Responsible Investment News

How ‘Degrowth’ Pushes Climate and Well-Being Over GDP

1. What does degrowth mean?

It’s a challenge to the dogma surrounding economic growth and the maxim that more is better. It envisions focusing on improving human well-being, rather than constant economic growth, and doing so within certain “planetary boundaries” to tackle problems such as global warming and the loss of biodiversity. The idea is that developed nations would embrace zero growth or even shrinking GDP in favor of building an economy that makes humans healthier and happier — without necessarily aiming to increase the country’s total wealth. With populations shrinking in many developed nations, that doesn’t even have to mean a loss in income at the personal level.

2. Isn’t that a recession?

No. A recession or, worse, depression is an unplanned economic contraction that leads to unemployment, poverty and other social ills. Degrowth is a planned slowdown or contraction that aims to be equitable nationwide. Rich countries could look to reduce inequality through steps such as job guarantees, shortening the working week, and even introducing a universal basic income payable to every citizen. Poor countries would continue to grow their economies at least until they reach a level of parity, within planetary boundaries.

3. Why are we talking about it now?

The movement, which has its roots in the 1972 book “The Limits to Growth,” by a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hasn’t gained wide acceptance.

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