Leon as our head of research what can you tell us about d-growth and I mean to start with what does degrowth even mean yeah thank you so yeah I just wanted to share some thoughts I was reading a review article on the growth to hear the the pages of that review article wrestling in the background so it’s a review of I think one two three four five books which have been published on d-growth in the past couple of years so it’s a term that maybe you will or won’t have heard of it’s almost certain that you will have heard of the term of economic growth and as the review article makes clear the way that our societies are run at the moment is very much in service to this idea of economic growth that’s the idea that every year there needs to be more economic activity than the year before and if that doesn’t happen as is the case in the UK at the moment you enter recession which has all kinds of negative impacts now I’m no Economist so I I can’t get too deep into the the nitty-gritty of recessions and growth cycles and so on but my understanding at the moment is that firstly what’s negative about a recession doesn’t necessarily have to be negative in the same way that it is what do I mean by that well I just mean that the people who suffer under a recession at the moment tend to be people who are laid off so workers who are sacked people who might see their income and benefits sort of Frozen in the case of the current economic crisis where inflation is eating away at people’s incomes and that’s not a natural outcome of a recession that’s an outcome of the distribution of power within society and the fact that some people are able to sack other people if they want to continue making a profit which might mean that those people who are sacked lose their livelihood lose their jobs and then left with no choice but to access what little State support might be available or to try and find another job which isn’t easy in a recession because jobs aren’t available hopefully from that brief description you can already get a sense of like how nonsensical and kind of ludicrous that seems as a way of running an economy and running a society and yet that model of growth recession In Perpetual endless cycle has been the dominant way of organizing our economies for at least the last 50 years and probably longer if we think about the history of capitalism as the economic system that we live in so so there were a lot of challenges to this idea of growth to begin with this idea that we should just endlessly grow and some of them were to do with the kinds of things I mentioned about who has power and the fact that power isn’t distributed equally in society anyway the other thing that people are often challenged about the growth based model is that measuring growth measuring higher economic output in general an average across the society doesn’t measure well-being it doesn’t measure health and in fact you could have incredibly successful highly growing economies such as the US that actually are full of tons of perverse and harmful outcomes such as deeply embedded health inequalities deeply embedded inequalities of all kinds huge problems with mental health lack of security and stability for people on the individual level finally getting to my point the the reason that the growth has become more of an issue of focus recently is the kind of the coming to the head of the various environmental crises and the social crisis that gives rise to those environmental crises recently so like the climate crisis for being like the most notable one but I guess in general over consumption of resources fears about access to water fears about access to land and so on and food those crises have kind of spurred on critics of growth as a model for the economy and what they’ve said is that actually we not only need to not grow we’d need to de-grow and that’s where it starts to get a little bit complicated but in short it tends to mean that people with very very very high consumption Lifestyles which is a tiny fraction of the global population are probably going to have to see their Lifestyles change so that the resources that they consume disproportionately are better distributed globally and actually that won’t just have benefits for the people whose lives get better elsewhere it will also have benefits for those people themselves because there’s no actual correlation between your level of consumption and your happiness in fact once you reach a certain minimum level of ability or economic stability like any more money than that doesn’t actually improve your happiness and well so that’s part of this argument in favor of degrove aside from the fact that the planet’s economic resources are finite and yet the model of growth that we’re currently following assumes or behaves as if resources are Limitless and we know that’s not the case so yeah this review it talks about five different books I’m going to hope to get a hold of some of them but I think it’s a really interesting debate that’s taken place among eco-socialists I guess people would call themselves it’s it’s a tricky one because I think there’s been a criticism labeled at the environmental movement that is too negative and anti-consumption and that this can put people off in terms of the people that we might try and want to be organizing with that it can seem like you’re asking people to sacrifice or you’re asking people to give things up and that that isn’t a very effective way to win people over I’d say what’s positive about the D growth approach is that you’re actually promising a more fulfilling lifestyle a more fulfilling experience of consumption because it’s less about this sort of short-term immediate hit of like a really enjoyable But ultimately costly form of option thinking about like maybe I don’t know a really sugary snack but like will make you feel great in that moment it’ll give you the hit of endorphins but actually you eat too many of those you’re going to start to notice lots of ill effects in relation to your health and if you were to switch that out or if you were to limit that it’s not even about getting rid of it stopping your consumption it’s about moderating it your your lifestyle your sense of well-being is likely nearly always to be much better um so