Articles

“Green growth” may well be more of the same

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.

Instytut Boyma 16.01.2020

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”[1].

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”[2]. “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”[3]. 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”[4]. 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.

Przypisy:

[1] 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/

[2] Definition. degrowth.com (n.d.). https://degrowth.org/definition-2/

[3] What is degrowth? degrowth.info (n.d.). https://www.degrowth.info/en/what-is-degrowth/

[4]  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/

Dawid Juraszek

Expert on global environmental issues. Author of the book 'Anthropocene for Beginners. Climate, Environment, Pandemics in the Age of Man'. PhD student at Maastricht University (cognitive ecocriticism), graduate in English philology, educational leadership, environmental management and international relations. He has written for, among others, Dwutygodnik, Liberté!, Krytyka Polityczna, Gazeta Wyborcza, Polityka, Newsweek, Ha!art, Lampa, Focus Historia, Travel and Poznaj Świat, as well as for numerous publications in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. He has worked in Chinese higher education for several years.

czytaj więcej

San Zhong Zhanfa or Three Warfares. Chinese Hybrid Warfare

Cognitive operations are becoming an increasingly significant and common element of non-kinetic military operations. States and other political players deliberately manipulate the way their actions, those of their allies and those of their adversaries are perceived by the governments and societies of other international players.

Internet, cryptocurrencies & blockchains in North Korea

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.

To free oneself from the Chinese embrace. On Indo-Russian relations with Nandan Unnikrishnan

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.

Coronavirus outbreak in Poland – General information and recommendations for entrepreneurs

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.

Indian Roundtable – Poland’s Challenges and Opportunities in the Subcontinent

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.

Drug and Road Initiative, that is the Silk Road of drug

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.

Global Security Initiative and Global Development Initiative: Two Wings for Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind

Peace and development as the call of our day again face severe challenges on a global scale, with more prominent instability, uncertainty and complexity

Patrycja Pendrakowska for Balkan Development Support: “Western European countries have benefited most from the Chinese capital, the benefits are mutual”

We would like to inform, that Financial Intelligence has published interview for Balkan Development Support with Patrycja Pendrakowska.

Navigating tomorrow – the significance of Australia’s navy build-up

Australia has recently announced a plan to build the largest fleet since World War II. This move constitutes another step in Canberra's shift of defence strategy and commitment to adapt to the changing security environment.

The strategic imperatives driving ASEAN-EU free trade talks: colliding values as an obstacle

Recently revived talks aimed at the conclusion of an inter-regional free trade agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) are driven by strategic imperatives of both regions.

WICCI’s India-EU Business Council – a new platform for women in business

Interview with Ada Dyndo, President of WICCI's India-EU Business Council and Principal Consultant of European Business and Technology Centre

Polish-Kazakh Business Forum

An interview with Mr. Meirzhan Yussupov, Chairman of the Board of the “National Company” KAZAKH INVEST” JSC - Member of the Board of Directors of the Company

The Boym Institute message to Chinese policymakers and analysts

The EU-China relations require common perspective on Russia’s invasion on Ukraine

Coronavirus and climate policies: long-term consequences of short-term initiatives

As large parts of the world are gradually becoming habituated to living in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, global attention has turned to restarting the economy. One of the most consequential impacts of these efforts will be that on our climate policies and environmental conditions.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and emerging contractual claims

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.

Book review: “Europe – North Korea. Between Humanitarianism And Business?”

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.

Beyond Grey Hulls: Europe’s Role in “Crowdsourcing” Maritime Domain Awareness in the South China Sea

If developments observed in the South China Sea over the recent months are of any indication, it simply means that the situation has worsened. China’s continued aggression towards its neighbors – the Philippines and Vietnam in particular, has continued unabated.

Interview with Uki Maroshek-Klarman on “Betzavta” method

Interview with Uki Maroshek-Klarman - Academic Director of the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace in Israel. Founder of "Betzavta" method, which was created with intention of streghtening people's participation in society and making conflicts easier to solve.

An “Asian NATO”: Chances and perspectives

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has reinvigorated NATO. Can the Chinese pressure on its neighbours, especially Taiwan, create an Asian equivalent of NATO?

A letter from the Adam Institute in Jerusalem

This letter is part of our series on the Voices from Asia. We share our platform with Dr. Uki Maroshek-Klarman who serves as the Executive Director at the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.

China’s Social Credit System – How will it affect Polish enterprises in China?

The Social Credit System currently being rolled out in China may pose significant organisational and legal challenges for both foreign and Polish entities operating in China. We invite you to read our report, prepared in cooperation between the Boym Institute and Kochanski & Partners.

Kyrgyzstan on the Path to Political Stabilisation

On 10 January, early presidential elections were held in Kyrgyzstan, following the resignation of the incumbent, President Zheenbekov. The atmosphere in which the vote was conducted remained tense. This had been the case since the results of the October elections were announced, in which the opposition grouping failed to win a single parliamentary seat.

Women’s liberation in China: interview with prof. Wu Lijuan

Interview of Ewelina Horoszkiewicz with prof. Wu Lijuan - Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology at Peking University. Her research concentrates on the gender issues and social changes brought about by globalization. She wrote a book “Job Placements and Job Shifts in China: The Effects of Education, Family Background and Gender”.

We’re Stronger Together – an Interview with Minister Marcin Przydacz

"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..."