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SUSTAINABLE DE-GROWTH. The concept The policies needed Which social forces (North & South) will promote de-growth The international environmental justice movement Joan.Martinez.Alier@uab.cat Paris 18-19 April, 2008. There is no need to tell lies.

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sustainable de growth

SUSTAINABLE DE-GROWTH

The concept

The policies needed

Which social forces (North & South) will promote de-growth

The international environmental justice movement

Joan.Martinez.Alier@uab.cat

Paris 18-19 April, 2008

there is no need to tell lies
There is no need to tell lies
  • Sustainable Degrowth means Socially Sustainable Economic Degrowth, la décroissance économique socialement soutenable.
  • For 20 years, the orthodox slogan was Sustainable Development. This meant (Brundtland Report,1987) economic growth that is environmentally sustainable.
  • We know however that economic growth is not environmentally sustainable.
why economic growth is not ecologically sustainable
Why economic growth is not ecologically sustainable
  • The industrial economy depletes resources and overloads the sinks. Hubbert’s peak oil is approaching. Carbon dioxide concentration in atmosphere increasing 2 ppm per year.
  • Energy cannot be recycled, and materials are recycled only to a small extent.
  • Therefore, continuous new search at the “commodity frontiers” to substitute for dissipated energy and materials, and for new supplies.
  • Improvements in resource productivity might lead to Jevons’ Paradox or rebound effect.
physical indicators
Physical Indicators
  • Social Ecology, Human Ecology, and Ecological Economics provide figures on physical indicators.
  • MATERIAL FLOWS : there is no dematerialization (no need to discuss any further Faktor 4). Now we know the numbers in Europe, and outside Europe.
  • Quite often, not only the absolute amount of materials but also material intensity (tons of materials / GDP) is increasing! Indicates pressures on the environment.
  • Convergence to a European average of 16 tons per person/year (only materials, water not counted here) would multiply Material Flows in the world by 3.
material flows ecological conflicts
Material Flows, Ecological Conflicts
  • Economies can be characterized by such Material Flows. We see historic trends, we may analyze patterns of external trade (Latin America exports (directly) six times as many tons as it exports. The European Union imports (directly) four times as many tons as it exports). “Ecologically unequal exchange”?
  • We can understand characteristic patterns of social conflicts, for instance mining conflicts or oil conflicts, or international conflicts because of unequal access to carbon dioxide sinks (oceans) or temporary “reservoirs” (atmosphere).
physical indicators cont
Physical Indicators, cont
  • We know that energy use per capita is increasing. Convergence towards 300 Gigajoules per capita/year would mean to multiply by 5 the present energy in the world economy. If gas and especially coal are used, also multiply by 4 or 5 the carbon dioxide produced. Also, danger of nuclear civil-military proliferation.
  • The EROI is declining (energy return on energy input) (e.g. oils sands and heavy oils, or agrofuels).
physical indicators cont7
Physical indicators, cont
  • The HANPP is also increasing – human appropriation of net primary production of biomass. Population growth, soil sealing, meat eating, agro-fuels increase the HANPP.
  • The higher the HANPP, the less biomass available for other species. Indicates loss of biodiversity.
monetary and physical indices that try to describe reality with only one number
Monetary and Physical indices that try to describe reality with only one number
  • Some well-intentioned attempts to have a “greened” GDP, in a weak sustainability framework. They were useful for early discussions. Hueting’s proposal to deduct from GDP the expenses of adjusting the economy to environmental limits established by scientific and social consensus. Other proposals, ISEW or GPI.
  • On the physical side, the Ecological Footprint adds in hectares, a) surface for food, b) surface for wood, c) space built over, d) surface virtually needed to absorb the carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuels. Author: William Rees (1992), building on ideas of ghost acreage (G. Borgstrom), environmental space. EF per capita closely correlates with CO2 emissions per capita.
  • An important point is that calculations of the excessive EF of humans require a previous collective human decision on how large the HANPP should be.
slide9

Non-equivalent descriptions of the economy

  • The economy is seen as a carroussel between consumers and producers. They encounter each other in markets for consumer goods or in markets for the services of production factors (like selling labour time for a wage). Prices are formed, quantities are exchanged.