yeah that’s the big headline debate I guess happy to say a bit more you know about specific things if people are interested but I’d recommend the article maybe we can put a link to it in the show notes it might be behind a paywall but it should be available if you don’t read the London review books too much because I think they give you access to like a free at least a free article every month I’m not sure but yeah we can link to it for sure for sure we’ll show any links that you have for us and our audience and yeah this emphasis on growth and consumption is super super Insidious and I’d say it’s indoctrinated into our mindsets but yeah what do you guys think what what Reflections do you guys have well I don’t know if anyone said of the Paradox of choice like the most simple explanation of this is that if you offer someone a chocolate bar and you give them a choice of three they’ll walk away and they go great I got a chocolate bar dope I’ve got a really good one but if you and this is a literally experiment is shown it’s done to many thousands of people if you offer them a choice of 30 chocolate bars then they pick one and they always come away feeling dissatisfied because you always feel like you didn’t make the right choice and one of the weird things about consumerism in the modern age is that it offers you the Mirage of choice to give you a mirage of control over your own life and and ever expanding variety of options of the same thing which is essentially for instance in the case of a chocolate bar you know cocoa and sugar right and butter whatever else is in it you know a couple of key ingredients and so I think in many regards consumerism is awful and gauche and so forth having said all of that to counterpose this as someone who does communicate missions I can’t see how degrowth is ever it’s just it’s not just a hard sell I can’t see how you could ever build a movement around it how it could ever be executed realistically like it might be forced Upon Us purely by economic circumstances like Wars in other parts of the world or economic recessions but as you say those recessions will always hit the poorests in the worst way whereas like I think things that could add towards degrowth like for instance the movement for the four day working week right and ultimately that movement should hopefully go for a three-day working week and so forth in this sort of move towards a society where we work far less where we are obsessed with producing far less means we will also consume far less but it’s a more positive framing you know we we all do think as David grayber called it [ __ ] jobs a lot of us do [ __ ] jobs we spend a lot of time doing stuff that’s not very important like I mean I think management studies show that people can only be productive five hours a day so things like that I can see building round what I’d like to ask anyone here is can anyone like get anyone on board with the growth do you think we could genuinely build a movement around it or like organize around it I think there’s a strength in there’s a potential strength in d-growth which is really important which is reframing the understanding of the economy it’s like communicating this idea that what is called growth like when politicians are talking about growth as if it’s just like universally positive for everyone doesn’t necessarily benefit the average person because it has felt it’s about for a long time that often on the left that we make economic arguments in the terms set by the right or maybe even by the Liberals I think there’s like a potential there’s a potential power in just challenging even like the basic idea that growth is fundamentally a good thing or something that we should be aiming for or necessarily benefits like the average person and I think even the idea that like trying to sell d-growth would be trying to say to everyone you have to have less of everything like I don’t think that though that is a necessary very outcome obviously people will need to consume less but I don’t think we would need to base the movement around that it actually makes me think about like thinking about consumerism also as like a structural rather than a cultural problem and it’s both obviously and both of those things are linked together but like I was talking recently actually to someone they were just asking me what I did and I was explaining what breathe was and they were saying oh well how are you going to tackle how can you tackle the climate crisis when like people are going out and buying like 30 outfits from Asos every week like you’re gonna have to stop them from doing that and I was kind of saying that what we want to focus on is the reasons why that kind of behavior is happening and it’s not necessarily because people are just like fundamentally really narcissistic or really materialistic it’s kind of because what else is there to do with your time like when I think about like when I have a day off work and I want to go and like do something nice really the main option to me is like going to the shops like having it around buying something nice like make myself feel nice there’s not a lot else that we have in this Society in terms of activities and especially if you’re like outside of City maybe in a smaller town some of the more kind of like active institutions and communities that used to exist that people might be more engaged in literally aren’t there so like what you have to look at the the range of ways that people have to participate in something that feels public or feels enjoyable and consumerism is one of those things yeah I would totally back Uno up on that I mean I think I think it’s ridiculously easy to sell a different version of society than we have now because of how badly the current way of organizing ourselves leaves so many people so you walk through Birmingham city center on the weekend yeah there’s tons of people like they seem like they’re having a good time but we know from the data we know from the data on Mental Health on like life satisfaction job satisfaction you know you were talking about [ __ ] jobs and we could go back to like sociology and the concept of anime or alienation and this idea that people are just not connected to the world around them in a way that’s really