Solving the Climate Crisis Means Ending Our Addiction to Economic Growth

Yves here. I don’t mean to sound critical of well-meaning efforts to stop the accelerating climate disaster. But when I look at lists like this, I despair. We live in highly complex societies. The organizing principle is that (unless you have capital or are in a caste on public support, like priests) your survival depends on your labor. This is true even in the pre-modern era, where most people were subsistence farmers or in specialized service roles like blacksmiths. How can you make broad-scale changes to how society provisions itself if you can’t assure people they will be not much worse off in any new system?

By Emilia Reyes, programme director of policies and budgets for equality and sustainable development at Gender Equity: Citizenship, Work and Family, co-convenor of the Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development, and co-lead of the Economic Justice and Rights Action Coalition. Originally published at openDemocracy

World leaders are now touching down in Dubai for COP28, where they are set to discuss how to fast-track the global push towards clean energy.

And with the Global North responsible for 92% of the world’s excess carbon dioxide emissions and 74% of excess material use (half of which is extracted in the Global South), it’s clear the current ecological crisis is the responsibility of the industrialised economies who will be sat around the table.

The source of the problem lies in the very economic system that prioritises economic growth, profit and wealth accumulation over the wellbeing of people and the planet. The blind pursuit of exponential economic growth has propelled economic decision-making. But exponential economic growth brings about exponential extraction and exponential deepening of inequalities.

Governments of industrialised economies have presented ‘green new deals’ (GNDs) as the solution. But their aims and measures are reinforcing the economic structures that rely on colonial extraction in the Global South. Building the entire infrastructure of the so-called energy transition proposed by GNDs will require a new wave of extraction of rare and critical minerals. The global demand for lithium alone would go up to 4,200% by 2040.

This level of extraction will devastate entire ecosystems, primarily in the Global South, and alter the ecological balance globally. It will also create and cement racist sacrifice zones everywhere.

Global North countries instead need to transition into a post-growth economy. The way to achieve this is through a conscientious and planned process of degrowth. Degrowth questions the premise that profits matter more than people and ecological balance. In practice, this means investing in processes of production and consumption that are geared towards the needs of a diverse world, moving away from our current system of wastefulness and scarcity. Where we make decisions about what and where to extract, how to produce and for whom based on what is really needed to deliver the wellbeing of people and the planet.

Processes of degrowth need to map its impacts in the larger global dynamics. Otherwise, it will simply have no effect in the real battle for survival of life on this planet. A post-growth economy needs to have a decolonial and global justice approach.

The Global South cannot endure being pillaged for wealth accumulation in the Global North. Reparations are key alongside, as Priya Lukka states, a complete reform of the global economic and financial architecture, as an assurance of non-repetition. This includes:

  1. Tax justice, (including a UN tax convention, tackling illicit financial flows, promoting progressive taxation and eliminating regressive taxation)
  2. Debt justice (including debt cancellation and the creation of a debt workout mechanism)
  3. Trade justice (including the assessment of trade and investment impacts, as well as tackling investor-state dispute settlements that force developing countries to carry out practices that go against human rights or ecological commitments)
  4. Technological justice (including the creation of a global system to evaluate potential impacts of technologies on the environment, the labour market, livelihoods and society)
  5. Financial justice (which requires the regulation of financial institutions and capital account management)
  6. The ratification of the primacy of public finance over private finance, and the assessment of the real impacts of privatisation and private investments in the wellbeing of people and the planet

As part of this, the Global South needs to be cleared of any ties with the Global North that are based on colonial or imperial logic. This requires that governments and citizens plan for the internal transition towards a post-extractive economy that is cognisant of the different needs of the diverse groups of people, and of the primacy of sovereignty when it comes to decision-making, while promoting cross-working with other countries in the Global South.

So there are solutions to the economic and ecological mess that are feasible and achievable, and degrowth in the Global North is one step, but it cannot solve all the problems unless it is carried out hand in hand with a complete reform of global economics.

The key elements lie in centring global impacts and introducing reparations for those least responsible for the present global crises.

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  1. Ghost in the Machine

    On the subject of limits to growth I recommend the work of Tim Garrett at the University of Utah. He is a physicist in the atmospheric sciences department working on cloud physics, one of the toughest problems in climate modeling. Because of this work, he is knowledgeable in the area of non-equilibrium thermodynamics which, as a side project, he has applied to a high level thermodynamic growth model of the economy. I find it very compelling and it clears up a lot of confusion regarding concepts like ‘capital.’ Here is the initial paper:

    Are there basic physical constraints on future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide?