This is CHREMATISTICS. Macroeconomic accounts (GDP) aggregate the quantities multiplied by the prices.

  • The economy may be described in a different way, as a system of transformation of (exhaustible) energy and materials (including water) into useful products and services, and finally into waste.

This is BIOECONOMICS / ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS

(from N. Georgescu Roegen 1966, 1971, Herman Daly 1968, A. Kneese and R.U. Ayres, 1969, Kenneth Boulding, 1966).

early debates on economy and environment
Early debates on economy and environment
  • Proto-ecological-economists who looked at the economy in physical terms: S.A. Podolinsky, 1880 who calculated the EROI of agriculture, Patrick Geddes against Walras, 1884, W. Ostwald, 1909, Frederick Soddy, 1922 (Debts increase exponentially while the physical Economy declines entropically), Otto Neurath, 1920 (against Hayek and von Mises: Naturalrechnung), Lewis Mumford. K.W. Kapp (1950).
  • In the 1970s: Meadows (Limits to Growth), H.T. Odum, Roefie Hueting (economy grows but welfare does not), G. Nebbia, J. M. Naredo, René Passet (L’économique et le vivant, 1979) … the Japanese “Entropy school” (Tamanoi, Tsuchida), and the better known Ivan Illich, André Gorz, Barry Commoner, Murray Bookchin (who started early)…
  • They saw the economy in physical terms, they attacked the economists, and many of them made social recommendations. Shall we have fights over who said something first, in which European (or non-European) language?
  • These people were writers, intellectuals. Then there was Sicco Mansholt, 1972, the German Greens, 1980, but now there is a social movement for Sustainable Degrowth! The slogan “Sustainable Degrowth” invented in France and Italy. (See for instance, S. Latouche, La pari de la décroissance, 2007).
la d croissance
La Décroissance
  • In 1979, Jacques Grinevald and Ivo Rens published an introduction and selection of N. Georgescu-Roegen’s writings with the title (approved by NGR) of Demain la Décroissance.
  • NGR had criticized in the early 1970s Herman Daly’s idea of the “steady state”, saying that steady state (in the USA) was not enough, that the economy had to decrease. NGR was right.
  • Herman Daly is in favour of Degrowth. He called “sustainable growth” an oxymoron immediately after the Brundtland report was published, and said that he would be in favour of “sustainable development” only if “development” was (strangely) redefined as “non-growth”.
  • Herman Daly is on our side – he started publishing against the economists in 1968 when he was not yet 30 years old. Or rather, we are on the side of Herman Daly (also on demography).
mais la d croissance de quoi
Mais, la décroissance de quoi?
  • Degrowth of the economy. The economy as Chrematistics or the economy as Human Ecology? The economy described in what terms?
  • Of course, in terms of the real indicators, i.e. in terms of Material Flows, Energy use, and the HANPP (and also use of water).
  • There is consensus that CO2 emissions must decrease by 50 or 60 per cent, while they are growing more than 3 per cent per year (doubling in 20 years).
  • Now, however, given the fact that there is strong coupling between use of materials and energy, and economic growth, given the fact that the HANPP also increases (sometimes) with economic growth (agrofuels, for instance), therefore decreasing the physical indicators will decrease GDP.
social difficulties with economic degrowth
Social difficulties with economic degrowth
  • Labour productivity goes up 2 or 3% per year, if the economy does not grow, then increase in unemployment.
  • Reply: A) Productivity increases are not well measured (energy too cheap etc).

