landscape matters volume 3 - Flipbook - Page 31
Jason Hickel, Less is more: How degrowth will
save the world, Earthbound Books, UK
Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist, argues that we
need to cap our over use of resources and discard the notion
that (Capitalist) growth is the answer. He even extends that to
arguing that Green Growth is not the answer either, because
it does not fundamentally tackle our greed for consumption.
For example, upscaling recycling could lead to more plastic
production. Relying on others to invent technology to dig ourselves out of trouble is not the principal solution- individually
and collectively we need to change our behaviours.
This is another well written warning to a world of people who
claim to be clever but have not effectively heeded previous
warnings. There is no doubt that the world is in trouble (as the
book claims) in terms of climate and biodiversity and that the
use of GDP as a measure of success is not helping.
Domination and resource extraction need to be replaced with
reciprocity and regeneration. This book grasps the issues
around how that might affect jobs, health and our notion of
progress- where we flourish by taking less and reverse ecological breakdown.
Going beyond this book to touch on a wider series of reference
points, let us start with the end of a pandemic- a sickness that
illustrates one consequence of accelerated globalisation, but
also shows a glimmer of hope in changing attitudes and
patterns of behaviour. The subject of economics is a complicated, inexact science and whilst there are facts, there are also
different interpretations. We should probably adopt a precautionary approach and not replace one simplistic
outdated dogma with another even more media led negative
one if we are to collectively succeed in producing a healthier
future. Bill Gates says that in many ways the world is getting
better, for example child mortality, cures for diseases, global
rates of poverty, numbers being educated and protection of
many rights and views including on equality. You would not
know this if you are over led by media coverage. Conversely,
there is the danger that some who do not fully understand
the climate and biodiversity facts pounce on Gates’ words,
wrongly confusing issues and thinking they offer evidence that
we are not in trouble. Then we have the boss of Amazon who
thinks we can just fly to other planets and (ab)use them to
extract the resources we require, re-defining Earth as our residential paradise. Jonathon Porritt, in a different perspective, in
his book The World We Made (2013), describes a positive vision
of our planet that is green, fair, connected and collaborative,
packed with technological innovations and futuristic visionsand a ‘cleaned up’ (not banished) Capitalism.
In contrast to the cry for de-growth, in the book The Power of
Creative Destruction by Philippe Aghion he insists that degrowth is unworkable and that we can only innovate our way
out of our dilemmas. It is a detailed and at times well argued
defence of capitalism that also stresses the need for a well
run state democracy. He describes the elements of innovation, knowledge diffusion at the heart of cumulative growth,
intellectual rights and the perpetuation of intense competitive,
un-impeded innovation through new businesses. Put into practice properly, he believes city growth and job creation would
no longer be disappointing. For example, the Danish economic
model is not tied to specific traditional jobs, which they
believe could hold back innovation. Capitalism done honestly,
he thinks, has some virtues, but can be disruptive too- it requires a balance to protect us from predatory capitalists.
Perhaps our wires are crossed in defining these different terms,
so whilst Hickel’s reasoning behind de-growth is compelling,
we should understand better the competitive nature of capitalism as a part of our evolution- not as the root of all evil.