Witnessing the recent flurry of political activity amid the accelerating environmental emergency, from the Green New Deal to the UN climate summits to European political initiatives, one could be forgiven for thinking that things are finally moving forward. Even though none of the specific measures under discussion is ultimately up to the task on its own, climate has entered political vocabulary and is here to stay. The question however is not simply how to go beyond paying mere lip service and ensure lofty pledges become reality. The question is whether the ideological underpinnings of these measures have the necessary potential for envisioning and initiating meaningful change.
Increasingly, the answer seems to be “no”.
The problem is not only that these initiatives – and others in the same vein – have failed to deliver on their promises or are unlikely to ever come to fruition. The problem is this: Even if they succeeded by their own account, they would still operate within a political and economic system that arguably cannot by definition stave off the crises to come, and whose continued existence virtually guarantees the worst-case scenarios will become reality.
The way we have been going about the environmental emergency invites hypocrisy. One of the most glaring examples is infrastructural investments aimed at facilitating transportation and trade. Often touted as “green”, they continue apace despite the fact that not only do they require aggressive resource extraction, generate waste, emit carbon dioxide, and destroy wildlife habitats, but they are also bound to lock in further environmental damage for decades to come (to put it simply, more roads mean more traffic). What is expected to power those gigantic infrastructural projects is another gigantic infrastructural project: renewable energy. While we do our best to overlook the fact that “transition to renewables is going to require a dramatic increase in the extraction of metals and rare-earth minerals, with real ecological and social costs”, the truth remains the same: “The only truly clean energy is less energy”.
Effective PR allows governments and businesses alike to couch harmful initiatives in the soothing language of purported sustainability. While growing numbers of consumers and analysts take such proclamations with a pinch of salt, most still seem to barely even notice. After all, pouring concrete has been the symbol of the miracle of economic growth for generations, and the whirring blades of a wind turbine promise to become another one in the foreseeable future.
What we need to consider is the following: What if overconsumption that sends our mammalian instincts into overdrive and provides the current economic and political system with justification for its existence and for the means it takes to sustain itself simply cannot continue? What if the necessary reduction and reversal of our impacts on the planet’s climate system, as well as on its overall environmental condition, cannot be achieved within the confines of our current economic paradigm? What if the juggernaut of perpetual growth and free trade is inherently incompatible with the continued habitability of the biosphere that we take for granted? What if “green growth” is indeed a fantasy and a trick we fool ourselves with? What if we need to rebuild the system we inhabit from the ground up, and fast?
Faced with these questions, it’s perfectly understandable to come to the conclusion that all the much-touted recent initiatives are nothing but treading water, or worse. That’s where alternatives come in. Advocates of “degrowth” or “post-growth” propose more than an overhaul of the system: They recommend replacing it with one better aligned with the planetary realities we can no longer ignore. As one definition puts it, degrowth is “a downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and equity on the planet”, which “challenge[s] the centrality of GDP as an overarching policy objective” and where the “primacy of efficiency will be substituted by a focus on sufficiency”. “Humanity has to understand itself as part of the planetary ecological system”, according to another formulation that emphasises a need for “a fundamental transformation of our lives and an extensive cultural change”. Yet another interpretation provides a crucial clarifying point: “Post-growth economies and societies will not be static; they will be developing still, but within planetary limits, and they will not be betting their futures on the assumption of endless material growth”. The path that we have taken is just one among many, and it has already shown its true colours. We don’t have to stay on it.
But the predicament we are in is this: Whichever country begins applying degrowth first may find itself at the mercy of the increasingly anarchic international system. What it faces may not necessarily be an old-school military invasion by a foreign power, but a much more pernicious threat: hostile takeover. In the absence of strong international cooperation and institutions, the global commons are up for grabs. We are being discouraged from doing the right thing.
It has become trivially easy for any major player on the global stage to say all the right things about the environment and trumpet technological solutions far and wide, while at the same time pushing one brute-force carbon-intensive infrastructural project after another in pursuit of more material wealth and at the expense of energy that environmentally we can no longer afford. Appearing to lead can often be just that: an appearance. In the short term it is easier to lead the unsuspecting (or even acquiescing) audience on. Some are expert at this: It is not far-fetched to say that Donald Trump could easily win favours with the global public opinion by adopting green rhetoric while carrying on with his ecocidal policies. His base would no doubt buy into that as well.
The challenge the efforts to prioritise climate and the environment face is this: By making it clear how deep and wide the necessary transformation needs to be, they risk triggering a powerful self-preservation pushback from those who benefit from the status quo. They already have. Alternative paths to human well-being within the natural world are already being dismissed as too difficult or outlandish to even contemplate. As the debate heats up together with the climate, we are speeding – with our streamlined rhetoric and polished slogans – towards the edge of the cliff.
 Jason Hickel. “The Limits of Clean Energy”. Foreign Policy 6.09.2019. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/06/the-path-to-clean-energy-will-be-very-dirty-climate-change-renewables/
 Ian Christie, Ben Gallant, Simon Mair. “Growing pain: the delusion of boundless economic growth”. Open Democracy 26.09.2019. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/growing-pain-delusion-boundless-economic-growth/
After the darkness of the Cultural Revolution, the times of the Chinese transformation had come. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping realised the need to educate a new generation of leaders: people proficient in science, management and politics. Generous programmes were created that aimed at attracting back to China fresh graduates of foreign universities, young experts, entrepreneurs and professionals.Ewelina Horoszkiewicz
Evidence suggests that North Korea stores its high-level nuclear waste (HLW) in liquid form in tanks on the same site where it is made, and has not invested in infrastructure to reduce, dentrify, or vitrify this waste. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, one of many aspects of the North Korean nuclear waste problem.Nicolas Levi
In recent years, India has been the fastest growing among the major countries' economies in the world. (...) In the coming decades, the Subcontinent's largest country may remain one of the pillars of global economic growth. This is one of the reasons why the country is already the most popular destination for polish foreign investment in the Asian-Pacific region.
