Friday, March 13, 2020

Degrowth and Covid-19

Living through a rapid economic contraction in the wake of a pandemic somehow puts things into perspective. With “degrowth” no longer being just an abstract idea but rather hard-felt reality as pension savings evaporate and people are starting to be laid off in the tourism sector, sentences that I wrote only a few months ago now seem like taken from another world.

Instead I am filled with dark humour, like “Degrowth with Chinese characteristics” or as a friend tweeted: “We have all the solutions we need. Vaccine research is a distraction from necessary social change. Also, if we defeat covid-19 without also overthrowing capitalism, what's the point?”

Jokes aside, it will be very interesting to see what the world makes of this once it is over. The best scenario would be that the pandemic strengthens the role of democratic government and global cooperation, brings Europe together as Simone Tagliapietra hoped for in The Guardian, and that people will realize that reductions in consumption, even if effective in cutting emissions in the short-term, are not the way forward. The risk is of course that the very opposite will happen, that the Trumps and the Millers succeed in framing this as a “foreign virus” and countries will start closing their borders, that the world will fall into a global recession as Italy defaults and that the degrowthers will feel vindicated in an increasingly ungovernable world...

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