Planning degrowth MSc thesis (2020)

My master thesis took the shape of an explorative study into the value of a degrowth approach for sustainable urban planning in Amsterdam. This meant questioning the dominant idea of limitless economic growth and finding out what the implications could be for urban planning. If you are interested in the full file you can download it here via the TU Delft thesis repository or read it online at Issuu. Below is an abstract of the thesis.

Sustainable urban planning aims to decrease the ecological footprint of cities while maintaining or increasing social welfare, however it does not consider limits to economic growth and therefore undermines its own ambition. The upcoming field of ‘degrowth’ offers a theoretical answer to this dilemma but the degrowth lens has only scarcely been applied to existing cities and the field of urban planning. This thesis addresses these gaps by exploring to what extent a growth mindset underpins planning in the city of Amsterdam and what the need and potential for degrowth could be in sustainable urban planning for the city’s future. The qualitative research design includes a document analysis of degrowth proposals for urban planning, a historical analysis of urban planning focusing on degrowth precedents and finally interviews with respondents related to sustainable urban planning and degrowth.

This study shows there is an urgent necessity for a degrowth approach in sustainable urban planning in Amsterdam which currently does not sufficiently address issues of global and long-term social and environmental impact. Degrowth can address these issues with a broad pallet of proposals from the planning process itself, to the design of public space and large economic policy changes. This study provides an overview of these degrowth proposals for sustainable urban planning but also shows that a degrowth implementation faces big obstacles. The study concludes that an example project such as the re-localization of the food system of Amsterdam can be a valuable showcase for a degrowth approach in sustainable urban planning.

Supervisors: Robert Fletcher, Alexander Wandl
MSc MADE, AMS institute, 2020