Critique of the Earth4All discussions on the evening of 20 October 2022, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Limits to Growth.
I attended the meeting yesterday evening; I represent the Anti-Growth Alliance. We are seeking to inspire maximum mitigation in the face of climate and ecological collapse. What we advocate is essentially the ‘Giant Leap’ concept described with Earth4All. I was alarmed when the panel unanimously failed to provide a helpful definition of Degrowth for their audience. There was no recognition that chaotic collapse has been underway for some years, and we are already a long way into the ‘Too Little, Too Late’ scenario. A ‘Giant Leap’ would soften the collapse which is now unfolding. The Preface from this paper from the UN Commons Cluster, justifies the need for IPAT Degrowth in order to return peacefully, and equitably within the biocapacity of our planet.
Fortunately, there was a unanimous acceptance that we are in need of a profound socio-economic mindset shift; both from the panel and the audience. However the inspiration about how to achieve it was lacking. Aiming to grow our ‘well-being’ is just the tip of the iceberg. Other things that need to grow rapidly are as follows:
- Imagination – this works in two directions: a) imagining how awful it will get if we don’t pull out all the stops, and b) imagining the profound cultural changes that are urgently needed
- Realisation – that collapse is here and now; and it is escalating rapidly
- Remorse – for the flippant manner in which we are currently squandering the last remaining shreds of our ecosystems. Remorse for having spent decades promoting a toxic economic model which is a Ponzi scheme, pulling from the Bank of Nature and forcing her into bankruptcy.
- Willingness to change our attitudes and aspire to making reparations
- Humility – we need curb the arrogance which results from dominating and suppressing Nature, and other groups of our own species.
- Emotional Maturity – we need to have the courage to admit that we cannot negotiate with Physics and Environmental Sciences; we need to take the insights from I=PAT and the Jevons paradox at face value, instead of pretending that there is a workaround.
In a famous essay called ‘Leverage Points, Places to Intervene in a System’, 1999, Donella Meadows, the lead author of Limits to Growth, outlined critical steps by which significant changes can be brought about. She described the list below as ‘Places to Intervene In A System’ shown in increasing order of effectiveness:
- 9. Constants, parameters, numbers (subsidies, taxes, standards).
- 8. Regulating negative feedback loops.
- 7. Driving positive feedback loops.
- 6. Material flows and nodes of material intersection.
- 5. Information flows.
- 4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishments, constraints).
- 3. The distribution of power over the rules of the system.
- 2. The goals of the system.
- 1. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, power structure, rules, its culture — arises.
The Anti-Growth Alliance are proposing several ideas which work on many of the high-level leverage points:
- The UN Charter for Ecological Justice, see detail on page two of this link, is a level 2 leverage suggestion
- The Ego to Ego Journey in Leadership and Governance together with the Framework for Maximum Mitigation, taken together these constitute a guide to achieving the level 1 leverage suggestion
- The suggestion that democracies create cross-party emergency governance to agree Degrowth objectives, is a level 3 leverage point.
- The ‘collective envisioning’ concept, introduced in the UN Commons Cluster paper under the section on education, addresses a level 5 and level 7 leverage point.
I do hope that you will find these ideas helpful. If we genuinely wish for ‘A Giant Leap Forward’ the conversation needs to include those who are shining the light in the opposite direction to GDP growth. There was no representative from the many Degrowth organisations on the panel last night. The Anti-Growth Alliance represents all those who recognise the need for equitable IPAT Degrowth. What’s in name? As Shakespeare pointed out ‘A ‘rose’ by any other name would smell as sweet’. Degrowth is the only antidote to the toxic Ponzi scheme of growth economics which has steered us all into decades of chronic ecological overshoot.
The climate and ecological collapse are life-threatening to us all, and yet we are still encouraging our young adults to think that bringing new-born children into this dangerous situation is commendable. We have grandparents paying for their grandchildren to go to Lapland as a Christmas treat! We teach people to abide by, and respect a deeply toxic culture rooted in coercive consumerism and irresponsible pronatalism. We demand to be told fairy-stories, like the lady who suggested that the sub-title of ‘Earth4All – A SURVIVAL GUIDE for Humanity’ should be changed to read ‘A FLOURISHING GUIDE..’. I was very disappointed when the panel failed to challenge this fairy-tale thinking. I strongly urge you to inject some realism and envisioning into your messaging.