B) Remuneration must be decoupled from employment even to a much larger extent than today (not only young people and pensionists). Redefine employment (domestic services, voluntariat) + Citizens’ Revenue.

more social difficulties with economic degrowth
More social difficulties with economic degrowth
  • Who will pay for the mountain of credit, the mortgages and the public debt, if the economy does not grow?
  • Nobody. We cannot force the economy to grow physically according to the rules of compound interest.The economic and financial system must work on different rules than now. Not to make money for the shareholders through fictitious growth.
still more social difficulties with economic degrowth
Still more social difficulties with economic degrowth
  • If a country does not grow, capitals will move to countries where profit-rates are higher.
  • Reply. This is true. Not a bad idea for the economy of countries with many poor people to grow still for some years, but in due course they must reach non-growth of the physical indicators. The movement for Degrowth must be international for this and other reasons.
other reasons for degrowth
Other reasons for Degrowth

First, as the feminist movement made clear decades ago, GDP does not value what is not in the market, like unpaid domestic work and voluntary work. A society rich in "relational goods and services" would have a lower GDP than an (impossible) society where personal relations would be exclusively mediated by the market. The Sustainable Degrowth movement insists on the non-chrematistic value of local, reciprocal services.

Second, economists (or rather, psychologists) now agree that above a certain threshold GDP growth does not lead necessarily to greater happiness. This research updates the literature on the so-called Easterlin Paradox.

population
Population
  • Growth of human population should stop, human population in some countries should decrease (Paul Ehrlich 1968, against A. Sauvy, Colin Clark, the Pope and other religious fundamentalists).
  • Objection: who will pay our pensions?
  • Reply: assume that two people are needed to pay the pension of an old person, then four people to pay the pension of the two who are now old, then eight people… “Pyramides” of population are no good! Pensions cannot rely on population growth.
environmental and feminist neo malthusianism around 1900
Environmental and feminist Neo-Malthusianism around 1900

MALTHUSIANISM.- Population undergoes exponential growth unless checked by war and pestilence, or by chastity and late marriages. Food grows less than proportionately to the labour input, because of decreasing returns. Hence, subsistence crises.

NEO-MALTHUSIANISM OF 1900.- Human populations could regulate their own growth through contraception. Women’s freedom was required for this, and desirable for its own sake. Poverty was explained by social inequality. “Conscious procreation” needed to prevent low wages, and pressure on natural resources. This was a successful bottom-up movement in Europe and America against States (which wanted more soldiers) and Churches.

NEO-MALTHUSIANISM AFTER 1970.- A doctrine and practice sponsored by international organizations and some governments. Population growth is seen as a main cause of poverty and environmental degradation. Therefore States must introduce contraceptive methods, even without women’s prior consent.

ANTI-MALTHUSIANISM.- The view that assumes that human population growth is no major threat to the natural environment, and that it is conducive to economic growth.

social forces for degrowth
Social forces for degrowth

There must be a confluence of

- conservationists (concerned with the loss of biodiversity),

- people concerned with climate change,

- socialists who want more economic justice in the world,

- pessimists (or realists) on the risks and uncertainties of technical change

- and the movements of the Environmentalism of the Poor that demand the preservation of the environment for livelihood.

the environmentalism of the poor at the commodity frontiers
The Environmentalism of the Poor at the “commodity frontiers”
  • Kalinganagar, Orissa, 2nd January 07, anniversary of deaths.
  • The Niyamgiri Hills, Orissa, threatened by the bauxite mining industry.
  • Ecuador: oil in the Amazon.

(Photos: Leah.Temper@gmail.com)

the movement for sustainable degrowth must be international
The movement for Sustainable Degrowth must be international
  • At first sight, Southern countries have something to lose and little to gain from Degrowth in the North : less opportunities for commodity and manufactured exports, less availability of credits and donations…
  • But, the movements for Environmental Justice and the “environmentalism of the poor” of the South are the main allies of the Sustainable Degrowth movement of the North.
slide27

Environmental Justice: the strongest force for sustainability

  • Complaints against disproportionate pollution (at local and global levels, claims for repayment of the “carbon debt”) www.deudaecologica.org
  • Complaints against waste exports from North to South (e.g. “Clemenceau” to Alang in Gujarat).
  • Complaints against Biopiracy.
  • Complaints against Raubwirtschaft, i.e. ecologically unequal exchange, destruction of nature and human livelihoods at the “commodity frontiers”.
  • Claims for payment for socio-environmental liabilities of Transnational Companies (e.g Oxy in Peru, Chevron-Texaco in Ecuador, FreeportMcMoRan in West Papua, Unocal and Total in Burma…)