Attaining a truly sustainable society will remain a dream if we do not question the paradigm of endless growth in this finite world. As Crelis Rammelt nicely put it on the dutch degrowth blog we started,:
the market-capitalist mode of production and consumption is caught in a double bind: its expansion disrupts natural systems and fails to curb growing inequalities, while slowdown destabilizes the inner workings of the economic system itself.
Therefore we need alternatives, which is what degrowth proposes. This is the definition of degrowth according to degrowth & research, the academic association dedicated to degrowth:
Sustainable degrowth is a downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and equity on the planet. It calls for a future where societies live within their ecological means, with open, localized economies and resources more equally distributed through new forms of democratic institutions. Such societies will no longer have to “grow or die.” Material accumulation will no longer hold a prime position in the population’s cultural imaginary. The primacy of efficiency will be substituted by a focus on sufficiency, and innovation will no longer focus on technology for technology’s sake but will concentrate on new social and technical arrangements that will enable us to live convivially and frugally. Degrowth does not only challenge the centrality of GDP as an overarching policy objective but proposes a framework for transformation to a lower and sustainable level of production and consumption, a shrinking of the economic system to leave more space for human cooperation and ecosystems.
Degrowth is a growing school of thought in both academia and activism. To start the discussion in the Netherlands we formed a platform for degrowth under the dutch name ontgroei, that hosts events, publicizes articles and has a website that offers an understanding of degrowth theory and practice, check it out here.