I wrote this post for the Post Growth Institute and it was originally published here.
In 2015, 13 August is Earth Overshoot Day. The day marks the estimated calendar date when humanity’s demand on the planet’s ecological services (which produce renewable resources and assimilate wastes) outstrips what the Earth can supply. This means that for the rest of the year, we are taking more than is regenerated, operating in Overshoot. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was August 19th. We first went into Overshoot in the late 1970s, and since then the day has crept ever earlier on the calendar. This means we are using the ecological resources of just over 1.5 Earths.
Meeting the challenge of providing for all humanity’s needs within the limits of what our Earth can provide will require a radical restructuring of the global economy. In this post I will discuss how a post-growth economy based around not-for-profit enterprise can help us get to One Planet Living. Continue reading →
So I came across this super cute 4-minute video from Grist which explains the concept of degrowth using the analogy of a stall selling class A delicious orange juice. I think you’ll like it, and it’s especially good if you’re new to the idea.
As far as I’m aware the degrowth concept stems largely from the work of ecological economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (among others) and is now a full blown international movement. Apart from specifying that advanced economies need to contract rather than just stop growing, it seems to be little different to the idea of post-growth and exhorts many of the same solutions and attitudes.
Here’s a really cool short video I found on Films for Action about the energy revolution we so desperately need and deserve – a democratised renewable energy system designed to meet all our energy needs sustainably rather than just make a few corporations obscenely rich. And that includes the billion people currently living without power. Give it a watch!
Also – I apologise for my lack of posting recently. I’m two and half months away from finishing my degree, I’m working voluntarily for the Post Growth Institute and the UK’s Green Party and I have a job as a waitress as well. I’m just a bit busy basically. I have loads of ideas I’m dying to put into words though. Come June I’ll be back on to regular blogging.
Okay, so I may have been slacking on my blogging lately, but I’ve been crazy busy in the rest of my life. My dissertation and other university coursework is taking up a lot of time, and I’ve been volunteering with my local Green Party each week, campaigning to get our Green MP re-elected. But the most exciting reason why I’m extra busy, is that I’ve become a core member of the Post Growth Institute.
If you haven’t heard me mention them before, they’re an international group exploring how we can chart a course to a shared sustainable prosperity beyond our addiction to growth-mania. Continue reading →
So last week I was waxing lyrical about this talk I was about to go to, called “Is the post-growth economy already here?” by Donnie Maclurcan, from the Post Growth Institute. It was part of a UK-wide speaking tour, in promotion for a new book (How, On Earth?) by Donnie and one of the co-directors of the Institute, Jennifer Hinton.
Near the start of the talk, Donnie Maclurcan stated that we have two major global crises, which are completely interconnected.
One is the ecological crisis. The fact that each year we’re now using more resources than can be replenished, and creating more waste than can be assimilated. This is leading to widespread species loss, dangerous climate change, land degradation and the rest. As he’s the executive director of the Post Growth Institute it’s not surprising he doesn’t believe in the fantasy story of infinite economic growth.
The other crisis is spiralling financial inequality. He quoted the well-publicised but ever sickening statistic from Oxfam, that the world’s richest 85 people have the same combined wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion*.
The two are connected because rising inequality leads to over-consumption, through status envy and competition. And in a neoliberal economy where growth is prioritized above all else, consumption will be tightly culturally linked with the idea of success. Because that’s what’s needed to keep the growth engine going.
Anyway, Maclurcan thinks the solution to the two problems is not loads of regulation, nor flashy brands of ‘creative capitalism’, but not-for-profit enterprise. Continue reading →
Sustainability is about everyone living well, as far into the future as possible. War is about the most brutish form of conflict resolution we know.
It’s not hard to see how these two things are at odds. War kills people, injures people, rips apart families, communities and whole societies. It destroys critical infrastructure and homes. It also damages land, causes pollution and wastes resources and insane sums of money. Basically, while sustainability aims for a shared, ecologically-feasible and lasting prosperity, war fucks everything up.
You can’t have a sustainable society that is at war. The two cancel each other out.
So, my question is, do we need to first achieve world peace before we can fully get down to sustainability? Continue reading →
You may have read this article I wrote ages ago on lawyer Polly Higgin’s ecocide law. If you thought it was a good idea then there’s something you can do to help it along.
Please sign this petition to ask the European Parliament to “recognise ecocide as a crime”.
