Four steps to a post-growth world
In this interview with Louisa Clarence-Smith of the Extraenviromentalist collective , Donnie Maclurcan, co-founder of the Post Growth Institute, shares his vision for the future: a sustainable system based on dynamic cooperatives and nonprofits. He pays special attention to his vision of what a post-growth world would look like and the five key strategies for achieving it.
Donnie Maclurcan is co-founder of the Post Growth Institute , an international group that researches new strategies for global prosperity that do not depend on economic growth.
We’ve talked to him about his latest collaborative project, a book called How on Earth? where strategies will be presented so that non-profit companies become the main business model, locally, nationally and internationally by 2050.
On a personal level, when did your campaign to find an alternative to economic growth begin?
The campaign arose from my post-doctorate, where it was concluded that we had to innovate without economic growth. Around 2006, I started launching this idea and, during a dialogue with Australia’s later environment minister [Peter Garrett], I posed a question to him from the audience: “But how are we going to achieve this in a world with limited resources? He completely ignored my question and that affected me quite a bit, since he had been the singer of the group Midnight Oil and the president of one of the most important environmental organizations in Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation . Now that I think about it, that was the moment it all started.
Is there a strong movement looking for alternatives to growth in Sydney, Australia?
In Sydney not so much, but in Australia yes, there is no doubt. With the results of carbon taxes and the environmental crises we face, more and more people are questioning the validity of technological fixes and realizing that government policy will never be enough. Australia has become one of the world leaders in collaborative consumption and the general trajectory is towards the emergence of different business models: social innovations and social enterprises – the government is still lagging behind on this, but there are many people moving in this direction. .
The community has mobilized a lot in the last 10 years around issues such as the increase in fires, floods or droughts. Through virtual platforms, we see many people wondering how to build an economy based on goods and values — and using local resources. All this has made it possible to conceive a different economy that does not depend on growth.
Why did you decide to create How on Earth ?
The biggest motivation was to see everything that was happening around us. We’ve documented almost 5,000 things to capitalize on in a post-growth future, and when taken together, we realized that it’s a formula that has barely caught on.
We use an inductive strategy that motivates us a lot when it comes to doing something different. After attending endless conferences on the “New Economy”, we only saw variations on the same strategy, which comes to say: “to such a problem, such a solution”. Or “What is the problem? We are going to analyze it and see how we can respond….” That usually leads to regulatory responses or a rethinking of the division between States and Markets. This means going back to old Cold War politics that never lead to anything because they are vitiated by the political theory of difference and the conflict between large and small models of state apparatus.
The motivation has been our enthusiasm for something capable of transcending the divisions of left and right to propose an alternative that could reduce the size of government while increasing the delivery of social services. This is beyond the contrast between a large or small public sector, or the progressive or conservative models that are normally proposed when presenting economic alternatives for the future.
Describe your vision of a post-growth world.
Best of all, we don’t have to present a vision or a formula. The 21st century is characterized by co-design. It is not to say “this should be so”, although I think some main aspects would be:
Relocation: where people use the Internet and digital tools to relocate production, exchange and trade. This way you will know what your neighbors have and, based on this, increase the provision of social services and reduce the distances associated with those services.
A monetary system that is much more based on reality and not on speculation, and that has incentives to stay that way, to create coherent transactions.
Business model redistribution: As we alluded to in the book, we believe that business models will differ, and that each company will incorporate a process of profit redistribution to increase overall wealth, rather than lead to inequality caused by overconsumption.
A participatory strategy: the most important thing is what I just said about reducing inequalities; but reduce them to redefine “wealth” as synonymous with true connections, not runaway consumerism.
What do you think are the main causes of the unsustainability of our human systems?
In the practical sense, unsustainability is caused by the overconsumption of strategic natural resources; that this in turn is encouraged both by the apathy and lack of motivation of the moneyed class, and by the need—given the scarcity of alternatives, both real and perceived—of those for whom things are not going well. Everything is exacerbated both by envy and greed that seeks material wealth and by the social inequalities that the system itself manufactures. Meanwhile, financial inequality and special interests only serve to speed up the process. All these are key aspects within a system based on the centralized accumulation of money, wealth, goods and power.