‘Degrowth’ and ‘Green New Deal’ are both useful angles to look at our economic and financial systems and how to change them. In this article I want to argue why both terms and schools of thought are not the end game and answer the questions: What is degrowth and what is a Green New Deal? What do they have in common? What is happening with those concepts nowadays in Europe? Why do we need to move on with a new headline?
One can summarise both concepts in the following (simplified) graphic to understand the basic thoughts behind the terms ‘degrowth’ and ‘Green New Deal’. On our planet we have finite available resources and time through which we can carry out our work. Currently we work in jobs that are either actually fulfilling a human need, keeping within the limits of our ecological boundaries, or we work in jobs that are either not producing for any actual human need or beyond our ecological boundaries by destroying the environment.
Where does degrowth fit in?
Degrowth starts by looking at the capitalist growth model and says: Stop! This growth cannot be endless and destroys the planet we are living on. We have to shrink (de-grow) our economy. It reverses the guiding capitalist concept of growth. From this starting point, of course, many more details were added and a positive vision for an alternative economy were developed.
Wikipedia says: “Degrowth is a term used for both a political, economic, and social movement as well as a set of theories that criticise the paradigm of economic growth. Degrowth argues for a reduction in global consumption and production and advocates a socially just and ecologically sustainable society with social and environmental well-being replacing gross domestic product (GDP) as the indicator of prosperity.”
And what is a Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal starts by looking at our current needs – for example, in terms of new ecological energy sources. How can we invest time in shifting into the use of those resources that fulfil our needs and don’t destroy the planet? It then develops a concept on how to use existing financial institutions to invest into much needed work to – for example, switch our energy system. Of course, many more details were added here and a positive vision for an alternative economy were developed.
Wikipedia says: “Green New Deal (GND) proposals call for public policy to address climate change along with achieving other social aims like job creation, economic growth and reducing economic inequality. The name refers back to the New Deal, a set of reforms and public works projects undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933-1935 in response to the Great Depression in the United States.”
What do they have in common and what is happening with those concepts nowadays in Europe?
The point of departure is different: whereas ‘degrowth’ starts from the realisation that we have to stop the endless growth, the ‘Green New Deal’ starts from the realisation that we need massive investment in the transition of our economies. Behind both terms are various reform programs from different actors, from which most have the aim to transform into a new economic system and move past capitalism. Both have the aim to stop the environmental destruction, keep with the planetary boundaries and move towards a socially and economically more just society at the same time.
Nowadays the EU Commission has started its own ‘European Green Deal’, which is the takeover of the term without the content. It is above all a lot of moderate regulatory policy, poured into various European legislative acts without any substance for a large-scale transformation. The Commission is lately starting to also claim the term ‘degrowth’ with their ‘Beyond Growth’ conference. This is politics quite successfully keeping the hegemony over the terms without including the important parts of the concepts behind them.
And it is hard to fight against those in power, when they for example start to claim the words ‘Green’ and ‘Deal’ with their media access. In parallel, they have started to declare fossil fuels such as gas and nuclear power as ‘Green’. DiEM25’s Green New Deal for Europe is the most comprehensive plan ever published to pull Europe out of the twin crises of austerity and climate/environmental breakdown. But since the EU Commission released its ‘European Green Deal’ many people confuse those fundamentally different plans.
Why do we need to move on with a new headline?
There are a few reasons why I think we should move on with a new headline, the first being the above description on how the establishment has coerced the terms or is in the process of doing so. The second reason is that both concepts depart their train of thoughts in the current system including its violence and oppression. Thirdly both are not a positive visionary headline for a new system, but terms of transition of the old system and can be more easily coerced by the establishment to maintain the status quo. Green capitalism with the power imbalance between those with capital and those having to sell their labour to capitalists is still incompatible with a free society.
I think it is about time we discuss the term for a new post-capitalist system. Now of course: what should this headline be? Let’s discuss! Should we use freedom socialism, liberty communism, ecological collectivism or something else?
This is not something that a single person can decide, but it is high time that we accelerate the discussion. And, once we agree on the term, how do we make it happen? The current answer of DiEM25 is: A democratic revolution! Because power will be necessary to implement our new system, words and terms only help along the road. Join us!
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