Polish women do not often become the heroines of media reports in Central Asia. In February 2020, however, it was different. The story of Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska, a journalist, "heated up" the headlines of local news portals. More importantly, "between the lines" she talked a lot about contemporary Uzbekistan and the role of women in politics.Magdalena Sobańska-Cwalina
Kochański & Partners and the Boym Institute engaged in delivering information about latest after-effects of COVID-19 pandemia, which has begun to spread in Poland during the past days.
Book review of "Europe – North Korea. Between Humanitarianism And Business?", written by Myung-Kyu Park, Bernhard Seliger, Sung-Jo Park (Eds.) and published by Lit Verlag in 2010.Nicolas Levi
North Korea is considered as a secretive state, but, paradoxically, the country is developing last trend technologies. With prohibitions restricting the flow of money, the country is turning to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to finance their programs, instead of coming under new pressure.Nicolas Levi
With China one of the key players in the global supply chain, supplying major manufacturing companies with commodities, components and final products, the recent emerging outbreak of Coronavirus provides for a number of organizational as well as legal challenges.
We cordially invite you to a workshop session “Liberalism vs authoritarianism: political ideas in Singapore and China”. The workshop is organized by Patrycja Pendrakowska and Maria Kądzielska at the Department of Philosophy, University of Warsaw on ZOOM.
Commissioned in 2019 by the British government and published in February 2021, The Dasgupta Review has been likened to the 2006 Stern Review. Where the latter brought to widespread attention the many failings of the world economy in the face of global warming, the former makes similar points as regards biodiversity – and identifies the unique challenges faced by women.Dawid Juraszek
Interview with Michał Wójcik - Director of the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Marine Economy and Inland Navigation (DWM MGMiŻŚ). In the Ministry, he is leading the Coordinating Secretariat for Maritime Issues , monitoring the cooperation of Central and Eastern European States with China.Krzysztof Zalewski
Book review of "Unveiling the North Korean economy", written by Kim Byung-yeon and published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.B. Tauris in 2017.Nicolas Levi
Democracy in Israel is in crisis. And if we don't educate for democracy, it just won't exist. It's that simple. The actual teaching of democracy, on the other hand, isn't so simple. It requires experience, theoretical and practical knowledge and the flexibility to adapt to our ever-changing reality.
Ewelina Horoszkiewicz in conversation with Professor William Yu (UCLA) on USA, China and Europe. Professor William Yu is an economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast and specializes in the economies of Los Angeles and China.Ewelina Horoszkiewicz
The course will be taught via interactive workshops, employing the Adam Institute’s signature “Betzavta – the Adam Institute’s Facilitation Method“, taught by its creator, Dr. Uki Maroshek-Klarman. The award-winning “Betzavta” method is rooted in an empirical approach to civic education, interpersonal communication and conflict resolution.
First burials of Catholics, mostly Poles but also other Non-Orthodox believers took place in future Harbin in the so called small „old” or later Pokrovskoe Orthodox cemetery in the future European New Town quarter and small graveyards at the military and civilian hospitals of Chinese Eastern Railway at the turn of XIX and XX century.Jerzy Czajewski
The scale of assistance provided to medics by the Vietnamese community during the 2020 pandemic inspires admiration and gratitude. It stems from the sense of belonging to Poland and deeply rooted in the culture order to help those in need and repay the debt incurred at the time when they themselves needed such help.Ewa Grabowska
Book review of "Korean Diaspora in Postwar Japan - Geopolitics, Identity and Nation-Building", written by Kim Myung-ja and published by I.B Tauris in 2017.Nicolas Levi
On May 24 Dr. Nicolas Levi gave a lecture on Balcerowicz's plan in the context of North Korea. The speech took place as part of the seminar "Analyzing the Possibility of Reform and its Impact on Human Rights in North Korea". The seminar took place on May 24 at the prestigious Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.
"Cooperation and investments – we are absolutely up for it. However, we prefer to keep a certain degree of caution when it comes to entrusting the transfer of technology and critical infrastructure to external investors. The security of Poland and the EU should be considered more important than even the greatest economic gains..."
On the initiative of the Vietnamese community in Poland and Vietnamese graduates of Polish universities, our country received support from Vietnam - a country that deals with the threat posed by Sars-Cov-2 very effectively.Grażyna Szymańska-Matusiewicz
Book review of "North Korean Defectors in a New and Competitive Society", written by Lee Ahlam - assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Human Resource Development at Xavier University Cincinnati, Ohio.Nicolas Levi
This paper deals with the issue of drug business in post-Soviet Central Asia, a region that plays a key role in the trafficking of banned substances from Asia (mainly Afghanistan) to Europe. The study briefly presents the areas that make up the picture of drug business in Central Asia, paying attention to production and distribution.Jerzy Olędzki
Interview with Nandan Unnikrishnan, who has served for many years as a correspondent for Indian media in Russia. Currently he is a research fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi. The interview was conducted during the Raisina Dialogue 2019 in Delhi.Krzysztof Zalewski