    There is a good appendix comparing it to the standard Solow growth model and the Cobb-Douglas production function.

    He has an interesting discussion on why things like supply chain problems and decreasing energy return on energy invested will be inflationary in the following paper. Also, some interesting interpretations on non-monetary inflation.

    No way out? The double-bind in seeking global prosperity alongside
    mitigated climate change

    He has recently published with Steve Keen.

    Past world economic production constrains current energy demands: Persistent scaling with implications for economic growth and climate change mitigation

    Embarrassingly, I have only in the past year become aware of his work when Steve Keen mentioned him in a podcast, even though I live in the same city. We have met a couple of times now and I am hoping to work with him on these ideas.

    You don’t need too much mathematics to dig in.

    1. dave -- just dave

      Garrett is cited in Nate Hagens’ 2020 paper in Ecological Economics: “Economics for the future – Beyond the superorganism”.


      Our environment and economy are at a crossroads. This paper attempts a cohesive narrative on how human evolved behavior, money, energy, economy and the environment fit together. Humans strive for the same emotional state of our successful ancestors. In a resource rich environment, we coordinate in groups, corporations and nations, to maximize financial surplus, tethered to energy, tethered to carbon. At global scales, the emergent result of this combination is a mindless, energy hungry, CO2 emitting Superorganism. Under this dynamic we are now behaviorally ‘growth constrained’ and will use any means possible to avoid facing this reality. The farther we kick the can, the larger the disconnect between our financial and physical reality becomes. The moment of this recalibration will be a watershed time for our culture, but could also be the birth of a new ‘systems economics’. and resultant different ways of living. The next 30 years are the time to apply all we’ve learned during the past 30 years. We’ve arrived at a species level conversation.

    2. digi_owl

      I sure hope to see the day when Steve Keen get the mainstream recognition he deserves for dragging economics kicking and screaming into the modern day.

    3. NYMutza

      I’m of the view that simple reforms are better. Over-analyzing situations is rarely helpful in the long run. Degrowth doesn’t need physicists. Such scientists are more inclined to seek ways to maintain Forever Growth rather than finding ways to end it.

      1. Grebo

        Physicists are the ones who can prove Forever Growth is impossible. See also Tom Murphy: Do The Math. His textbook—Energy and Human Ambitions on a Finite Planet which is linked there—shows in excruciating detail just how screwed we are.

    4. clarky90

      A Solar Storm is Coming, right now!

      A solar storm (coronal mass ejection) is heading directly towards Earth. It can create aurora lights or Northern Lights in some parts of the U.S. and other regions of the world. A solar storm will impact electrical systems, humans and animals …. to a larger or lesser degree. The current one is not expected to be civilization ending (Thank God!).

      Our environment is constantly impacted by our local star, the sun. If we are struck by a solar storm equivalent or greater than the Carrington Event of December 28,1859, than all of our dreams of decarbonization will come true, literally overnight….

      …and it will have nothing to do with humans…. what we have done or not done. It is out of our hands.

      The Carrington Event | A Short Documentary | Fascinating Horror

  2. dave -- just dave

    This list seems of desirable reforms seems too optimistic to me – I regard it as underestimating the applicability to the modern techno-industrial political economy of Fudd’s First Law of Opposition, as stated by the Firesign Theatre:

    “If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.”

    Maybe I exaggerate the difficulties ahead. This is the future – you got to live it, or live with it, and eventually get out of the way.

  3. Vicky Cookies

    You mention in your introduction that the majority of people live on not the fruits of, but the compensation for their own labor, unless they are on a form of public support. The trouble is, the ruling classes of every country I am aware of lives on the labor of others.

    It continues to astonish me that, especially given then severity of the climate crisis, the reformist attitude taken by the author of the list is, in our current discourse, beyond-the-pale radicalism; you won’t find it anywhere near the mainstream, except perhaps around comfortably powerless segments of academia. Post-growth? Our political economy is antithetical to the very concept. Climate reparations? We can ask the descendants of slaves in America how they’re doing with the idea. What about establishing a form of social organization without class distinctions? Do we get this by moralizing and begging our ruling class?

