The Argument to Shrink the Economy Keeps Getting Stronger

The idea that we can eventually decarbonize our economy to keep it growing has been talked about for decades; sadly we’re far away from a carbon neutral economy and even it we did achieve such an economic system we still need to shrink it. What makes a “good” economy is up to us since we create the rules and laws around economic practices. Currently we designed our economic systems to be inherently unsustainable since it’s based on growth for the sake of wealth production. Instead we can make economic systems that favour environmental protection, economic equality, or any other good idea.

Regardless, we can start making more people aware that we need to shrink, rather than grow, the economy.

Green growth, Hickel concludes, is an ecologically incoherent “fairy tale.” If this seems harsh, consider what the ecomodernist position asks us to believe. The current system requires annual growth of roughly 3 percent to avoid the shock of recession. This means doubling the size of the economy every 23 years. The economy of 2000 must be 20 times larger in the year 2100, and 370 times larger in the year 2200. The green growth position rests on the assumption that this can go on, basically forever, because innovation will “dematerialize” the economy. Yet 2000 was the first year that, according to experts, humanity used more energy and materials than the safe limit. And the growth economy, far from dematerializing, remains geared toward expanding future markets for extremely materials-heavy products like Tesla cybertrucks and Apple iPhones. Comparing this to a fairy tale is, if anything, too generous, since children’s stories usually involve some kind of moral lesson applicable to the real world.

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