a responsible transition; to degrow in a debt-based system is an invitation for financial volatility. A number of theorists have interrogated how the debt-based banking system impels growth. By synthesizing their theoretical arguments and providing a statistical analysis, I demonstrate how debt (used credit) might be said to have a greater ecological footprint than income (savings). Secondly, I speculate how a savings-based economy might resuscitate the term ”capitalism” in critical economic discourse. Mainstream economists and their critics alike have conflated "the economic system" (i.e. “capitalism”), with "the banking system" as the primary subject of argument. Proponents and critics of growth alike are guilty of perpetuating the fallacy that growth is an inevitable consequence of capitalism. It is only in their responses that they diverge -- whereas mainstream economists defend the system, critics protest against it. Through my research, I offer a third perspective: capitalism in a savings-based economy might thrive on sustainable seeds of capital that produce yields. Indeed, perhaps a “conscious capitalism” where capital is characterized as “savings” rather than “credit” represents the most promising catalyst for responsible degrowth towards a steady-state economy.
Title: From Theory to Practice for building an economy of ‘Right Relationships’
Author: Sarah Wolcott
Abstract: There is mounting recognition and desire for an economy that enables ‘right relationship’ (Brown & Garver 2012) with ourselves, one another and the earth. It is understood, here, that right-relationship at a global scale is near impossible within the context of an economic system dependent upon a debt-based monetary system which requires continual economic growth. While this situates the author within the ‘de-growth’ framework, the emphasis here is on building an eco-nomy of right relationships. In a complex, rapidly changing system where it is impossible to predict which crisis or surprise will next impact various populations, coming into right relationship means enabling the entrenched, niche-specific knowledge about the concrete reality of the current situation as it is changing in real time to inform collective decision making especially around policy and ongoing management. To do this we need to avoid blue-print solutions, including too much overarching rhetoric about the need to ‘degrow’, and focus instead on building relationships that enable the critical knowledge of the concrete needs of the system to come to the fore. We focus here on knowledge for and relationship to water, and what knowledge needs and approaches are needed to build institutions that enable an economy of right relationships. We focus on case studies in the United States and in India where struggles to enable the connections of the critical knowledges-systems that can support ‘right-relationship’ and of asking the right questions to change the goal of the system are revealed. The people who have the critical knowledge about the ‘right’ things to pay attention are generally those involved in managing and using the resource in question. Researchers and other knowledge-brokers within the ‘degrowth’, ‘right relationship’ and related movements are seen to play a critical role in provoking, revealing and enabling context-specific approaches and can help to re-frame the goals of the system. Doing so is revealed to get to the heart of systemic issues, regardless of the country in question. While this paper focuses on the importance of the concrete and the sub-national in enabling the emergence of a radically different social-economy (thus following in the light of the suggestions of focusing on the local level (DeGrowth 2010) it is recognised that changing the overarching goals of the system requires continuous, active intellectual and practical work across levels.
Title: Can Economic De-growth Combat Poverty and Achieve Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability within a Capitalist Economy?
Author: Karen Bell
Abstract: Continuing economic growth, though proposed as the answer to poverty and inequality, appears to be ecologically unsustainable. Thus, the degrowth movement has emerged with the agenda of reducing over-consumption. Though this may be better for the natural environment, many would argue that it will increase poverty and inequality. Ironically, the rise of the degrowth movement has coincided with economic recession and stagnation in the richer countries, on a scale not seen since the 1930s. The result of this does, indeed, seem to have increased poverty and inequality. This situation forces us to consider whether degrowth is feasible in a capitalist economy, which appears to depend on growth and if not, what this tells us about how we should transition to an equal, just and ecological society.
Title: De-Growth and Re-Growth: The Story of New England Food and Farming
Author: John E. Carroll
Abstract: What has happened in New England (the "Boston States" to Atlantic and Maritime Canadians) in recent decades is a remarkable story of de-growth and re-growth which provides a powerful model to those interested in fundamental change in our society and the decline of the strong but now weakening model of economic growth to which we've adhered until now. Industrial agriculture, centralized large and mid-scale commodity or export agriculture, has collapsed in New England. It is being replaced by de-centralized small-scale local agriculture producing food for local consumption in New England. With the demise of a centralized food production system, the epitome of the economic growth model as we've known it, we have seen a sharp rise at the grass-roots of the most de-centralized economic model possible, all based on direct sales, farmer to consumer. Such direct marketing is the key to economic sustainability for people on the land and to the maintenance and expansion of a healthy new truly local grass roots economy, with food, both production and processing, at its center. In New England the revolution in local food and farming is at the helm of the new de-centralized economy which is replacing the growth economy of the past. And, in some ways, that new de-centralized New England economy is taking a cue from Quebec and New Brunswick.
Title: What Shall Degrow? Proposals of Bottom-Up Degrowth of Capacity to Produce and Consume
Author: François Schneider
Abstract: The idea of Sustainable Degrowth challenges economic growth. It is also a proposal to reduce the size of the developed economies as a path for sustainability and equity. This article intends to refine the notion of degrowth by clarifying why the idea of reduction of the size of the economy makes sense and what it exactly means. Economy is here understood as the system of production and consumption. Acting directly at the level of emissions, extractions, social problem is bound to fail if we do not take into account the limiting factors to production and consumption. These limiting factors include time, natural resources, infrastructures, money, regulations, satisfaction of needs, awareness and equality and represent different dimensions of what we call the capacity to produce and consume. Some dimensions are more quantitative, others are more qualitative. The size of the economy shall be ultimately related to the limits to production and consumption i.e. with the multidimensional capacity to produce and consume, because the economy transforms and increases its impacts until it reaches these limits. This is what has been described with the macro-rebound effect or Jevons paradox. If the Jevons Paradox does not occur sufficiently (because the filling-up of the capacity to produce and consume is unattainable due to a limit in one of the dimensions) we have economic crises or social crises (e.g. unemployment). It ensues that the only way to solve the multidimensional crisis is with the degrowth of the societal production/consumption capacities, coupled with sufficiency and appropriate efficiency measures. On the opposite, present policies on both local and governmental level are concerned with the increase of the production/consumption capacity. This includes, on one hand, a selection of efficiency innovations that suppress limits to the increase of production and consumption capacity, and, on the other, growth policies that create the framework so that this increase can occur. We propose the combination of frugal innovation i.e. innovations that integrate limits, and degrowth policies consisting of democratic adjustments of capacities at a larger scale so that the macro-rebound is prevented. Adjustments are the completion of the frugal innovation objective at a higher level of complexity. The article suggests practical examples of frugal innovation and adjustment that can be undertaken at micro and macro levels. Using less natural resources can be supported by policies that leave more resources in the ground. Using less cars, producing waste, consuming less energy would be supported by a infrastructure adjustment like a moratorium on road, incineration, fossil energy thermal energy or nuclear plants. Taking time for conviviality would be supported by a reduction of working hours. Earning less and spending less would be supported by finances’ related adjustments going out of the “debt or virtual economy”. Adjustments at the finance level would also imply replacing world currencies by local currencies. A regulation-based adjustment would generally involve an improvement of social, environmental and product quality standards. An adjustment in the area of needs consists of supporting mutualisation, (in housing for example), and sharing throughout the life-cycles of materials by planning reuse and recycling. A key degrowth adjustment dealing with awareness would involve restricting advertising. Finally, inequality adjustment could introduce measures like basic income and more social security in general, and income ceiling to reduce income gaps.
Last update: 14 November 2012