Degrowth, A-growth,”Green growth” – useful recent links

A few years ago I wrote this pdf: Economic growth and climate change which is a collation of links to excellent papers arranged under clear section headings.
It stayed at a late draft stage as I was stopped from making it a final as I had to suddenly stop to look after my aged parents who suddenly needed help (with bad timing for that pdf). Nonetheless it is I hope useful if its date is taken into account and new papers since then are also read as updates (or at least their summaries or abstracts). Some of these updates are below:
This living blogpost is in note form as I have no time at present to organize it. But it has very useful links.
The wider context within which degrowth vs growthism needs assessing:

Firstly why degrowth is necessary, … [We are consuming and emitting/ polluting beyond planetary boundaries thus unsustainable]

Secondly what is sufficiency and will it fit within planetary boundaries.

Thirdly we need to work out what is of value – the COV-19 crisis has helped highlighted what matters of value, and it isn’t measured by the neoclassical yardsticks of market price/ current wages:

Ian Gough: 28apr20 In times of climate breakdown, how do we value what matters?The coronavirus has shown us who the key workers are. We need a new theory of value if we are to face an even bigger threat.”
And also what is possible within planetary boundaries i.e. ‘living well within limits’ – ‘sufficiency’ (e.g. empirical work by Julia Steinberger and others working this out).

Fourthly we need a money-creation system different to that we have now, because the present system is a GDP-growth-demanding system. Positive Money tackles this topic:

BTW: I put Green Growth in “” because empirical evidence indicates that the meaning used by those promoting this term cannot be achieved as truly green in terms of being sustainable as regards climate/environment and resource use. See Hickel & Kallis (2019) below.

NB Degrowth is aimed at developed countries such as in Europe and North America (i.e. ‘Western’ countries) not developing and poor countries such as in the ‘Global South’ which have relatively low consumption and a higher percentage of people in poverty. Note that because developed countries consume a high percentage of their consumption from resources extracted from the global South – degrowth of the former will affect the latter (potentially beneficially in terms of wellbeing attributes).

Follow e.g. Jason Hickel @jasonhickel Giorgos Kallis @g_kallis Federico Demaria, Julia Steinberger @JKSteinberger Kate Raworth, … @R_Degrowth @DegrowthTalks

Jason Hickel has brought out a new book (so too has Giorgios Kallis):
Less is MoreHow Degrowth Will Save the World

This may be useful: @Degrowth_info on twitter – Web portal presenting research and news on #degrowth and #postgrowth Managed by @r_mastini, @Schnecken_Post, and @joefherb. Planet Earth Joined January 2013


A useful summary abstract:

17apr19 Is Green Growth Possible? Jason Hickel & Giorgos Kallis [pdf link here via JH tweet] To cite this article: Jason Hickel & Giorgos Kallis (2019): Is Green Growth Possible?, New Political Economy, DOI: 10.1080/13563467.2019.1598964 To link to this article:
The notion of green growth has emerged as a dominant policy response to
climate change and ecological breakdown. Green growth theory asserts
that continued economic expansion is compatible with our planet’s
ecology, as technological change and substitution will allow us to
absolutely decouple GDP growth from resource use and carbon
emissions. This claim is now assumed in national and international
policy, including in the Sustainable Development Goals. But empirical
evidence on resource use and carbon emissions does not support green
growth theory. Examining relevant studies on historical trends and
model-based projections, we find that: (1) there is no empirical evidence
that absolute decoupling from resource use can be achieved on a global
scale against a background of continued economic growth, and (2)
absolute decoupling from carbon emissions is highly unlikely to be
achieved at a rate rapid enough to prevent global warming over 1.5°C
or 2°C, even under optimistic policy conditions. We conclude that green
growth is likely to be a misguided objective, and that policymakers need
to look toward alternative strategies.

8jul19 Decoupling debunked: Why green growth is not enough EEB.

15aug19 Green growth is trusted to fix climate change – here’s the problem with that  PhD Candidate in Ecological Economics, University of Surrey.

4dec20 Green growth vs degrowth: are we missing the point? | openDemocracy Beth Stratford. Recommended read by Kate Raworth. Her tweet: @KateRaworth ‘In the long-running debate of green growth vs degrowth, @beth_stratford is now bringing uncommon clarity and sense. Read this excellent blog.’

