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Let’s Define Degrowth before we Dismiss it


Diverse leftist commentators such as Samuel Farber, Paul Krugman, and Leigh Phillips are arguing that economic growth is necessary to protect existing and future well-being. But rarely do they define what they mean by economic growth.

Recently there’s been a wave of arguments defending economic growth from a leftist perspective. People are increasingly reacting to the rise of ‘degrowth’: a diverse movement calling for, among other things, scaling back the total material and energy use of the global economy.

One particularly vigorous example is the work of Leigh Phillips, where he accuses degrowthers—who he claims have become “hegemonic” (file under: things I wish were true but aren’t)—of undermining classic leftist pursuits such as progress, well-being, and strengthening of social services. Similar arguments could be seen in a recent article that appeared in Jacobin Magazine, in which growth was posited as necessary for progress. And Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman have come out against degrowth, claiming that economic growth is actually necessary to address climate change, and lumping degrowthers together with the Koch Brothers, as they both seem to seek to dismantle the state.

Many of their points have been valid and necessary—serving to complicate the simplistic ‘are-you-for-capitalism-or-a-Luddite?’ narrative. Preaching the benefits of technology and criticizing the current economic system are not mutually exclusive. But there are some recurring problems with these arguments that I want to highlight.

In this article, I argue that definitions of growth are either unclear or constantly shifting depending on the argument. The result is that authors often misunderstand and do not engage adequately with critiques of growth. When two sides of an argument have a totally different definition of the concept that’s being debated, and if one side even refuses to define it, constructive discussions tend to turn into uncompromising squabbles. I call on authors to choose, and define, their words carefully, because so far, they have largely failed to do so. In an effort to clear up some misunderstandings, I briefly explain what I see as some of the values of the degrowth position.

Growth is everything and nothing: long live growth!

Perhaps the most emblematic—and unfortunate—leftist challenge to degrowth came from Paul Krugman, all the way back in October 2014.

This was a significant occasion. For the most part, mainstream economics ignores ecological economics—a “rogue” field that harbors many of the growth dissenters. But with this article, Krugman brought the challenge out into the open. In his words, the criticism of growth is “a marginal position even on the left, but it’s widespread enough to call out nonetheless.”

Weirdly, Krugman spent most of the article explaining how shipping companies reduced their energy expenditure in 2008 by slowing down their ships. Using this example, his defense of ‘economic growth’ waffled between two very different arguments: that an increase in efficiency can lead to less energy being consumed, and that, theoretically, it is possible to increase the total economic transactions while decreasing total energy use.

With respect to efficiency, Krugman waded into a discussion in which he seems to be out of his depth—other ships have sailed these waters for a long time now. From 19th-century English economists concerned with the decline of available coal to scientists investigating the  of washing machines, people have long wrestled with problems like the one he raised: how an improvement in efficiency might nevertheless lead to a total increase in energy use. So from the perspective of ecological economics—which has sought to understand how the human economy is embedded within the physical environment—it’s not that hard to sink Krugman’s flimsy argument that an increase in efficiency necessarily increases economic growth while decreasing total energy consumption.

What’s curious though about his article is that he not once defined economic growth. This definition remained latent—one can only assume that, whenever he used the term economic growth, he meant the increase in the annual monetary value of economic transactions over time, calculated using the GDP. The article could’ve been a chance for him to show exactly why economic growth is desirable. Instead, he spent most of the article fumbling to find some example that shows that economic growth can theoretically be decoupled from oil consumption.

Granted, if that was the only goal of his article, it would’ve been a good point: a rise in GDP is not the same as a rise in energy use, economic transactions could still take place in a low-carbon economy. The problem is that his argument claimed to go beyond this—seeking to contradict the degrowth claim that, until now, economic growth has been strongly coupled with increasing material and energy use. But his evidence remained purely theoretical, and therefore failed to settle the debate.

This tendency isn’t unique to neoclassical Keynesians—I’ve seen Marxists who’ve suffered from the same inability to explain what, exactly, they mean by economic growth, thereby misunderstanding the call for degrowth.

In Jacobin Magazine, Samuel Farber argues that notions of progress are actually essential for any leftist project. Improvements in technology, infrastructure, and material well-being are crucial for addressing inequality and injustice globally. Fair enough. But then he also explicitly criticizes the degrowth stance:

Many progressive activists today are skeptical of material growth, for ecological reasons and a concern with consumerism. But this often confuses consumption for its own sake and as a status symbol with the legitimate popular desire to live a better material life, and wasteful and ecologically damaging economic growth with economic growth as such.

