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The Forum > Article Comments > Ecosocialism and degrowth folly > Comments

Ecosocialism and degrowth folly : Comments

By David McMullen, published 2/7/2024

The more fruitful option is to concentrate one's efforts on prodding the present system to do a far better job of decoupling our increasing economic activity from undesirable environmental impacts.

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David McMullen's article on ecosocialism and degrowth contains several problematic assumptions and overlooks key points.

Firstly, McMullen misrepresents degrowth and ecosocialism as impractical, but these movements are based on substantial academic research and practical experiments. They advocate for a managed reduction in economic activity in wealthy nations to achieve sustainability and equity, not a chaotic collapse.

McMullen places too much faith in technological solutions to separate economic growth from environmental harm. While technological advancements are important, there's limited evidence they can achieve the necessary scale and speed to meet climate targets. Technologies like nuclear power and genetic engineering come with significant risks and limitations, such as waste disposal, safety, and ecological concerns.

Moreover, McMullen underestimates Earth's biophysical limits. The concept of planetary boundaries suggests we're already exceeding critical environmental thresholds, such as biodiversity loss and nitrogen cycles, which technofixes alone can't solve. Continuous growth doesn't align with the finite nature of our planet's resources. Historically, relative decoupling (reducing resource use per unit of GDP) hasn't led to absolute reductions in environmental impacts.

High levels of inequality mean wealthier individuals and nations consume disproportionately more resources. Degrowth emphasises reducing consumption in affluent societies to redistribute resources more equitably and sustainably. Research shows that beyond a certain point, increased consumption doesn't lead to greater well-being. Degrowth advocates focusing on well-being and quality of life rather than endless economic growth.

McMullen's belief that the current capitalist system can easily be reformed ignores entrenched power dynamics and interests resisting significant environmental regulations. Degrowth and ecosocialism call for systemic change, recognising that the current economic model drives unsustainable practices. Without addressing the root causes of environmental degradation, technofixes alone won't be enough.

Historically, major social and economic changes, such as the shift from feudalism to capitalism, were once seen as impossible but eventually occurred. Dismissing the potential for systemic change overlooks the dynamic nature of human societies.

Finally, the urgency of the climate crisis requires rapid and comprehensive action. Relying solely on slow technological developments and market-based solutions may not meet the critical timeframes scientists suggest to avoid severe adverse climate impacts.
Posted by John Daysh, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 7:38:21 AM
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That was really negative of me. McMullin's article does makes some good points, too, which deserve highlighting.

Firstly, McMullen highlights the significant progress in fields such as renewable energy, geothermal energy, plant-based and cultured meat, precision farming, genetic engineering, and green construction materials. These advancements are crucial for reducing environmental impacts and are essential to combating climate change.

He correctly emphasises the need for increased government funding for research and development in clean technologies. Adequate funding can accelerate innovation and the deployment of eco-friendly technologies.

McMullen also notes that nuclear power, despite its challenges, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to its low land use and potential for reliable, large-scale energy production.

The article argues for efforts to decouple economic activity from environmental degradation through improved efficiency, cleaner technologies, and minimised environmental footprints.

Technological advancements in agriculture and human settlements can lead to more efficient use of land and water resources, which is vital for sustainable development.

McMullen acknowledges the difficulties of achieving radical systemic change, such as replacing capitalism. He suggests that working within the current system to drive environmental improvements might be more practical in the short to medium term.

Last, but certainly not least, McMullen recognises the urgency of addressing climate change and environmental degradation, noting that current efforts are insufficient and that rapid, large-scale action is needed.
Posted by John Daysh, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 8:07:43 AM
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I suspect degrowth will be forced upon us ready or not. Currently the baby boomers in the former workforce are being replaced by migrants..visit any hospital to see this. When the BBs are gone how will the next generation fare? Housing choices, personal mobility, family size and cost of living will all be harder than before. Much of the next generation will live in more cramped conditions nearer to work if not working from home. Many will put off having kids. Everything like water, housing, energy and food will be so expensive. In real terms GDP will probably shrink. Australia may revert from 27m population to a more sustainable number, say 15m.

I think these pennies won't drop until it gets to crisis level, perhaps by 2030. Gaza is showing us how tensions will arise. The media backed political class won't allow things that would help like nuclear and population stabilisation. Get used to less.
Posted by Taswegian, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 8:10:26 AM
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In effect, the entire Western world has bought the UN prescription. "Net" emissions will magically bend it like Beckham, "saving" the environment. So we don't need to worry about the world adding 75-80m mouths a year. Or Albanese Australia, growing its population by 600,000 plus, in one year.

That is where we are at, politically, and there is no point talking about "de-growth" unless you tackle the reigning "net zero" delusion.
Posted by Steve S, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 9:06:30 AM
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Steve S,
Well said ! If only any of these delusional pseudo academic lemmings were to ever have a split second flicker of sense !
Posted by Indyvidual, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 11:16:55 AM
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'Degrowth' is a right wing fossil fueled PR construct based on the debunked pseudo science of 'limits to growth' promoted via the Rockefeller (Standard Oil/Exxon/Chevron), VW (Porsche) & Fiat (Agnelli) Club of Rome.

Further, Meadows''limits to growth' also inspired Gaia, Daly's 'Steady State Economy', Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb in turn his (Rockefeller Bros. Fund) ZPG Zero Population Growth and his white nationalist chum John 'passive eugenics' Tanton.

Tanton admired white Australia policy, visited and was hosted by SPA Sustainable Population Australia, faux or astroturf environmental NGO promoting promoting Tanton's border security, immigration restrictions and population control; greenwashing 'social Darwinism' or eugenics, it's not science.

The end game for above, Franco's Spain, 1930s Italy, Germany & US, or for white Christian nationalists Americans, a return to segregation.
Posted by Andras Smith, Wednesday, 10 July 2024 1:52:36 AM
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