Is Growth Always Good?

In the run up to the Rio 2012 Earth Summit, Diana Lind examines the concept of "degrowth", a topic that economists and elected officials are likely loathe to discuss, but which may be key to the long-term sustainability of our planet.

Lind has been introduced to the concept of degrowth by Erik Assadourian, who has written on the topic [PDF] in a brief for the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity.

"According to Assadourian, 'degrowth is the intentional contraction of overly inflated economies and the dispelling of the myth that perpetual pursuit of growth is good for economies or the societies of which they are a part.' He goes on to say that 'degrowth can be achieved through policies to discourage overconsumption, raising taxes, shortening work hours, and ‘informalizing' certain sectors of the economy.'"

The urgency for increased analysis and debate on degrowth comes from the frightening fact that, "if everyone in the world lived and consumed like Americans, only 1.4 billion people could live on the planet."

Lind sees degrowth as an important new avenue for discussing sustainability. As she observes, "the way that Assadourian has framed it [degrowth] as a way for people to step out of the 'rat race' is smart and an angle that no other environmental trend has fully promoted."

Full Story: Sustainability By Any Other Name



Alternative to Degrowth

An alternative to degrowth is a Depopulation-Green Economic Environment strategy.

It not only offers degrowth in total GDP but also the possibility of maintaining incomes at current levels and also of even increasing them. As such, the strategy is much politically viable and likely to be supported by voters.

The basic principle is grade 6 math: a pizza divided by 10 gives each 1/10 (10%) of the pizza. Depopulate by 4 people and each person gets 1/6 (17%) of the pizza (i.e. higher incomes). Reduce the pizza (i.e. total GDP) to 75% and you have a degrowth of 25% while incomes increase from 10% to 12.5%.

See details at the link above.

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