fulfilling and I think to sell people a version and I mean even to use it term cell is to fall into the strap a very commercial language but like to propose a version of society that’s much more fulfilling I think that’s actually quite an easy sub an easy proposition I think most people will get on board with it very quickly if you’re able to persuade them that it’s possible because I think the biggest obstacle is actually one of imagination is people have been so well conditioned into thinking no the limits of your horizon are you’re going to go out and get completely smashed on a Friday and a Saturday and then you’re gonna go back to work all week and then at certain times a year like the Festival of consumption that is Christmas you’ll be able to like overindulge in certain things and that’s that’s it don’t don’t you dare dream of having experiences which involve you connected to people in a non-commercial way or your job is never going to be so satisfying that you’re going to not need to go out on a Friday night and drink to forget what you’ve been doing all week I think I genuinely feel like it’s just below the surface people’s kind of preparedness to accept and yearn for that alternative way of life and I think that’s what you sell with degrove I don’t think you have to be like oh no everything you’ve got now is going to go it’s like think of what you could have it’s about it’s in a way it’s growth right it’s growth of Personality it’s growth of the connections between us it’s growth of value in yourself and in your life I I would I would tend to agree I just don’t think in terms of from a pure communication standpoint degrowth is the framing for it I think D growth is an outcome of creating a world that is better and more fulfilling that is joyful and beautiful and when you look at for instance the cultural exports of the United Kingdom festivals is one like Americans particularly have copied British festivals and European festivals football it’s probably the biggest cultural export of Britain now and ultimately there’s a constant like attempt to package these experiences and to sell them and to ruin them and squeeze something awful out of them but ultimately it’s very hard to break down the purity of these things which are a bunch of people come together and share an experience and do something fun together and it doesn’t have to be merely escapism and getting blitzed though that often is part and parcel of it and what I say by that is I think yes I agree with you there’s an appetite for a more beautiful wonderful world I just think if we were pushing for it in a world that had degrowth we would say let’s work less let’s create more and when we talk about create more it’d be create more space physical space emotional space time for each other things that we can do together because as you say it’s we do shopping as a default because it gives you that little dopamine here and it’s something to do with each other and no one’s above it no one’s better than it and there should be no sort of moral judgment on it it’s just that provided with other options I’m pretty sure and again I think we’ve seen the data on it and anecdotally I can certainly say this people would take other options they would do other things I definitely share those sentiments and I was kind of well while you were speaking then it kind of made me think about how like what do we have to do that is in silk commercial that isn’t just about going out and buying right like what are the options so I also invite you guys in the team and our audience to also like share thoughts and ideas and actually actively be great creative unlike how we can spend our time and how we can create that because I guess also on actually pursuing the things that is going to create a world that is heading towards the direction of tea growth without branding it in such a way part of doing that is finding community and doing things that aren’t necessarily so focused around consumption and growth because yeah like I think about it and I’m like when I was growing up there was no other option but to go to the shops with my mates and like buy something from Starbucks and some stupid thing from Super drugs I didn’t need but I thought I wanted by doing things people I feel like without realizing start to reframe the way they see the one start to reframe how they wish to live and therefore start to be creative in anything that would then again lead to something such as the growth to less consumption just ends up happening right because of who you’re around and what you’re doing one thing that that makes me think of in my other job when I’m not working for breathe I work for um an organization where we take like donations of baby items second-hand clothes and stuff that people need and then we make these baby boxes and we send them out to people who are seeking Asylum to have anything they need for their new baby and that’s something we’ve always said that like we shouldn’t exist people seeking Asylum everyone who is in this country is going to have a new baby should have access to the resources they need to get the things they need and there should be a scheme like there is in Scotland where everyone gets baby books with everything they need so we would love to not do the work that we do but we do it and what we’ve said is like if we didn’t have to divert these things to uh to Target them like people who really really need them we’d love to just be like a recycling project so people can’t sort their things and like that’s something I would do with my free time if I wasn’t worried about if I wasn’t tired from working and earning money and I wasn’t worried about surviving I would totally go and just spend my time taking donations sorting them folding clothes meeting people from the community because people common like swap things and that kind of project feels like it should be easy and in our current Society is so difficult to pull off which is just ridiculous yeah I feel like there’s been a real uptick in the experience economy of late in Britain’s selling like events activities that are you know something that you just consume as a one-off so Escape rooms have become really popular like these events where people dress up as zombies and you have to