    You ask how the societal-level changes needed to secure a decent life for the majority of us can be accomplished without the assurance that standards of living will be maintained. I would answer that such changes would be accomplished in the same manner that other changes in our forms of organization have been: undemocratically.

    1. digi_owl

      “What about establishing a form of social organization without class distinctions?”

      I’m not even sure if that is possible as long as humans are still subject to mammalian instincts.

      Heck, even insects organize by “class”.

      1. Vicky Cookies

        I’m interested in which instincts you see as playing a role in the division of labor, even if I am leery of views which rationalize inequality by claiming a natural source or sanction.
        Anything I should read?

        1. Nate Roberts

          If you want an informed opinion that contradicts the (popular but false) social Darwinist assumption that evolution biases mammals towards individual selfishness rather than morality, check out the work of primatologist Frans de Waal. His book Primates and Philosophers is a good place to start. He shows that a moral impulse has been hardwired into our brains since well before the emergence of Homo sapiens.

          Unfortunately, his findings do not significantly alter the negative assessment of the article above, which bases its conclusions not on innate human immorality but on the nature of our institutions, i.e. on organized social power. Individuals are biased neither towards altruism nor selfishness, but have capacity for both; it is our institutional context that incentivizes altruistic or selfish potentials in humans.

      2. Alan Gibson

        If you use “class” in that way then it loses its efficacy in explaining/exposing the social relations of capitalism and in pointing a way out of the current slide into ecological catastrophe..

        But maybe that was the point in your doing so?

    2. NYMutza

      It won’t be the billionaires who will be the main stumbling block to achieving degrowth. Instead, it will be the middle classes who will be loathe to give up any of what they have in order to build less inequitable societies. Middle classes desire stability and are not at all interested in rocking the boat or disrupting the status quo.

      1. bassmule

        The middle class, whatever is left of it, is not the guilty party:

        “To get a sense of perspective, let’s start with the carbon footprint of the average person.

        Residents of the U.S., including billionaires, emitted about 15 tons of CO2 per person in 2018. The global average footprint is smaller, at just about 5 tons per person.

        In contrast, the 20 people in our sample contributed an average of about 8,190 tons of CO2 in 2018. But some produced far more greenhouse gases than others.”

        Private planes, mansions and superyachts: What gives billionaires like Musk and Abramovich such a massive carbon footprint (The Conversation)

      2. Roger

        Nice try at deflecting blame away from the guilty. It is the wealthy and powerful who have significantly created the belief systems that we live within, including hyper-consumerism. If they were forced to live within a reasonable carbon budget it would send a huge message to the rest of society about what is important – as well as produce some good amounts of emissions reductions.

        The middle class you speak of is vanishingly small, we really have the top 20% of super-rich, rich, and the PMC (the “courtier class” which serves the rich and manages to at least tread water consumption wise), and increasing levels of immiseration, desperation and indebtedness below them. Many would be happy to be removed from a system that is so utterly dysfunctional to their well-being.

    3. ISL

      yes, undemocratically. By nature. Implement a fraction of those changes and you get Trump like leaders (democratically or by coup).

      OTH, Nature cannot be vetoed or ignored.

    4. samm

      “Post-growth? Our political economy is antithetical to the very concept.”

      That was my thinking about this piece too. Without growth there is no capitalism. What happens to any business that doesn’t have growth (and by “growth” I would include those who’s only growth is financial or fed by investors)? They close. Even on the bearded one’s theoretical level, if capitalism is a social relation where one class owns the means of production and the other only their labor, what happens if said labor doesn’t produce any surplus value? The whole thing falls over. This will “never ever ever” fly. The only way seems to be collapse by whatever means, and judging by the COP28 proposals floating around nobody is doing anything to avoid that outcome.

      1. Oh

        You’re right. Look at these capitalist corps scurrying around to grab (steal) more oil and gas, lithium and other resources from other countries. Growth is a dirty word and no growth is a better concept to try and arrest man made global climate change. The crooks are currently pursuing ways to come up with and cash in on so called solutions to climate change. We are doomed.

