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

Short summary of events at the Boym Institute

We want the Boym Institute to become a valuable platform of exchanging views, making valuable acquaintances and, above all, deepening knowledge. Therefore, we undertake the organization of many events: debates, lectures, and conferences.

#WomeninBoym Initiative

At the Boym Institute we are coming out with new initiative: #WomeninBoym, which aims to show the activity of this – often less visible – half of society. We will write about what women think, say and do. We will also publicise what women are researching and writing.

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.

Indonesia – between religion and democracy

Indonesia is the largest Muslim democracy in the world. Approximately 88% of the population in Indonesia declares Islamic religion, but in spite of this significant dominance, Indonesia is not a religious state.

Are Polish Universities Really Victims of a Chinese Influence Campaign?

The Chinese Influence Campaign can allegedly play a dangerous role at certain Central European universities, as stated in the article ‘Countering China’s Influence Campaigns at European Universities’, (...) However, the text does ignore Poland, the country with the largest number of universities and students in the region. And we argue, the situation is much more complex.

Patrycja Pendrakowska as a founding member of the WICCI’s India-EU Business Council

By sharing knowledge, business opportunities, and best practices the Council generates awareness of women's contributions in developing the India-EU relations.

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.

Book review: “Korean Diaspora in Postwar Japan – Geopolitics, Identity and Nation-Building”

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.

Online Course: “Educational tools for addressing the effects of war”

The Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace is offering “Betzavta” facilitators, middle school and high school educators, social activists, communal activists and those assisting refugees an online seminar to explore educational issues related to wartime.

Paweł Behrendt for 9DASHLINE: The South China Sea – from colonialism to the Cold War

We would like to inform, that 9DASHLINE has published article of Paweł Behrendt - the Boym Institute Analyst, in which he wrote about history of the South China Sea dispute over the 20th century.

Indian dream – interview with Samir Saran

Krzysztof Zalewski: India is a large country, both in terms of its population and its land area, with a fast-growing economy. It is perceived as a major new player on the global stage. What would the world order look like if co-organized by India? Samir Saran: India’s impact on the world order is already significant, but […]

From quantity to quality. Demographic transition in China – interview with Prof. Lauren Johnston

What we observe in China is a population reduction strategy paired with the socio-economic transition. In my view it’s not a crisis, but it is a very challenging transition.

The dying Mekong and political impasse – an environmental disaster with hydropolitics in the background

The countries of the Indochinese Peninsula are struggling with the problem of the deteriorating state of the Mekong River, which scientists and publicists are increasingly boldly describing as an ecological disaster. Alongside climate change, existing hydropower plants and those under construction in China and Laos are among the greatest threats. These ventures deepen the regional dispute over a river crucial to communities of tens of millions of people.

Lessons for China and Taiwan from the war in Ukraine

The situation of Taiwan and Ukraine is often compared. The logic is simple: a democracy is threatened by a repressive, authoritarian regime making territorial claims and denying it the right to exist.

Patrycja Pendrakowska and Paweł Behrendt on navigating Sino-Polish relations

We are proud to annouce, that Patrycja Pendrakowska and Paweł Behrendt made a contribution to the latest project of the Baltic Security Foundation, The Jamestown Foundation and the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation.

Development Strategies for Ulaanbaatar According to the Conception for the City’s 2040 General Development Plan – Part 2

This is the second part of an inquiry into Ulaanbaatar’s winning 2040 General Development Plan Conception (GDPC). In this part of paper, I look into some of the plans and/or solutions proposed in Ulaanbaatar’s 2040 GDPC.

Dr. Nicolas Levi with a lecture in Seoul

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.

The Boym Institute message to Chinese policymakers and analysts

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

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.

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.

Adam Institute for Democracy & Peace – Crowdfunding Campaign December 2020

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.

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”.

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.

Foreign Direct Investment in Vietnam

Thanks to continuous economic development, Vietnam attracts a record number of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The catalyst for such a strong growth of FDI in Vietnam is not only the ongoing trade war between the US and China, but also new international agreements.