How Is Degrowth Different To ‘Sustainability’?

Ever wondered how degrowth differs from conventional sustainability?

The goal of degrowth is universal wellbeing, to be delivered through global and local provisioning systems that are distributive and regenerative. This demands a reprioritisation of social values and behaviours toward sufficiency and sharing; it is driving development of innovative post-growth business models that focus on meeting needs and respect local biosphere boundaries, both scientific and cultural; it is guiding macroeconomic research on a coherent set of policy interventions that would balance green policies with protection of livelihoods; and it is agitating for reform of governance institutions and an increase in community agency through participative democracy. No-one is claiming that degrowth would be easy or non disruptive or linear.

Conventional ‘sustainability’, too, recognises global and local inequality and that we’ve exceeded planetary boundaries. It goes about resolving these wicked problems through incrementally improving existing production systems, making positive social impacts and reducing negative environmental impacts. Individuals are encouraged to make greener purchasing decisions and individual businesses are encouraged to invest in technologies to improve their carbon and resource intensity and to buy offsets. It promises continuity of lifestyle and protection of individualism, a value we’ve become comfortable with and which capitalism relies upon. But there is no evidence that conventional sustainability approaches will make enough of a difference in the precious time we have left to make choices before our climate, biodiversity and inequality crises could tip us (and all living beings) into universal catastrophe.

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