  4. Susan the other

    These are all good steps. But prone to years of dithering and inaction. If we are dedicated to a new global constitution the very first category of “Justice” should be Environmental Justice. By strict maintenance of Nature’s Rights all the other sub categories of Justice will become a reliable foundation which supports the planet and hence people. I’d just submit that the good we do never quite balances out the destruction we indulge in to create it. That sort of destruction is absolutely intrinsic to coat-cutting for the sake of profits – which should be considered a gross injustice and no longer tolerated. And we lack the humility to even see it. We are only beginning to look at human economies as circular and cyclical. And, to grasp how complex and intractable our own casual actions in pursuit of monetary profits with which to finance it all actually are, we need some new guidelines all, of which need to be based on the concept of “do no harm.”

  5. Partyless poster

    As much as I would like to see these suggestions happen
    There is no way this is possible under capitalism.
    Also there is a democracy problem in that no one would vote for the sacrifice party unless there’s some kind of sweetener such as UBI.
    The problem stems from culture thats all about acquiring more toys, people from a very young age need to see that there are other healthier ways of living.

    1. Phil R

      Just curious. If I read your comment correctly you are saying these suggestions won’t happen under capitalism because people are too greedy (i inferred the second part) and that they won’t happen in a democracy because people won’t vote against their comfort and security (you phrase it as a “culture that’s all about acquiring more toys”), so what would be needed or how would you suggest these get accomplished?

      1. Partyless poster

        Not because people are too greedy, but the power structure is.
        I think the masses would only go along with less if they weren’t forced into wage slavery, if more people could find satisfaction without material goods.
        I would give up buying useless crap if I could do creative pursuits or volunteer doing citizen science full time.

        1. samm

          Would you do creative pursuits and citizen science part time and also contribute some labor to meeting basic needs of everyone else? Now that sounds more plausible (at least in my mind). But you’re right. People won’t vote themselves out of their material comforts and market-manufactured needs, and in my opinion that hardens as you climb the wealth ladder. And at this point, climate collapse seem far more plausible than any sort of revolution. Both would/will be a rocky road.

  6. John R Moffett

    Constant, dysregulated growth in biological systems is known as cancer. It is obvious that “growth” in financial systems is a euphemism for increasing profit streams. That is the sole reason for pushing growth. As with all things in capitalism, the incentives are all negative and anti-social. That is why corporate spin-meisters are so intent on pushing “free-market” capitalism and growth, because they need to not only put lipstick on the pig, they need to sell the pig to the public.

    1. digi_owl

      Whenever this topic comes up i am reminded of how much cheer the monologue of Agent Smith got when Matrix was released, and how two decades later the powers that be try to make it all about something else by pointing to some pill colors and a dropped background character element.

    2. KLG

      Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.
      – Ed Abbey (1927-1989, still missed)

  7. Wukchumni

    It’s been around 90 years of essentilly unlimited food production via the Haber-Bosch process along with the same time span in unlimited money production utilizing an at present pure fiat monetary system that as anybody who has been paying any attention to, is limitless in its scope, greatly aided initially by the ability to monetize oil as soon as it broke the surface, and as of late the real estate market has been good at conjuring the Benjamins, but once the powers that be hit on the idea of nobody really caring all that much in regards to sound monetary practices, the mouse clique got busy!

    Just writing the word ‘billion’ or uttering it was terra incognito for yours truly before the turn of the century, but now I traffic in trillions online.

    It’s a bit trickier as of late for good old Haber-Bosch which suffers from climate change more so than fiat money-which doesn’t give a fig how conditions are in the troposphere, as planting schedules that used to be a given are topsy turvy as of late, aided by Hunga-Tonga adding to the uncertainty

    Everything about these 2 systems are inflationary, including us.

    World population was a bit over 2 billion in 1933, now 4x that much, despite WW2 killing more of us in a war than ever before.

    Both the Haber-Bosch process and adaptation of a pure fiat monetary system have been the route to a good chunk of our eviloution, as it turned out.

    1. digi_owl

      H-B and modern farming is deeply reliant on fossil fuel.

      H-B thanks to its hydrogen source being NG, and farming in general requiring diesel in vast quantities for its mechanization.

    2. ChrisFromGA

      Pretty sharp analysis. Evilution, indeed.

      I can only add that in nature, everything has limits. We’ve got plenty of evidence that we’re already hitting some, such as climate change, and also just the observation that the grifts keep getting more obvious and blatant.

      I can only cite feelings which are of course subjective, but all throughout 2022 I felt that we’d finally run out of road, as the Ukraine war combined with the post-pandemic orgy of printing fiat finally took out the deflationary trend in place since 2001.

