Following the recent Youth Strikes that have taken place world-wide, we look at the issues of Growth on our environment.
You may not be aware that there have been youth-strikes being held all over the world, as well as different activist movements putting these protests into action as they work against climate change.
Climate change is a contenious issue. Some are more radical than others. Preaching slogans like, ‘change the system, not the plant,’ and ‘there is no Planet B.’ One of the more radical movements in the UK is Global Justice Now. Last week they hosted a conference in London about growth, de-growth and climate justice. They had around 250 attendants, and I was one of them.
They invited the speakers Jason Hickel, author of the book ”The Global divide,” and Ann Patifor, who works with the environment, criticising mainstream economics as well as working with a manifest for a New Green Deal. There were other speakers too, focusing on de-growth in global South. But what is Growth and Degrowth? What are the flaws with growth and current development? How can you work with strong ecological, social and human-focused sustainability and transition? How could we create a world beyond growth? What could the meaning be of post-growth or de-growth?
Growth is in reference to the increase of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Investopedia simply defines GDP as ‘a broad measurement of a nation’s overall economic activity.’ These activities can have a huge impact on the environment which is what I will be reflecting on throughout this piece.
One flaw with the system of growth is that it leads to further inequalities and stratification of resources. The richest one percent is owning the majority of the resources.
Another issue is that it does not take into account whether the growth is harmful to the environment and the eco-systems needed, in the process of growth or destruction of the climate.
According to, Ann Patifor, another problem with growth is that it implicates further production in relation to earlier production of the economy.
Before the 1960, economics highlighted how productive different sectors were in the economy like labour, resources etc. Today you can also talk about a finance-sector separate from domestic economies.
One issue with that is that they do not give so much credits to sustainable projects since other areas are more lucrative such as oil-industry, big projects and, loans to increase credits. According to, Patifor, states should take a more active role and invest more in ideas for transformations and social and environmental, transformation.
In the Global South people are paying the price for rapid economic growth and inequalities such as garment-industries and sweatshops, where trade-liberalizations and foreign direct-investments can be seen as a race to the bottom since countries are competing with loose labour-law, low wages, and, few restrictions. It has been taking its toll in Indigenous peoples as well due to the propitiation of resources. Mainstream development has been about the increase to GDP, teaching poor countries that they are poor as they are not being productive enough, when really the structures are to blame.
Then what would a post-growth-world look like? How can you de-growth?
One way to work it could be to re-use more resources, focus on cultural activities, workers-co-operative, distributing living wages, but also social and right-based projects. Within the Global South, it can also be about different innovations such as getting clean water, renewable energies and, diverse social projects. Micro-loans have been crucial for women in different parts of the world to invest in small businesses. Movements and countries in the Global South are also on the forefront for climate justice and de-growth. In Bolivia, there is the belief that Mother Nature also has rights, and that rights are not simply limited to human beings. This might mean a relationship with the environment that also inspires projects in relation to the environment and living sustainably.
Additionally, in Bhutan, they take into account the Gross National Happiness Index in order to measure the environment, cultural values and general cohesion of the population.
To sum up it is clearly important to change systems but also to work locally and globally with sustainability and social and environmental transformation. You can try to change the way you see the world, but also work with others for change.