They’re aiming to get a million signatories from people all over the world. They’ll ask for your name, nationality and email address. If you really want to be a star you could also share it on your social networks/in day-to-day life.
You can learn more about ecocide and why it should be illegal everywhere here. However the basic idea is that ecocide is the extensive destruction of an ecosystem, to the point where the inhabitants (humans and other species) can no longer flourish. Making ecocide illegal wouldn’t make it illegal to do anything harmful to the environment: it’d just cut out the most serious stuff like cutting down the Amazon, burying large amounts of toxic waste, polluting vital rivers and etc.
Polly Higgins is even campaigning for it to be established as the 5th crime against peace, as it almost was in the 90s. Although big corporations will likely object to the movement, there are a lot of supporters including public figures, organizations and 10 nations already have similar laws.
The show is a positive monthly talk show about sustainability which covers a different theme each episode. This time I turned my attention to food: where the problems lie, and what kind of solutions are already happening. I also interview Meiwah, a fellow volunteer for local sustainable living group HASL, who talks about her experience setting up community projects dealing with food waste and growing food locally.
Hope you enjoy it and as ever feel free to give me your feedback! The sound quality at times is not perfect and that annoys me but I’m working on it. But if you have any tips for better content or delivery then fire away.
Next month I’ll be talking about sustainability and travel so watch this space.
I just got back from a field-trip with my university to Morocco. It was an incredible experience. But what I want to talk (write) about today is not the sun or the spices or the camels or snake-charmers, nor the invigorating thrill of leaving Europe for the first time, but the orange trees.
In the city of Marrakech, the streets outside the central medina are lined with orange trees. They’re very beautiful and they smell amazing, like someone passing by has a stylish citrus perfume that lingers after they’ve gone. But what I was more excited about was the possibility of abundant fruit. Seeing as the trees were in a public space and there were many poor people who could do with a free snack, I thought maybe the oranges were free for the picking: a civic resource. Upon asking our guide, I found out that for some ungodly reason they weren’t edible oranges, they were some bitter un-eatable variety.
I have no idea why, and it seems like a lost opportunity to me. I’ve always thought cities would be much improved with a sprinkling of fruit trees, lining avenues and adorning parks. I mean, trees already make oxygen, and you can’t really get anything more useful than that. When you consider they also absorb carbon, look pretty and offer food and shelter to wildlife, it’s a done deal. But while you’re at it, why not sweeten the deal with a bounty of fresh fruit?
In the UK and all around the world, we could have local councils and community groups get on a fruit-tree-planting-mission and tick off a tonne of jobs in one go. It’s really important that the fruit be free for local people to pick and eat though. That’s the beauty of the scheme. People shouldn’t be allowed to hog the harvest or take away bagfuls to sell, but they should be able to have their fill. Allowing something to be free does require bursting out of that sad old everything-is-for-sale mentality that seems to pervade our everyday lives. I realise that would be kinda difficult for some people to get their heads around, but I happen to think it’s a nice idea. It would improve poorer people’s chances of getting plenty of fresh fruit, which as a student I happen to know can be expensive. It’d also cut into our food miles and boost food security. Considering the UK imports around 90% of its fruit*, a little action wouldn’t go amiss.
Free peaches! Not my image.
And could it really be more obvious that fruit trees might as well produce edible fruit?
I don’t know what those Moroccan town-planners were thinking, but I bet if they’d done a survey close to 100% of people would have opted for free delicious oranges over useless inedible ones.
* Statistic from The Constant Economy by Zac Goldsmith.
Hey everyone, hope you’re enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine.
In my last post I mentioned how busy I’ve been working on my new radio show, Future Focus – a talk show all about sustainability for an online community radio station. I’m so excited to tell you that the first episode is ready for your listening-pleasure!
Unfortunately they somehow forgot to tell me when it’d be broadcast, so I was sitting here waiting for the heads up when they actually aired it six days ago without telling me. No worries though, because they mixcloud all their shows. Here’s the link to the episode, which centres around sustainable energy in the UK.
This is the first time I’ve worked with the radio so it’s a learning process! I’ve already learnt buckets of stuff that’ll help me out in the next episode, so I’m sure I’ll improve my presenting skills as I go along.
Please have a listen, share with interested friends, and let me know what you think!
The next episode is going to be about sustainable food, so watch this space.
Radio Free Brighton – an online community radio station.