Fairytales of Growth
IV. Ecological Debt
A crucial thing to recognise is that there is a distinction between rich nations and poor nations when it comes to the question of degrowth. Most advocates of degrowth don’t call for degrowth in the Global South. Degrowth is primarily aimed at the Global North, where exorbitant consumption rates are the primary drivers of ecological breakdown around the world.
Degrowth implies recognising the Global North’s responsibility in the ecological crisis and the repayment of this ecological debt. That would mean redistributing wealth across from the North to the South, and as such ensuring that without any need for growth, we can increase peoples living standards and wellbeing.
The biggest challenge bringing such a new world about lies in the fact that those who have wealth and power don’t want to lose that wealth or their status associated to it. And yet something must change if we are to tackle the problem of climate change.
Maria, Greta and Tokata remind us that, despite these challenges, the youth are rising up and claiming a new world to come about, and are not afraid to confront those in power to achieve that. One that is fair, that respects people and the environment, and that understands the problem in terms of priorities. As Tokata puts it: “Because when we want to talk about economic growth over people having clean water and the right to a liveable future and planet — that is a sign that something is wrong”
Change cannot only come about through new politics, but also requires people to support these politics and struggle for these politics to come about. Certain developments in Northern countries (Iceland, New Zealand and Scotland shifting away from GDP towards measuring progress in terms of people’s wellbeing) and social movements the world over suggest that such a change might well be on its way.