Jason Hickel podcast ‘Less is more’ for XR 18may20
Review of Hickel’s new book ‘Less is more’: The Urgent Case for Shrinking the Economy | The New Republic


1. Why is degrowth necessary?

16july20 ‘Green Economic Growth’ Is a Myth There are ‘no realistic scenarios’ to make the economic growth demanded by capitalism compatible with a safe climate, researchers who advised the United Nations found. NA By Nafeez AhmedThe green growth advocates highlight increasing efficiencies, but: “Within the wider system these efficiencies are enabling us to consume even greater quantities of resources overall.” … “Combing through 179 of the best studies of this issue from 1990 to 2019 further reveals “no evidence” that any meaningful decoupling has ever taken place.” … “In two new, peer-reviewed research papers published in June, their analysis goes further. Capitalism’s drive for maximising profits means that the economy is structured around continued economic growth: if it doesn’t grow, it collapses. This means that huge technological efficiencies tend to empower capitalism to grow faster and bigger.” … …
… “Yet the authors conclude that many of the accounting measures used to conclude that decoupling is happening systematically obscure or exclude critical data. “The existence of decoupling in a bounded geographical area or economic sector does not, as such, mean that decoupling is happening in a wider context,” argued the BIOS team: “Well-known and widely studied phenomena such as Jevons’ paradox, rebound, and outsourcing show that sectoral and local decoupling can co-exist with and even depend on increased environmental impact and increased resource use outside the analysed geographical or sectoral unit,” they wrote.” … “The study reviewed 179 scientific studies on decoupling published between 1990 and 2019 and found, in short, that: “… the evidence does not suggest that decoupling towards ecological sustainability is happening at a global (or even regional) scale.””

19jun20 Capitalism is destroying ‘safe operating space’ for humanity, warn scientists Nafeez Ahmed, referring to e.g.:

19jun20 Scientists’ warning on affluence Thomas Wiedmann, Manfred Lenzen, Lorenz T. KeyßerJulia K. Steinberger Nature Communications volume 11, Article number: 3107 (2020)

2. What is sufficiency and will it fit within planetary boundaries?

A Good Life For All Within Planetary Boundaries

Recent empirical studies at Leeds University (e.g. by Professor Julia Steinberger and colleagues) support a need for degrowth in wealthy/developed countries.

I’ll add such refs when I have time, such as:

Julia Steinberger @JKSteinberger tweet:
Have you seen my paper showing the relative lack of effect of GDP growth on life expectancy, for instance? Would be interesting to apply this approach to GDP growth on poverty/deprivation, also as a way of separating correlation from causality. 
Your money or your life? The carbon-development paradox
– Steinberger et al. (2020)
Abstract concludes: “… Facing this carbon-development paradox requires prioritizing human well-being over economic growth.”

Is growth necessary? Living Well within Planetary Limits project – Global Gathering Session on Degrowth 14/11/2020 – Professor Julia Steinberger, Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne, Switzerland. A 9 page slide presentation on google-drive as part of her oral presentation for the ‘COP26 Coalition”s ‘From the Ground Up’ Zoom conference.

27mar18 FoE (Friends of the Earth) in 2018 produced a publication on Sufficiency: Moving beyond the gospel of eco-efficiency also discussed here:

3. Is the Green New Deal concept, or any version(s) of it, compatible with degrowth?

Julia Steinberger on 14nov20 provided this quick response:

From Julia Steinberger to Everyone:
Elena Hofferberth wrote a really good blog on GND & degrowth 
and Riccardo Mastini is very prolific on this topic in general


15sep20 Governments must ‘change the way the economy works’ after Covid-19, says new OECD-commissioned report SPERI Uni of Sheffield
Governments must change the way the economy works in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report commissioned by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Beyond Growth: Towards a New Economic Approach was written by Michael Jacobs, Professorial Fellow at SPERI, on behalf of an international Advisory Group including Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane, Professor Mariana Mazzucato and Lord Robert Skidelsky. It was commissioned by the OECD’s Secretary-General Angel Gurria, as part of the OECD’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges Initiative. The report warns that the dominant patterns of economic growth in OECD countries have generated ‘significant harms’ over recent decades – including rising inequality and catastrophic environmental degradation.
It calls for a paradigm shift in the way developed countries approach economic policy – so that instead of focusing on gross domestic product (GDP), they prioritise environmental sustainability, improving wellbeing, reducing inequality and strengthening economic resilience.
The report calls for these goals to be built into the structures of the economy from the outset, rather than hoped for as a by-product, or added after the event. It argues that this will require a new role for the state, with governments becoming more entrepreneurial, seeking to shape markets and steer the process of economic change, not simply correcting market failures. This “new kind of social contract” would transform the relationship between the state, business, civil society and citizens. …

16may20 openDemocracy @openDemocracy tweeted:
NEW: A manifesto signed by 1,000 scientists, experts, artists, and activists calls for #Degrowth as a remedy for the corona crisis, social problems, and ecological destruction. Signatories incl: @GeorgeMonbiot, @jasonhickel, @JKSteinberger, @CaroRackete
13may20 Degrowth: new roots for the economy As long as our economy is dependent on growth, a recession will be devastating. Instead we need a planned, sustainable, and equitable downscaling of the economy. Degrowth New Roots Collective 13 May 2020

