What is post-growth?
‘Post-growth’ is a worldview that sees society operating better without the demand of constant economic growth. It proposes that widespread economic justice, social well-being and ecological regeneration are only possible when money inherently circulates through our economy.
Why do we need a post-growth economy?
In all its forms, the dominant economic system – capitalism – is committed to economic growth. And this seems to be the only way, given the benefits we see and what we’ve been taught. After all, growth means more goods and services sold. Growth means more jobs. Growth drives progress. The absence of growth leads to recessions, even depressions. Why would we ever want anything other than growth?
The short answer is that ongoing economic growth threatens our survival as a species.
This claim is based on two provable realities:
a) Total debt always expands in a modern capitalist system, setting us up for economic collapse.
b) Total ecological footprint always expands in a modern capitalist system, setting us up for environmental collapse.
Transitioning to a post-growth economy represents our best option in response to the threat of social and ecological collapse.
We will soon share more on our claims above, as well as what a post-growth economy might look like and how we’re already making the shift. In the interim, many of our thoughts can be found at http://howonearth.us.
All people can live one-planet lifestyles in ways that bring increased peace and prosperity from the personal to the global scale
There are a myriad of inspiring and empowering initiatives occurring worldwide that serve as examples of what our world can look like if we move beyond current trends that focus on personal gain, private profit, materialism and economic growth. By highlighting, connecting and supporting these initiatives we can help accelerate our global transition towards sustainable and resilient prosperity.
One-planet lifestyles acknowledge physical limits to economic growth on a planet with finite resources
Economies exist within the physical environment. Their existence relies upon the continued use of natural resources like water, forests and agricultural land. These natural resources are either non-renewable (limited in total amount) or are produced at a rate that is limited by the environment’s ability to regenerate them. The other side of this is nature’s ability to absorb the wastes that we produce. If economies produce waste faster than nature can absorb that waste, we undermine the planet’s ability to sustain human existence.
We are already using natural resources at a rate higher than that at which they are naturally renewed and creating wastes faster than nature can absorb them (known as ecological overshoot). Continued economic growth will only worsen this predicament. One-planet living acknowledges that we can, and must, mould our economies to fit within the limits imposed by our physical environment.
One-planet lifestyles acknowledge the pressures a growing human population, with highly inequitable patterns of production and consumption, place on a planet with finite physical resources.
Every human on Earth must consume natural resources to live. If we are to survive and thrive into the future, we must together consume within natural boundaries and produce less waste than nature can absorb. Some of us are consuming far more than our fair share of resources and producing excessive waste, while the total population is growing. We need to address inequalities and find ways to maintain a better balance.
One-planet lifestyles also acknowledge that advances in technology do not mean we can keep growing indefinitely
Technology cannot create something from nothing. For example, technology can’t change the fact that there is a limited amount of oil; it can only squeeze a little more use from existing reserves. In a world with more people and higher rates of consumption, increases in technological efficiency can, at best, buy us more time before such gains are cancelled out by further growth.
Globally, improvements in the efficiency of technologies, or even leaps to other substitutes, have not been able to offset overall increases in resource consumption and waste. In fact, these improvements in efficiency have, in many cases, driven more wasteful attitudes and increased overall consumption (see “Jevons Paradox”). Rather than relying on technology alone, we must challenge the obsession with infinite growth on a finite planet.
The amount of carbon emitted by a person, organization, business, or nation. Originally measured in hectares, it referred to the amount of land required to absorb the carbon emitted, hence a ‘footprint’. It is more commonly measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), but it can also be measured in tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
The destabilizing of the climate through the release of greenhouse gases. Human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, is changing the composition of the atmosphere. This traps heat within the atmosphere, creating a global warming effect. The term ‘climate change’ is more useful than ‘global warming’, because it reflects the broader effects of change, including floods, drought, sea level rise, etc.
Contraction and Convergence
A global solution to climate change that recognises that all people have an equal right to emit carbon and distributes a carbon quota to each country on a per capita basis. Under such a principle, which was adopted by the IPCC in 2000, industrializing countries would be allowed to grow their emissions, while others would reduce theirs.
The Ecological Footprint is a measure in hectares of how much of the Earth’s capacity humanity requires to produce all the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates using current technology and resource management practices.
The root of the word is Greek, and means ‘the art of household management’. At its most basic it is the way that we organise the distribution of goods, resources and funds.
The expansion of economic activity within a given country, or the world as a whole, usually measured by Gross Domestic Product. Since economic growth is closely tied to carbon emissions and resource use, it is a key driver of climate change and resource depletion.
An entity in which financial surpluses may be distributed to shareholders. The primary objective of such an entity is almost always to create the greatest financial return possible (ie. perpetual growth).
Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product is the most common way of measuring the activity in an economy, and adds together investment with the value of all goods and services exchanged. It is considered a proxy measurement of standard of living by many politicians.
Not for Profit Entity
An entity without individual owners. The primary objective of such an entity is almost always to fulfil a social purpose.
Overshoot is the situation when human demand on the Earth’s capacity exceeds the Earth’s supply, or regenerative capacity.
The threshold at which remaining oil reserves become too difficult or too expensive to extract.
Steady State Economy
A way of organizing the distribution of goods, resources, and funds that does not need to grow. It is stable, rather than growing in its use of materials or accumulation of debt. A Steady State Economy would still change and evolve, but without an increase in material throughput.
A general term for a life well lived, incorporating life expectancy, literacy and life satisfaction. Many reformers believe well-being represents a better measure of progress than economic growth.