Environmentalists are pushing a new way to deal with global warming and overpopulation: the U.S. needs to “de-grow” its economy.
What is “de-growth”? It means forcing people to work less to make them more equal, consume fewer goods and use less electricity. Think of it like camping, but for the rest of your life.
Environmentalists at the New Economics Foundation in London and the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C. argue that cutting the 40-hour work week and using less electricity is necessary. This includes a living wage requirement and a more progressive tax code.
“There’s no such thing as sustainable growth, not in a country like the U.S.,” Worldwatch senior fellow Erik Assadourian told Sierra Magazine.
“We have to de-grow our economy, which is obviously not a popular stance to take in a culture that celebrates growth in all forms,” he said. “But as the saying goes, if everyone consumed like Americans, we’d need four planets.”
De-growing the economy means working less and consuming fewer goods and electricity — the foundation of modern life. Most cheap, reliable electricity that businesses and homes rely on to power their everyday needs comes from sources like coal, natural gas and nuclear power — which environmentalists argue are killing the planet.
“If we had a livable wage and could each work a 20-hour week,” Assadourian said, “we’d have time to choose more sustainable options that are also better for ourselves.”
With the world population projected to be 10 billion by 2050, Assadourian and others argue that cutting the work week would allow everyone to have a job and enjoy life more.
“Why do we work? What do we do with the money we earn?” asks Anna Coote, head of social policy at the New Economics Foundation. “Can we begin to think differently about how much we need—to get out of the fast lane and live life at a more sustainable pace, to do things that are better for the planet, better for ourselves?”
“Whether you move to a smaller house or an apartment, downsize to one or no car, or simply have fewer lattes to-go, a smaller paycheck could reduce consumption overall,” noted Sierra Magazine, a publication of the Sierra Club, which is an anti-fossil fuel and nuclear power environmental group.
“We could cook dinner instead of unwrapping and microwaving it, Assadourian suggests, or hang laundry to dry, which would cut electricity use and let us spend time in the sun,” the magazine added.
Assadourian and Coote aren’t the only ones with Malthusian points of view. About a month ago, former Vice President Al Gore suggested that “fertility management” was crucial to fighting global warming and promoting development in poor countries.
“Depressing the rate of child mortality, educating girls, empowering women and making fertility management ubiquitously available — so women can choose how many children and the spacing of children — is crucial to the future shape of human civilization,” Gore said on an international panel on global warming in January.
“Africa is projected to have more people than China and India by mid-century; more than China and India combined by end of the century, and this is one of the causal factors that must be addressed,” the former presidential candidate added.
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