For years, economists have posited that prosperity requires growth, with environmental damage as the regrettable but unavoidable consequence. A growing number of critics are now challenging this equation, though, calling for a radical revamping of the economic system.
Harald Welzer’s career as a critic of growth began with a few simple reflections. Just how progressive is it, he asked himself, when millions of hectares of land are used elsewhere in the world so that we keep down the cost of meat? How modern is it when producing a kilogram of salmon in a supposedly sustainable way requires feeding the fish five to six kilograms (11 to 13 pounds) of other types of fish? … //
… The Culture of Enough:
The German parliamentary commission on growth, prosperity and quality of life spent two years trying to find answers to these questions. Two weeks ago, the commission presented its 1,000-page final report. In the end, it was as far removed from a consensus as it was at the beginning.
Faith in never-ending growth has long had its critics. But many found warnings like those coming from the Club of Rome, especially in its study on the “Limits of Growth,” to be too alarmist. Nevertheless, the financial crisis has brought renewed misgivings about the system. One of the first to point the way to an alternative was British economist Tim Jackson. In his 2009 book “Prosperity Without Growth,” he outlined a “coherent ecological macroeconomics” based on a “fixed” economy with strict upper limits on emissions and resources.
Many in the British political world have viewed Jackson, an expert with the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission, as a bit of an oddball. Hostile government tax officials wondered whether Jackson was proposing that we all go back to living in caves. A professor at the University of Surrey, near London, Jackson had had the audacity to paint capitalism as a faulty system, as a gluttony machine that constantly needs new supplies of people prepared to resolutely continue consuming goods and services.
And when consumers lose their taste for new things, Jackson argues, our system has plenty of shrewd advertisers, marketers and investors to persuade us “to spend money we don’t have on things that we don’t need to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about.” Jackson’s book, already translated into 15 languages, became a bestseller in the new “culture of enough.”
“It’s time to change the channel,” says Welzer, the German growth critic. He is giving a talk in a large lecture hall at the University of Flensburg, and the room is so full that even most of the steps along the side are occupied.
“We apply the old recipes, which is typical for societies that come under stress,” he says. “They recognize that resources are dwindling, and yet they intensify their exploitation and accelerate their own demise.” He sees no better example of this than the way we treat our resources. “Peak oil? Let’s drill deeper! Natural gas bottlenecks? Let’s use chemicals to pump it out of the earth! Cash-strapped financial markets? Let’s flood them!”
Part 2: Preaching a New Frugality.
Book: “Selbst denken: Eine Anleitung zum Widerstand [German] [Hardcover]” / (”Thinking for Ourselves”), a manual for phasing out the “totalitarian consumerism” that gives people desires that, until recently, they didn’t even suspect they would ever have;
Homepage von FUTURZWEI: Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit;