What is Degrowth?

The new IPCC report mentions the term 27 times. Here’s what you need to know:

Anna Mercury


Photo by Михаил Павленко on Unsplash

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released another landmark report on the worsening climate crisis and the dire need for governments and economies to adapt for the future. The report not only lays out the latest climate change predictions and their likely impact on our societies, but it provides important recommendations on how societies can start preparing for the realities of global heating.

We’re all (hopefully) familiar with the most popular options: increasing efficiency, transitioning to greener technology, reducing carbon emissions — but to my surprise and delight, the IPCC finally deigned to discuss another (in my view, more important) avenue for climate mitigation: degrowth.

Degrowth is the practice of actively reducing production and consumption in the economy. The degrowth movement critiques the assumption that continued economic growth is a good thing. Instead, it argues that both our climate resilience and our well-being could be greatly improved by actively reducing the size and productivity of our economy, shifting our economic goals from increased profit and consumption to improved social and ecological health.

As climate change puts increasing strain on our lives and communities, we need to think deeply and transformationally about what our collective priorities are. Whether or not you ultimately support degrowth, it’s important for all of us to consider the possibility that endless economic growth may not be in our best interest, and to have an understanding of what the degrowth movement is advocating for.

Here are five key points for understanding degrowth:

1. Degrowth is about economic transformation, not recession.

In industrial societies, we’ve long been conditioned to view economic growth as an indisputable good, and we associate economic contraction with recession, unemployment, poverty and reduced quality of life.

In a world of economies over-extracting and over-consuming resources beyond the sustainable bounds for the biosphere, we must understand that unchecked economic growth (read: continued…