      War is usually inflationary as countries print to keep the war effort going. Resources get destroyed. Wheat fields destroyed. All of this is still happening. Now we have a new war in the ME, and threats to shipping that will feed back into the global trade.

      The market seems to have lied to itself and said that we’ll be right back to rate cuts, and cheap money, by Easter. I say, never bet against one last can-kick, as it is all they have left.

      Back to limits – even cans fall into sewer grates, as Kunstler pointed out.

      1. Rolf

        I can only cite feelings which are of course subjective, but all throughout 2022 I felt that we’d finally run out of road, as the Ukraine war combined with the post-pandemic orgy of printing fiat finally took out the deflationary trend in place since 2001.

        These have long been my feelings in a nutshell.

        What a fine blog this is: the trenchant, no-nonsense commentary above and below can’t be found in any mainstream outlet.

        That Google puts NC in the search backwaters that Yves described is testimony to web enshittification.

  8. flora

    I left this comment in this mornings Links; the essay seems like a much wider discussion of this post from an economic viewpoint – specifically about the late stage of neoliberal capitalism’s effort to save itself. It’s a long essay, it pulls a lot of threads together, imo. right or not right? I don’t know.

    from The Philosophical Salon.

    Welcome to ‘Low Energy Capitalism’;

    1. GramSci


      «The bitter irony is that, today, a minimum amount of human labour would satisfy the basic needs of all members of any society.»

      Alas, I find it a stll more bitter irony that today, a minimum amount of human energy requires a minimum amount of CO2 that is still sufficient to bake the planet.

      IMHO, the first desideratum in Ms Reyes’ post is the first, most likely efficient cause of a healthy systematic change: Tax Justice. Unfortunately, she understates it.

      Tax justice needs to be more than ‘progressive’; it must be limiting. Just as carbon must be limited, so also with personal income. Indeed, more personal income than even corporate, for corporations have no more appetite for profit than the people who feed off them.

      Then let’s talk about “a minimum amount of human effort”.

  9. Eclair

    From a pure marketing standpoint, we have to come up with a more exciting term than ‘degrowth.’ And link it to a lifestyle / philosophy / ‘religion’ that offers more than electric trucks and smart refrigerators and ‘weed’-free lawns and plant-based aircraft fuel. And yachts bigger than …. well, everyone-else’s yachts.

  10. Jams O'Donnell

    What probably a lot of readers here don’t realise is how rich they are. For example, I am on a basic UK pension, which is around £12,000 p.a. ($15,000 rounded) – not a huge amount!

    But I am in the top 12% of world incomes. This highlights both how poor (relatively) most people in the world are, and how obscenely rich a very small percentage is. (See

    The other 88% aspire to the same sort of ‘wealth’ that I have – one or two cars, a four or five bedroom house, two children in the back yard, a TV or two, electricity, hot and cold running water, (although personally I have only one car, one TV and no children), and so on.

    There is absolutely no way that the limited resources of this earth can supply such largesse to every person living just now. The corollary is that the rich (i.e. ‘us’) must give up a large degree of our wealth and privilege. If we don’t do it voluntarily, it will be taken, or the 88% will die in the attempt. Not a pretty scenario for anyone.

    1. NYMutza

      What you write is very true. This is why American politicians talk about protecting the “American way of life”. It can be only be sustained for Americans by impoverishing most of the rest of the world. This impoverishment is achieved by bribes, blackmail, and military force.

      1. Phil R

        Yeah, the funny thing is I see tens and hundreds of thousands of people trying to get into this country, both legally and illegally, yet i never hear about anyone trying to get out and go back. Wonder why that is?

        1. Jams O'Donnell

          You shouldn’t really be wondering about that, because the answer is obvious. But I can assure you that it’s not because they like your wars, illegal invasions followed by mass murders of civilians in third world countries, CIA sponsored coups, continual aggressions towards the likes of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Libya etc.

          1. Phil R

            Thanks for the response. Although America does have a lot to offer, I also can assure you that I don’t like our wars, CIA sponsored coups, and aggression (caveat that some aggression is warranted in specific and limited circumstances, or should be anyway).