So here, like Krugman, Farber argues that economic growth is not the same as what he calls ‘material growth.’ And like Krugman, he argues that economic growth is not, in itself, environmentally destructive. But what, then, is economic growth to him? He notes in the following paragraph:

Environmental policies that would make a real difference would require large-scale investments, and thus selective economic growth. This would be the case, for example, with the reorganization of the individualized and wasteful system of surface and air transportation into a collective and rational plan…

It seems that for Farber, defending economic growth is necessary to fight for progressive changes to well-being. What is not clear is exactly why this should be called economic growth. From his examples, there is no quantitative growth—unless you start counting the growth of things like trams and hospitals.

Interestingly, like Farber, many degrowthers might also argue for “more of the Good Things”—for example, increasing health care services, supporting care labor, creating infrastructure for public transportation, and incentivizing renewable energy—but they wouldn’t call them economic growth. Instead, they might prefer to use terms like ‘flourishing’ or ‘sufficiency’ or just ‘more of that good stuff’. They wouldn’t assume that it is total economic growth that allows the good stuff to come into being. Instead, more of the good stuff requires redirecting economic activity to better suit the needs of society—for which the primary ingredient is democratic deliberation, not increased production (social metabolism), larger money supply, or an increase in the transactions taking place in the market economy (GDP growth).

So there are two problems: the misidentification of what degrowthers are calling for, and a poor definition of economic growth as such. Farber seems to think that degrowthers are claiming that preventing (or reversing) environmental destruction necessitates “less Good Things”. As a result, his argument against degrowth, and for growth, amounts to a bait-and-switch between two definitions of growth: growth of Good Stuff and growth of total economic activity. This failure to define his terms then allows him to mischaracterize the claims of the degrowth movement.

This tactic is heightened to an extreme degree in Leigh Phillips’ recent anti-degrowth polemic, Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-porn Addicts: A defence of growth, progress, industry and stuff. While reading his book I not once got an exact definition of what he meant by economic growth. Growth seemed to include a whole host of things, such as: growth = progress, growth = innovation, growth = increase in well-being, growth = increase in money supply, growth = increase in resource use. He tended to use these interchangeably.

In one instance, Phillips acknowledges this directly:

Of course, one might argue that I’m being far too loose with the terms growth, progress, and invention, which begin to blur here. But then, as well they should, as perhaps what it means to be human is to invent, to progress to grow. To constantly strive for an improvement in our condition. To overcome all barriers in our way.

As far as I could figure out, the logical reasoning here goes as follows:

Degrowthers argue that infinitely and exponentially increasing economic growth is bad for humans and the planet. But economic growth leads to Good Things as well. Therefore, degrowthers are against Good Things.

Phillips denies degrowthers the ability to realize the most basic fact: more good = good, more bad = bad. And if growth is simply Everything That Is Good In The World, it becomes a hard thing to argue against: we’ve reached a conversational impasse.

The problems with muddling the definition of growth come to the fore when Phillips tries to argue, in contrast to Naomi Klein’s recent book, that degrowth and anti-austerity are incompatible: “Austerity and ‘degrowth’ are mathematically and socially identical. They are the same thing.” To show this, he uses the example of the economic decline following a time of rapid growth immediately after the Second World War—which involved “high productivity, high wages, full employment, expanding social benefits…”. In contrast, he argues that after the 1970s, according to “whichever metrics we use”, there was a decline in prosperity for all Americans.

The implication is that economic growth is directly related to material and social well-being, and “degrowing” would limit that kind of progress. Actually, during this time, well-being decreased just as consumption and economic growth sky-rocketed—a fact which he conveniently doesn’t mention. To avoid this fact, he usefully switches from defining economic growth as increase in productivity and material use, to defining economic growth as decrease in inequality. But different kinds of things can grow or degrow at different rates—a decrease in consumption is not the same as a decrease in well-being. In fact, since the 1970s, the US has only increased its per capita material use, not decreased it. Austerity does not inherently lead to a decrease in total consumption, nor does a decrease in well-being inherently require a decrease in material consumption.

