The following are brief responses to complex topics. To explore these questions in greater detail see this list of resources.
Wouldn’t degrowth cause a recession?
Our economy is currently dependent on growth (measured by GDP). The structure of our current economy requires that it must constantly grow at an exponential rate (doubling in size about every 23 years). When an economy dependent on growth shrinks, a recession occurs which leads to often devastating consequences like job loss and other forms of economic disenfranchisement.
Degrowth advocates for a different kind of economy that does not require ever-increasing growth, thus removing the cause of recessions. And we argue that this will actually increase individual, communal, and environmental wellbeing.
What about jobs?
A degrowth economy requires less labor to produce what is required to meet human needs and thus it will be possible to shorten the working week. Necessary labor can be shared so unemployment, a persistent problem in our current economy, can be eliminated. Degrowth is currently exploring many ideas related to labor. One proposal underway, for instance, is a climate job guarantee for all who want to work on addressing this collective challenge.
Can’t green growth be the solution?
If we want to live sustainably and justly… no. If we choose to stay with the current economic system, which requires exponential growth, that growth will continue to drive increasing extraction from the planet (things like lithium) and from people and places (like the Congo for labor and cobalt). In other words, it will lead to further environmental degradation and negative social impacts. Calling it “green growth” does not change the growth imperative of the current system.
Furthermore, without degrowth the transition to “green” energy alternatives will not occur at the rate necessary to avoid catastrophic global warming. Why? Because our current economy requires exponential growth. Thus despite over two decades of installing solar, wind and other renewables these installations have only covered a fraction, only a fraction, of the ever increasing demand for energy needed to power an economy based on endless growth. The renewables have not replaced any fossil fuel energy. They have only covered a small portion of the ever increasing energy demand imposed on people and the planet by the current growth based economy.
So is degrowth against green technology?
Not at all! Green technology has an essential role to play in sustainable transformations. The difference is that, with degrowth, energy demand will not constantly need to grow, so renewables can start to replace non-renewables. Degrowth advocates for the consideration of which and how resources and technologies are used and for what purposes, creating frameworks to achieve equity and well-being for people and planet.