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Inter Press Service/Tierramérica

European Activists Against Economic Growth

Julio Godoy

In parallel with degrowth French economist Serge Latouche promotes values like frugality, sobriety and austerity - in other words, he calls for renouncing the uncontrolled consumerism of contemporary capitalist societies. (Photo: Twaize/Flickr)

global environmental crisis requires replacing the existing capitalist
model of production with one that promotes "selective degrowth" of the
economy and the restricted and responsible exploitation of natural
resources, according to European experts and activists.

movement led by French economist Serge Latouche, Swiss political
scientist Marie-Dominique Perrot, the Climate Justice Action (CJA)
association and the monthly "La Décroissance" (Degrowth), among others,
calls for different forms of consumption, the redistribution of wealth,
and technology transfer towards developing countries.

Alexis Passadakis, CJA representative in Berlin, told
Tierramérica that "the goals of this restructuring of the economy are
the conservation of natural resources and the democratisation of their
use in favour of the peoples who live in the zones of exploitation,
like the Amazon or the Congo Basin."

He also said it is necessary "to break away from the market
logic that characterises the current instruments for fighting climate
change, such as trading the rights for emissions of greenhouse-effect

This carbon market is intended to manage and redistribute
greenhouse gas emissions, when its main objective should be to reduce
emissions at the source, such as from transportation or energy
production, both in the industrialised world and poor countries, he

CJA will participate in the World People's Conference on
Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, taking place Apr. 19-22
in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The association will lead a workshop on
creating inter-continental connections between grassroots movements for
climate justice.

Climate Justice Action is a federation of environmental groups
and activists that joined forces in 2009 to coordinate actions during
the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen last December.

Its members share Perrot's critique of "sustainable
development" and Latouche's proposal for selective economic degrowth,
which in turn are based on thermodynamics theories applied to
environmental analysis of the global economy, put forth in the 1970s by
Romanian economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen.

In his book, "The Entropy Law and the Economic Process,"
published in 1971, the "founder" of the economy of degrowth utilised
the concept of entropy and its related laws of thermodynamics to
analyze the irreversible environmental degradation caused by the
consumption of raw materials.

Following Georgescu-Roegen's argument and taking into account
the worsening of the global ecological crisis, Latouche advocates
economic degrowth as an indispensable condition for the survival of

"The logic of economic growth applied since the 18th century
has led us to far surpass the planet's physical capacity," Latouche,
professor emeritus of economics at the University of Paris-Sud 11, told

As such, degrowth emerges as the only economically viable
formula, not just in benefit of nature but also "to restore a minimum
of social justice, without which the world is condemned to
destruction," he said.

In parallel with degrowth, Latouche promotes values like
frugality, sobriety and austerity - in other words, he calls for
renouncing the uncontrolled consumerism of contemporary capitalist

A notion shared by those who promote degrowth is the right to
development of the emerging nations, such as China, India and Brazil.
But they also share criticism of many of those governments' measures
for promoting growth.

Passadakis emphasised reducing consumption of imported goods
as a way to promote regional products. "In that sense, the CJA has
adopted the Vía Campesina (an international peasant movement) programme
to ensure food sovereignty of the people through encouraging
consumption of what they themselves produce."

Passadakis suggested that activists promoting these
alternatives should focus on two levels: the national level, to foment
a vision that is ecological and entails economic degrowth, "for
example, through opposition to new carbon-based power plants and in
favour of reducing the workday in order to redistribute employment and

At the international level, Passadakis pointed out that for
the negotiations leading to the 16th Conference of Parties (COP-16) to
the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, "our vision should be to
prevent the worst... We have to convince the governments that the World
Bank has no role to play in the fight against climate change."

Furthermore, "civil society and indigenous peoples should make
it clear that they won't accept it if the conference approves the REDD
plan as another market-based instrument that is supposedly useful
against global warming," he said.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation)
involves putting a monetary value on tropical forests in order to
incorporate them into market mechanisms, just like the trade of
emissions credits.

(*This story was originally published by Latin American
newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a
specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United
Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and
the World Bank.)

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