De-growthers intent on dragging the rest of humanity into a bleak future
Of all the ideas floated to curb the production of greenhouse gasses, one of the starker, and punitive, is the so-called “de-growth movement.”
The aim is in the name: require rich economies to stop growth – and actually shrink – and for emerging and poor nations to stop growing once they reach some level of group-approved, but still paltry, economic state…
As Vox’s Kelsey Piper writes:
Degrowth’s proponents argue that to save Earth, humans need to shrink global economic activity, because at our current levels of consumption, the world won’t hit the IPCC target of stabilizing global temperatures at no more than 1.5 degrees of warming. The degrowth movement argues that climate change should prompt a radical rethinking of economic growth, and policymakers serious about climate change should try to build a livable world without economic growth fueling it.
It’s a bold, even romantic vision. But there are two problems with it: It doesn’t add up — and it would be nearly impossible to implement.
That’s being charitable. Underlying the degrowth agenda is a truckload of bad economics leading to an impoverished, Malthusian future:
…degrowthers want to make us turn around and start walking back down the path, away from higher prosperity. Their vision seems to be one of a centrally planned, ever-deepening recession throughout the rich world for the sake of the environment.
Thanks to Covid-19, we have an inkling of how this would feel. A “degrowth recession” wouldn’t have the virus’ deaths and sickness, and it wouldn’t require us to practice social distancing. But it would have all the economic contractions’ job losses, business closures, mortgage defaults, and other hardships and uncertainties. And it would have them without end—after all, growth can’t be allowed to restart. Corporate and government revenue would decrease permanently, and therefore so would innovation and R&D.
How many of us would be willing to accept all of this in exchange for somewhat less pollution and resource use? To sharpen the question, how many of us would be willing to accept this recession if it wasn’t necessary—if it were clear that we could get environmental improvements while continuing to grow and prosper?
No one with sense would willingly embrace permanent decline. But for those who do believe this is the only way for humanity to save the planet then, by all means…you go ahead and make the long retreat back toward the darkness.