His argument reminds me of a recent New York Times article about degrowth. As fellow degrowth scholar Francois Schneider pointed out in an email, in this article, degrowth was defined simply as a reduction of income. Not only does this misinterpret what, exactly, needs to degrow (hint: not well-being), it also feeds into the tendency—symptomatic of the neoliberal era—to reduce all kinds of well-being to monetary indicators.

Phillips continuously makes the same error: conflating income with wealth, material production with material well-being. While this is standard practice in development circles—used to justify land-grabbing, exploitative industry, and privatizations—you would expect different discursive tactics from a staunch anti-capitalist austerity-basher. Part of the degrowth framework has been specifically to argue that well-being and income have been conflated for far too long, with very negative consequences (such as the wholesale destruction of indigenous livelihoods for the sake of development).

Finally, when trying to counter the degrowth position, you’re also going to have to deal with the now well-known catchphrase that “infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet”. To do this, Phillips calls upon a pretty quirky theoretical model:

Think of a single rubber ball. Like the Earth, it is bounded in the sense that very clearly there is an edge to the ball and there is only so much of it. It doesn’t go on forever. It is not boundless. And there is only one of them. But it is infinitely divisible in the sense that you can cut it in half, then cut that half in half again, then cut that quarter in half, then that eight in half, and so on. In principle, with this imaginary ball, you can keep cutting it up for as long as you like, infinitely extracting from this finite object.

Phillips counters the necessity to degrow with a variation of Zeno’s paradox, hoping to show that, theoretically, infinite growth is possible on a finite planet, as long as it decreases at a negative exponential rate. Basically, in a finite world, you can keep on growing infinitely as long as you grow less and less, all the way to infinity. But this also involves acknowledging that positive exponential growth (e.g. a 3-5% growth rate) is physically impossible. Funnily enough, in trying to prove the possibility of infinite growth on a finite planet, he trapped himself in an argument that looks very similar to that of the degrowthers.

Similarly, later in the book, he concedes that we do need to move toward a low-carbon economy and that, within capitalism, this is impossible. But, rather than conceding that economic growth within capitalism is undesirable, he argues that, since it’s possible to conceive of a socialist system where economic growth leads to a low-carbon economy, economic growth (largely defined in capitalist terms, even as he rejects GDP elsewhere) is inherently a Good Thing. It’s reminiscent of another classic sophist argument: since it’s possible to conceive of God, He therefore must exist.

So what needs to degrow?

Let’s be clear, even if defenders of economic growth rarely are. Historically, economic growth (defined as total increase in measured economic transactions, or GDP) has risen along with social metabolism: the total consumption of materials and energy of an economy. Increased material-energy throughput is what makes climate change and environmental destruction happen, and engenders environmental conflicts around the world. Therefore we have to downscale our total material-energy throughput to address environmental and social injustice. Most available evidence points to the fact that decreasing total economic activity is the best way to do this, while still being able to provide adequate social safety nets.

Degrowth, then, is about challenging the idea that infinite and positive exponential growth in monetary transactions (GDP) is the main tool for achieving well-being, today and for future generations. Further, degrowth is about acknowledging that exponential GDP growth has been, and will likely be for the foreseeable future, linked with rising material and energy throughput, and that this increase in total consumption has disastrous effects on the earth and its people. This comes along with a critique of GDP: many argue that it is a terrible indicator for well-being in the first place. It also comes along with criticizing the neoliberal demand to increase economic growth at all costs, even if this means subjugating an entire population to decades of debt (more on this in another piece).

There are many definitions of degrowth out there, but a commonly cited one is “an equitable downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions”. Under most definitions, degrowth is about maximizing well-being while minimizing energy and resource consumption (particularly in the rich nations) which may be mutually beneficial, and can address climate change to boot.

So degrowth is not about decreasing the Good Things. Nor is its main thrust that decrease in total consumption is the only thing that must be done. And all degrowthers I know would happily concede Phillips’ point that a change in the mode of production—involving a critique of capitalism, better use of technology, and better democratic planning—is necessary to avoid environmental and social Bad Things.

But they would disagree that the prerequisite for more Good Things is increasing total economic activity. In fact, as I argue in my next piece, the ideology of economic growth actually waylaid struggles for better welfare, helping to shut down the political action necessary to provide more Good Things.

