This past week I’ve been listening to many talks from the Beyond Growth Conference, hosted by the European Union, including one from the EU President with the stunning public acknowledgement that a growth model based on fossil fuels is now obsolete. Many former podcast guests and close colleagues of mine are in attendance at this event: Vandana Shiva, Giorgos Kallis, Timothee Parrique, Olivia Lazard, and Simon Michaux. These people all share with me the same larger life purpose towards creating a society more in tune with the natural world - something not based on the endless growth of material wealth. In the context of this growing conversation around growth, today, I wanted to unpack what I think the degrowth movement is getting right, but also what is missing from this important conversation. Is it possible to purposely navigate from our current system to one with lower energy and material wealth? How does a large and growing global debt overhang impact this possibility? Is a transfer of wealth between nations feasible or even desirable based on realistic outcomes? My analysis suggests degrowth is what we should do, but post-growth is what we’re going to have to do. In any case, the stakeholders in the degrowth conversation need to be expanded. It’s now the primary movement mapping out what a desirable destination might look like as we move through a Great Simplification.
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Two weeks ago, I posted my annual Earth Day Presentation. This year, I was inspired by conversation with Marcus Briggs-Cloud of the Muskogee Tribe, who was explaining to me how English words fail to represent the values and terms in his native language. That got me to thinking about the semantic power that resides in the everyday words we use - the words themselves imbue an understanding and perspective that shape our behaviors - and almost give them tacit approval. As such, for this year’s Earth Day presentation, I present 30+ common (English) terms that we use to describe our surroundings, and pair them with their ‘systems reality’ equivalents.
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If anyone still needs a rationale for planned degrowth, I think, as an evolutionary ecologist, that the following captures the organic causes and material essence of the human eco-predicament:
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