11may20 Our recovery from this crisis must put people and environment ahead of economic growth Caroline Lucas MP and Clive Lewis MP. “As we rebuild after the pandemic, it’s time to embrace a post-growth economy and build a fairer, healthier, happier and greener society, write Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour MP Clive Lewis. …”

Positive Money emailed: “It’s official: the public wants to prioritise quality of life over GDP growth. Our poll published in The Guardian and Daily Mail yesterday showed 8 out of 10 people want the government to prioritise health and wellbeing over economic growth during the coronavirus crisis – and 6 out of 10 still want to even when this pandemic ends.
This news caused a storm online. Over 55,000 people saw it on Reddit and commentator George Monbiot even tweeted saying: “This is an extraordinary result, suggesting people are ready for a massive change in the way we measure and achieve well-being. It’s the best news I’ve seen for a long time. …”

11may20 Today Positive Money launched its reportTragedy of Growth by David Barmes et al. “which highlights the false promises of growth including poverty alleviation and enhancing life satisfaction – to get these things we have to focus on them (there are no shortcuts)” [I quote PM’s Fran Boait]. Also on 11may Positive Money held an interesting online discussion of the topic The end of growth? Should our Covid-19 recovery prioritise GDP growth? (rewatch on Facebook).

10may20 Britons want quality of life indicators to take priority over economy – Polls finds majority would like ministers to prioritise health and wellbeing over GDP during coronavirus crisis – Fiona Harvey. “A YouGov poll has found eight out of 10 people would prefer the government to prioritise health and wellbeing over economic growth during the coronavirus crisis, and six in 10 would still want the government to pursue health and wellbeing ahead of growth after the pandemic has subsided, though nearly a third would prioritise the economy instead at that point.”


Here I copy a ref list from the #NoBackToNormal Degrowth Talks on 29apr20, which included among others Julia Steinberger and Federico Demaria:

Julia Steinberger provides a brilliant insightful introduction to the subject of degrowth, zooming inwards on the subject from the wider context including the dark powers at work, and from a viewpoint of her empirical work of what sort of a life of wellbeing (with sufficiency) can fit within planetary boundaries.
She starts speaking at 4:21 after being introduced. Also worth shifting later on to her answers to Q’s


Steinberger – Pandenomics, a story of life versus growth

Pirgmaier & Steinberger – Roots Riots and Radical Change…

Ecological Economics Reading List…

Saave-Harnack, Dengler & Muraca – Feminisms and Degrowth – Alliance or Foundational Relation? http://globaldialogue.isa-sociology.o…

Kothari, Escobar, Salleh, Demaria & Acosta – Can the coronavirus save the planet?…

Kothari, Demaria & Acosta – Buen Vivir, Degrowth and Ecological Swaraj: Alternatives to sustainable development and the Green Economy

Kothari, Salleh, Escobar, Demaria & Acosta – Pluriverse: A post-development dictionary…


Giorgios Kallis on degrowth: his twitter summary.


Growth is a ‘leverage point’ for system change:

Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System – Donella Meadows Academy for Systems Change – referred to by Nafeez Ahmed.


30apr20 Julia Steinberger creates a twitter thread against growthism.

27apr20 Jason Hickel creates a twitter thread starting “We need to clear something up about degrowth. Reducing energy demand is *not* sufficient, in itself, to get emissions to zero. That would be an absurd approach. What we need is a rapid rollout of clean energy. The point of degrowth is to make that transition easier to achieve.”

Other tweets:

Julia Steinberger: Degrowth is [intrinsically] anti-capitalist.
“there is no empirical evidence to support green growth as” [being compatible with environmental limits i.e. of being green / environmentally sustainable].
JS talks re the GND – is pushed by activism thus helping change the agenda.
wellbeing alliances – at least they are making step of putting wellbeing as a major part of the politicoeconomic scene (even if they havent taken all the steps of degrowth) – and weve seen how this has helped in their response to cov-19 [e.g. Adern in NewZealand]

Federico on ‘sustainable development’ – is mainstream twisting the meaning (a bit like ‘green growth’)
Federico – with his pluriverse thinking – degrowth is not the only answer as it depends on eg which country you are in

Hickel spoke on Newsnight’s ‘Viewsnight


Looking at growth starting with climate viewpoint:

8jun20 ‘Collapse of civilisation is the most likely outcome’: top climate scientists The world’s most eminent climate scientists and biologists believe we’re headed for the collapse of civilisation, and it may already be too late to change course. By Asher Moses in Voice of Action, Australia. Refers to statements by Will Steffen, Schellnhuber, Rockstrom re climate tipping points and Steffen vs growth etc.


More refs/links in reverse chronological order (most recent at top)

6jul20 Green economic growth is an article of ‘faith’ devoid of scientific evidence Crack team that advised UN Global Sustainable Development Report settle a longstanding debate with hard empirical data Nafeez Ahmed

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