Now, it istheoretically possible to decouple exponential economic growth (be it positive or negative) from exponentially increasing metabolic rates, even if no such thing has, as far as is known, been successfully implemented. Arguments for decoupling, including those in Phillips’ book, fail to take into account the embedded material and energy consumption of economies that have, so far, ‘dematerialized’ while GDP has gone up.

Krugman’s proposal for how to decouple remains in the neoclassical camp: toggling consumer preferences—demand, and regulating undesirable economic activity—supply, while continuing to increase economic activity on the whole. Farber and Phillips’ approaches are in the Marxist camp: radically shift the mode of production to rationally plan an economy, limiting the Bads and upping the Goods, while (presumably) continuing to increase economic activity on the whole.

To make their case, these authors have conjured up magical scenarios involving a slow ship economy and a post-capitalist socialist world order. Neither economies exist today. To really support their points, they would need to point to extensive research and probably some robust models, rather than possible worlds.

Take the case of Austerity Ecology: Phillips argues that socialist economic growth has the potential to save us, even as he does not draw on any examples of situations where this has occurred. It’s a cheap argumentative trick to defend economic growth today just on the basis that it could theoretically work under socialism.

So if they really wanted to defend economic growth as it exists today, this would be where the conversation would need to go: determining whether, and how, economic growth could keep going without exponentially increasing material and energy use. Bonus points: showing exactly why economic growth—defined as the exponential increase in monetary transactions at 3-5% per year—is desirable in itself.

But it is exactly at these points that the defenders of growth remain obscure. Rarely do they explicitly concede that, in fact, current rates of economic growth have been historically tied to increasing environmental degradation. Rather, they spend most of their time trying to convince readers that decoupling economic growth from “the Bad Things” is theoretically possible, even as they don’t define what they mean by economic growth.

And yet this approach actually suggests that they are already on the defensive: they are trying to save economic growth from the accusation that it inevitably leads to more “bad stuff”. Without proper evidence, and by shifting the definition of growth constantly to suit the needs of their arguments, the positions of growth-defenders start looking more like denial than reasoned debate.

In contrast, degrowth starts from the reality of the current economy. In this economic system, decoupling is very difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, because climate change is now and a global socialist economic order is not yet in sight, a realistic short-term strategy is to limit exponential growth in metabolic rates, most easily achieved by limiting exponential economic growth. This could be paired by a long-term shift to a more equitable, democratic economic system. Then, theoretically, a new economic system could be constructed where equitable economic growth does not lead to more fossil fuel consumption.

Whether we should focus on creating a global socialist system instead of shifting to a low-impact economy is debatable, but perhaps, just to be on the safe side, we could give both a try.

Uneven Earth

25 Comments on "Let’s Define Degrowth before we Dismiss it"

  1. ghung on Mon, 28th Dec 2015 4:55 pm 

    The idea of “degrowth”, AKA: managed contraction, seems like a case of bargaining; wanting to throw shit at the wall to see what doesn’t stink. Of course, it doesn’t address overshoot because it can’t. We messed up.

  2. Dredd on Mon, 28th Dec 2015 5:03 pm 

    Degrowing the ocean by degrowing poison oil usage would be a good start (The Extinction of Robust Sea Ports).

  3. penury on Mon, 28th Dec 2015 5:19 pm 

    Growth? or no growth. I greatly fear that the decision is no longer open to a vote. Growth is necessary for BAU a debt society cannot operate without it. So guess what and prepare accordingly

  4. makati1 on Mon, 28th Dec 2015 6:45 pm 

    Correct Penury. This is a bloated article saying nothing new, just more “what if” verbiage.

  5. Davy on Mon, 28th Dec 2015 6:46 pm 

    Degrowth is still a growth orientation. It is an attempt at management of something that is no longer manageable. Like G said “we messed up”.

    Degrowth policies are still a far more legitimate in the sense of acknowledging limits than the typical status quo sustainable development policies. These policies are nothing more than disguised status quo growth polices.

    What is needed is crisis management in preparedness for what will soon be a global crisis of confidence. This global crisis of confidence will be accompanied by shortages of vital resources and decay of global economic structures that allow liquidity and complexity.

    People have to cooperate and trust each other at a minimum in an economic relationship. The big question will be how long will we trust each other at this most basic of levels. This trust is no longer optional it is now vital for a world in overshoot.

    Degrowth conditions are a first step to a realization growth is over. The next step is crisis management. The final step is collapse.