chase them around the town and like murder mysteries things like that and also I would say the university sector everything that universities are providing you can probably get in different ways without going to University because the availability information online but there’s something about the experience of going to University that is uniquely valued and I think that’s partly to do the experience economy and and I think that the rising experience economy speaks on the one hand to the poverty of like experiences that people have organically because those have all been closed off by the various attacks on communities and attacks on the institutions and organizations that hold communities over the past 20 years that we’ve talked about and it also at the same time speaks to people’s like deep yearning for something to do that’s like entertaining and fun so I wrote piece recently about how there’s not a lot you can do in apart from consuming food or clothing basically and the Omni margins now experiences as well but once in Leeds there was a capture the flag organized in the city center which was just totally free it was like maybe 200 people played and the police like lost their [ __ ] they were totally befuddled they were like Bamboozled about what was going on they were like why are you like they shouted at me for standing in the doorway of a church because like they were like well we can’t tell them off for playing capture the flag in town that’s like not illegal but we’re not happy that this is going on this is unsanctioned no one’s profiting from this if they’re profiting we’re not aware of it and there’s something about the need so yeah break down those cultural barriers about what kinds of experiences people are expected to have and feel comfortable accessing because I think it is a bit yeah a lot everyone’s gonna be able to just like play a game in a public space and feel comfortable with that they might be afraid of getting called up by the police for standing in a church story or they might just be yeah a bit unused to that kind of interaction but I feel like different experiments different activities like that can help to chip away at the expectation that all we got to do in public places consume and can satisfy people’s yearning which I think everyone has for like those Collective moments that you get from watching a football game together I I love that you mentioned captioning the flag and so I’m going to try and summate some of these ideas into something that might be useful for us as a movement to think about as potential organizers and activists as so often I I refer to the history of activism in my lifetime and in the late noughties uh or whatever we call that that period the 2000s there were many many sort of activity-based elements to activism that we’ve just done there was regularly in certain places capture the flags organized just in the city center just because it was something to do and hundreds of people would join in randomly but there wasn’t just that there were drumming groups singing groups they were walking in orienteering groups and the orienteering groups particularly played games in the countryside to like teach you how to learn how to read a map and Chase each other across the countryside they were often pop-up Community Kitchens people would just do these on street corners they would do them in local parks a particularly famous organization was called food not bombs and I think when the movements in about 2013 14 15 started to move towards electoralism through the SMP the green party and nice of the labor party a lot of elements of just activity just being with people doing something fun that was fulfilling were kind of lost and these are things that could be revivified because you know being part of a community kitchen that pops up and it feeds refugees to homeless people it feeds people in the area and it’s an excuse to chat to them about maybe a political cause or just stuff you know was wonderful to be part of and it can be tied in towards a campaign of fighting for free time let’s produce this let’s have more free time and with that free time let’s fill it with these things that we do that we love that bring us together and I think we can then model the kind of things that we want to see in the world by doing them you know these are just suggestions for whoever’s listening to think about but it’s often tying the theoretical and a good idea here to a real world activities is often The Challenge and so that’s a few suggestions for people to think about fantastic thanks for sharing that and like we you know we we have our four day working week or at least we have no one working past four days right technically that is because at the end of the day like we know that we always end up working a little bit over time but I guess I think our next step now is to organize a capture the flag at some point somewhere I think it’ll be good fun perhaps something for one of our community organizers to do who knows and also sign in for anyone else to do because if you have the time if you have the opportunity and if you have the friends to help you out then you might as well right well it’s been lovely hearing from you all and thank you Leon for introducing the idea of d-growth make sure to check out our socials especially our Tick Tock where you can hear directly from our community organizers who are doing incredible work on the ground don’t forget to like share and subscribe to our Channel and keep up to date with our future episodes Empower love and rage from the breeze Network


Episode 4 | De-Growth De-growth: an emerging approach that challenges the dominant belief that economic growth is the only way to achieve prosperity. In this episode, we explore the principles and values that underpin de-growth, and how it proposes to create a more sustainable and equitable future for everyone. Join the conversation as we examine and criticise the challenges and opportunities of the de-growth approach, and its potential to offer a much-needed alternative to the current growth-based economic system. Whether you’re interested in environmental issues, social justice, or simply looking for new ideas and approaches to economic systems, this podcast episode is for you!