I’ve noticed an increase in articles and books lately on the subject of reducing human consumption, steady state economies and what has come to be called degrowth.
“Degrowth emphasizes the need to reduce global consumption and production … and advocates a socially just and ecologically sustainable society with social and environmental well-being replacing GDP as the indicator of prosperity.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrowth
Here in Our Fair County, we are deeply mired in the consumer growth economy. Garages are rarely used to store cars, with piles of purchases pushing up the rafters with stuff that won’t fit in the house. Store shelves groan under eleventy-bazillion varieties of things that we only need one of, if any. Advertising pervades every medium, exhorting the purchase of things and services we would never have thought of buying had they not been thrust at us unbidden.
The myth of necessary and inevitable economic and human population growth overwhelms our local culture. Our county and city governments are based on the premise of unlimited growth. Our state government passes laws demanding that counties and cities plan for growth with no consideration for local resource limitations, geographical realities or unique histories and cultures.
The cost of housing is increasing astronomically, as home owners and landlords demand sale prices and rent as high as the market will bear, such that only rich people who don’t already live here can afford to live here. Hundreds of people roam unhoused in Our Fair County, unable to afford even a tiny apartment in a real estate industry gone mad with greed.
There are many reasons why the economy of the United States, and most of the rest of the world, is dominated by the mythology of perpetual growth. The Great Simplification video linked above explains the evolutionary and cultural reasons why we humans hoard beyond any semblance of need.
The question is, how to get off this out-of-control treadmill before it collapse in its own inevitability, taking us, and much of the natural world down with it?
IMPACT = POPULATION X CONSUMPTION
There are two ways we can reduce our collective destruction of the natural world:
- Reduce per capita consumption
- Reduce human population growth
Reduce Personal Consumption
Since most everything in our world encourages us to consume to profligacy, to reduce consumption we must relearn how to live with less, rather than learning to live with more. Here’s a few suggestions. We may not each do all of these things, but we can each do something:
- Limit exposure to advertising in popular mass media – broadcast television and radio, newspapers and magazines. Install an ad blocker on computers and smart (sic) phones.
- Enjoy walking, bicycling or public transit rather than sitting in a car; travel by train in luxery rather than packed like sardines in an airplane.
- Enjoy living locally so you don’t need a vacation. Learn about the natural world that surrounds you and your home.
- Learn a skill, profession or craft and engage in meaningful work to produce needed goods and services. Learn how things work, how to diagnose problems and how to fix them.
- Learn how to repair rather than replace. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.“
- Learn gardening and permaculture in your own bioregion. Grow food. If you water it, eat it.
- Enjoy simple, nutritious meals made with local ingredients.
- Avoid credit cards, loans and corporate investments. Build savings accounts in local banks, where you money supports your local community.
- Make a challenge of lowering your utility bills as much as possible:
- Learn how to use water sparingly and reuse it whenever possible. Learn to capture rain and fog water for irrigating your gardens. Wash dishes by hand and give the dishwater to plants.
- Learn how to use electrical devices sparingly and turn off everything electric when not using it. If it has a light that glows in the dark, unplug it when not in use.
- Learn passive solar heating and cooling, window and curtain management, appropriate seasonal clothing, less dependence on automatic temperature management. Live with the seasons.
- Share, barter and trade with neighbors and friends. Start a local free table. Frequent Little Libraries and Pantries.
- Learn to build and maintain your own housing that creates its own energy, using local and recycled materials.
- Participate in local government, in your neighborhood, community, county and state. Let your ideals and principles spread into your community. Spread your joy in living simply.
Degrowth will not only allow our lives to be simpler and more enjoyable, it will go a long way to solving our current problems of high costs of housing, transportation and energy. It will reduce roadway congestion and encourage health and well-being, and reduce human impacts on what little is left of the natural world.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s start degrowing NOW!
Up next on We Live in the Natural World: Reduce Population Hereabouts.