    Overshoot requires a rebalance this can come quick or through a long emergency. We must start now facing the fact that we have no future for the status quo we all have been habituated to.

    This sounds like something easy, you know just an attitude thing yet the consequences are immense. The end of status quo will be the beginning of a populations and consumption rebalance. These are fancy words for people dying and abject poverty. In other words if you end growth you will start the killing fields.

  6. Joe Clarkson on Mon, 28th Dec 2015 6:49 pm 

    Since most of the “good things” we create as part of global economic activity are made to satisfy our physical needs for food, shelter and water, much economic growth will be from “increasing material and energy use”.

    How that material and energy is distributed is now mostly decided by our capitalist market economy. Thus, to “de-grow” within this market economy means that while overall provision of physical goods for physical needs will shrink, distribution will still depend on the market (pending a socialist/communist revolution).

    Since the wealthy can always buy more than they need for survival, the poor will surely get less than they need for survival and the middle class will become poor. This is not conducive to political support from the poor or middle classes for any form of “de-growth”.

    The means of distribution must change before voluntary de-growth stands a chance. We may want to consider this distribution method, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

  7. Harquebus on Mon, 28th Dec 2015 8:28 pm 

    For those who haven’t seen it yet.

    Arithmetic, Population and Energy — a talk by Dr. Albert Bartlett on the impossibility of exponential growth on a finite planet.

  8. GregT on Mon, 28th Dec 2015 9:30 pm 

    Thanks Harquebus,

    Should be a prerequisite watch, before posting here.

  9. makati1 on Mon, 28th Dec 2015 10:25 pm 

    Joe, sounds like communism to me and would never work. LOL The US has a variation on that now that is called welfare/food stamps/medicaid, etc. They are living off of the producers that are left.

    If I understand your comment, you are proposing just a variation of BAU, not change. “Change” is called “self-sufficiency”, not just less commercial stuff. There will be NO commercial stuff when the SHTF, no matter how much gold you may have stashed. Those who can live off their land and survive will. Those that cannot, won’t.

  10. Davy on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 3:58 am 

    Some here claim to know through some kind of divination about the next collapse. They do not acknowledge this is a process. We humans always confuse processes with events.

    We are linear thinkers because of our linear language. Yet, our emotions are stoked by the nonlinear. We live in the here and now but stress over the future. This is part of the reason so many prediction are failures.

    A process unfolds over time and at multiple levels. Those who like to diminish collapse preparedness use these distorted arguments routinely to discredit any effort or a location they are opposed to.

    People with agendas live in this black and white linear world of good and bad per their agenda. Collapse is an equal opportunity condition. It involves chance and most certainly unfolds over time.

    Yes, we have the big one tommorow and or an asteroid may strike us. The status quo will go on until it doesn’t. In the mean time there are proven preparations in regards to location, physical efforts, and mental preparations. Most of all good decisions now will likely leverage up multiple times depending on how this collapse process unfolds.

  11. Cloud9 on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 6:35 am 

    Joe from each according to his ability to each according to his need is a lovely mantra that is based on the assumption that there is enough. There is not enough. Even if you bankrupted the world’s oligarchs, you could not bring the world’s population to an average middle American lifestyle. We are witnessing the degrading of the system. With that degradation, even the middle American life style is not sustainable. The evidence is all around us with the multi decade charts covering gasoline retail sales, the harpex and the Balti dry index. All of these economic indicators point to decline. We have been in this decline for half a century. The exponential expansion of debt is nothing more than simply bringing all of our future income into the present to cover the ongoing decline of our net earnings.

    From each according to his ability to each according to his need is a catch phrase cobbled together by a handful of psychopaths who want to sell an agenda. That agenda puts those selfsame psychopaths in power so that they get to determine who gets what in a declining resource base. They use moral authority to justify theft at gun point. In the process, they skim off the top making sure that the best is distributed to themselves and their cronies. Consider this: A cop in my area can now retire at fifty with a guaranteed retirement of $80,000 a year for life. He will more than likely be on retirement for as long as he worked. Who else beyond government workers gets a sweet deal like this?

    Detroit was the industrial heart of the nation. It has gone bust. New York is the economic heart of the nation. It is going bust. Washington is the political heart of the nation it is booming. The last bubble to pop will be government.

    As many have pointed out, we have constructed the most intricate, codependent system in history. That intricacy and codependency has led to a very fragile construct. At some point it will run up against Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. At that point we will have a civilization collapse. People will be pushed away from the table as happened under Stalin and many millions will starve.

    Those psychopaths that sold you on each receiving according to his need will determine that their needs are greater than yours. They will eat and you will be left to starve. Trust no one with your wellbeing or future. You are on your own.

  12. makati1 on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 7:02 am 

    Cloud9, you are correct.

    If the world’s total wealth were to be equally divided, each of us would be worth about $30,000. NET.

    If the annual world GDP were similarly divided we would each get a salary of about $10,000./year.

  13. Lawfish1964 on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 7:20 am 

    Why can’t anyone use the real word: contraction? Degrowth is not a word, yet it is being thrown around with ever-increasing frequency. And managed contraction isn’t going to happen. Collapse is what happens when the growth stops.

  14. JuanP on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 7:43 am 

    Joe “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is an expression wrongly attributed to Marx, who had borrowed it from Louis Blanc, who had borrowed it from Étienne-Gabriell Morelli, who borrowed it from Acts in the New Testament.

    I have always liked the spirit of this phrase and it has inspired me throughout my life together with Gandhi’s “Become the change you wish to see in the world”. They are impractical and unrealistic ideas on a larger scale because most humans are too primitive, selfish, and insecure to live by them, but I believe trying to live like that was worth it or me.,_to_each_according_to_his_need

  15. twocats on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 8:03 am

    The comments from Cloud9 and Mak are in fact spot on. The rich are definitely the problem, not really the bulk of the population. The problem is that, for us on this blog, living like the bulk of the world population would be an almost intolerable misery. And if our current surrounding were to have to transform into that lifestyle, the transformation alone would be so devastating that it would implode our society. And the opposite is true – raising the living standard by even a few percentage points on the bottom tier would blow that top off resource availability. Most of us here are feeding off the scraps of the uber-wealthy – show some gratitude! /s

  16. JuanP on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 8:14 am 

    Lawfish “Why can’t anyone use the real word: contraction?”

    In today’s world, the Before First Commandment is “Thou shalt not useth that word!” I am afraid you have just commited a mortal sin and there is nothing you can do now to avoid burning in Hell forever according to capitalist religion.

    I was baptized as a Catholic, unknowingly, as an infant. A stupid and ignorant thing for my parents to do. I will be in Hell with you because I masturbated as a teenager and I live in sin with my wife because my marriage hasn’t been blessed by the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

    See you there! 😉

  17. makati1 on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 8:21 am 

    twocats, I hope you are preparing for the day that your surroundings do resemble the 3rd world because it is coming. I live there and it is not so bad. It is actually better in many ways.

    Less stress, more time to do what you want because you have less ‘stuff’. If you own a car in the US, you likely work one day a week to pay the payments, insurance, maintenance, licensing, permitting and fueling. If you own a home, you have maintenance, insurance, taxes, and a mortgage. And everything else has built in obsolescence so you have to work to buy a new one regularly.

    You cannot imagine the weight of “stuff” on your life until you have much less to worry about, protect, take care of, pay for, insure, store, etc. When I last moved during my marriage, it was in a huge moving van. I could now put everything I own in an average pickup and have room left over. And, if I had to, I could walk away from everything I couldn’t carry and not think twice about it. That is freedom.

    Yes, at least half of Americans would die the first year they were forced to live like most of the world’s people do. It is going to happen anyway. I hope you are prepared or at least preparing. I’m sure you are.

  18. GregT on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 9:51 am 

    “Why can’t anyone use the real word: contraction? Degrowth is not a word, yet it is being thrown around with ever-increasing frequency.”

    Growth is the mantra of the eCONomists, or in other words, eCONo-speak. Contraction is not a word in their vocabulary.

    “And managed contraction isn’t going to happen. Collapse is what happens when the growth stops.”

    Correct. However, collapse is also not a word in the eCONomists’ vocabulary. They prefer words like substitution, or phrases such as “supply and demand”. Theirs was an ideology borne from
    an ever expanding supply of cheap and abundant energy. Most eCONomists do not subscribe to real world sciences such as biology, physics, and mathematics. Nothing more than blind faith based
    on the false religion of infinite exponential growth.

  19. twocats on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 10:09 am 

    Yep ive been following when youve talked about your personal situation. My personal situation is a bit too sordid and complicated to get into here but my solution is very simple – to semi-blissfully ignore realities around me and ride this puppy into the sun. Ive long ago reconciled with things most people cant even sideways glance at. but the mind is an easy thing to fool and ive chosen that easy out. As things fall apart i may make a couple of moves just to see if anything interesting happens. Im assuming on this website im perhaps in similar company.

  20. Apneaman on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 12:57 pm 

    twocats,sordid and complicated? Do tell.

  21. BC on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 3:31 pm

    If I could buy a cheap, long-term call, I’d bet on the SMALL insects, birds, reptiles, and mid- and deep-ocean organisms to succeed human apes as the planet’s dominant species, but there would be no human apes left to pay me by the time the speculation proved correct. 🙂

    That said, evolution of human apes to date has demonstrated that, at least since the late 19th century, sociopathy and parasitism have successfully self-selected for the top 0.001% in the affluent West.

    Moreover, financial and economic cannibalization and capital consumption have now become the normative condition in the economies of the West, which further implies that evolutionarily self-selected sociopathic rentier-parasites are likely to continue doing what they’ve been doing successfully (for themselves) for over a century.

    If so, the rentier-parasitic top 0.001% are likely to perceive 7 billion human apes needing food, clothing, shelter, “education”, “health” care, and increasing growth of resource consumption per capita as a colossal, global, existential threat to their credibility, legitimacy, income, wealth, and power to rule over the 7 billion competitive human apes on our finite spherical planet.

    Thus, extrapolating out a sufficient number of years/decades, there is precisely zero probability that the top 0.001% and their successors can sustain the same level of disproportionately unequal material affluence and influence and power should the human ape population continue to increase along with their desires and self-entitlement.

    There’s only one “final solution” to the “final problem”, and the thinking apes among us know precisely what that means that the top 0.001% will choose to do.

  22. BC on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 3:52 pm 

    @mak: Yes, at least half of Americans would die the first year they were forced to live like most of the world’s people do. It is going to happen anyway. I hope you are prepared or at least preparing. I’m sure you are.

    mak, I don’t disagree, which is why, were I among the alpha, marginally less sociopathic elites, I would be working overtime to condition at the mass-social level that the future for the vast majority of human apes is grim, long-term survival is delusional, and thus not worth living in, and certainly does not justify reproducing oneself so that one’s progeny suffers the worst effects.

    I might even consider gov’t-subsidized “exit facilities” for anyone who (sound mind and body or otherwise) decided that the implied (or gov’t-prescribed) future was not worth experiencing and thus was entitled to a “free ticket” to oblivion, not unlike Sol “going home” in “Soylent Green”.

    Why not have one’s time and place for his or her “exit” as a “human right”? We could even make it a SPECTACULAR exit of enviable sensual experience via psycho-active substances inducing all manner of stimulated ecstatic experiences before one’s exit to oblivion.

    We could even design a substance-induced experience to simulate 72 wanton virgins and who knows what else for oppressed, marginalized, alienated Muslim males to compete with the recruiting efforts of CIA, the Wahhabis, and ISIS/ISIL.


  23. makati1 on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 7:16 pm 

    BC sounds like a great idea. I could see a time and situation where I might take that that ‘last ride’ into the sunset, but not yet. World events are too exciting to miss a minute of it.

  24. Joe Clarkson on Tue, 29th Dec 2015 9:15 pm 

    @mak: Yes, at least half of Americans would die the first year they were forced to live like most of the world’s people do.

    Oh come on. They would still have enough food and water to live (like the rest of the worlds people have) and I’ve never heard of anyone starving themselves to death out of spite. So no, they wouldn’t die, but they would be very unhappy, especially if they saw no change in the circumstances of the wealthier segments of society. People can put up with a lot of deprivation when it is fairly distributed.

    That’s why economic contraction/degrowth would be such a hard sell, on a par with Marxism for America. It will never happen voluntarily. Fortunately for the climate, it will happen involuntarily sooner or later. Everyone should be preparing for sooner. I am.

  25. makati1 on Wed, 30th Dec 2015 8:25 pm 

    Joe, you are in deep denial about your country. Very deep. Obesity will kill in the first year. Diabetics will die in the first month without meds. Not to mention the many millions who cannot live without tranquilizers and their clones.

    As for food and water, why do you assume there will be both available to everyone? When the distribution system breaks down, and it will, the stores will be empty. When the commercial water system stops…

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