        2. GramSci

          Well, I tried to get out, but wife Juana didn’t want to leave, because grandkids. And my daughter keeps trying to get out, but it’s not easy. First, most of the world has been badly corrupted by USA values.

          Perhaps they’re waking up in places, but then, unless you’ve got lots of extra money–or bilingual talent, There are already too many people in most places.

          In the end, I’ve reconciled myself to seeking my Pyrrhic victories here at ‘home’.

          1. Phil R

            Bight the hand that feeds you and blame all of the problems of the rest of the world on the USA. Got it.

        3. Oh

          The wall at the US-Mexico border is to keep the people from getting out!

          But doncha know? The streets in America are pave with gold. /s

    2. AG

      Yes and no.
      In terms of political activism and organizing majorities for meaningful politicial change you have to keep an eye on the conditions in the country.

      For instance in Germany 2018 the population had a combined wealth of 14 trillion Euros.
      Annually 300 billion are inherited.
      GDP I think rose by 34% in the past 30 years.

      However the wealth index in the same 30 years rose by mere 4%. So the vast majority has not experienced much of that major increase.

      People spend 60% of their wages on rent.
      22% of children, 19% of pensioners, 10% of the population live in relative poverty (defined by the EU as 60% of the average income)
      17% live below the poverty line.
      And these are only the official figures.

      The top 20% have almost 5times as much income as the lowest 20%. The top 1% go through the roof.
      The numbers in the US are much worse.

      I am well aware of realities in other parts of the world.

      But people who are working 1 or 2 jobs here are looking at above numbers not at those in the Global South.
      Can you blame them? Just go to non-touristic parts of Berlin and you understand what everyday-life is:

      A job often lacking any real sense – then taking care of children/the old – then consume some stupid show – then sleep – then work again – eventually not loose your mind. Where is the silver lining? Live and die as a poor retired employee? (Because that´s what will happen to the coming generation.)

      The masses won´t care about me telling them about “Nicaragua” solidarity movements (as it used to be in the 1970s.) But these are the very people any political change has to win over.

      Yes they are not starving and if its not -10 degrees like now they are not freezing either.
      And in most parts there are some decent schools and medical services. But to what end?

      To quote 50 Cent: “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”.

  11. Grumpy Engineer

    I don’t mean to sound critical of well-meaning efforts to stop the accelerating climate disaster. But when I look at lists like this, I despair.

    Yeah… I do too. When I look at the list of six reforms that need to happen, five of them include the word “justice”. And the preceding paragraph calls for reparations. So the Global North is supposed to (somehow) greatly decrease their CO2 emissions (and implicitly, their incomes) through “de-growth” while simultaneously handing large amounts of money over to the Global South to make up for sins of the past.

    This sounds like an excellent recipe for court cases and copious amounts of hot air coming from the mouths of lawyers, activists, and politicians, with the net result that nothing actually changes. People will continue drive their cars just like they always have, and CO2 will flow into the sky. People will continue to run their oil- and gas-fired furnaces, and CO2 will flow into the sky. People will continue to run their air-conditioners and heat pumps, requiring utilities to pour coal and methane into power stations to keep the grid up, and CO2 will flow into the sky.

    For anything to happen, somebody needs to create a detailed plan for “CO2-mitigating de-growth” that describes all of the steps that individuals, businesses, utilities, and governments will need to take in rural, suburban, and urban environments. That plan needs to focus on equipment that actually emits CO2. And that plan must not leave people impoverished or otherwise miserable, or they’ll reject it and elect politicians who promise the status quo.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      That plan needs to focus on equipment that actually emits CO2. And that plan must not leave people impoverished or otherwise miserable, or they’ll reject it and elect politicians who promise the status quo.

      Grumpy Engineer: please write the first draft of the plan. If anyone here @ NC can do it, it’s you. Even an outline would be a great start.

      This is the kind of material that NC could help create and promulgate : an actionable plan, devised bottom-up, directed toward the many, and minimally dependent upon top-down authorization and support.

      If we here @ NC despair, we’re lost; you (not me, but you) are some of the best-directed, most intelligent, most capable (by circumstance as well as intent) people on the planet.

      Can we please, please find a place to start, and get to work?

  12. KD

    This includes:

    Tax justice, (including a UN tax convention, tackling illicit financial flows, promoting progressive taxation and eliminating regressive taxation)
    Debt justice (including debt cancellation and the creation of a debt workout mechanism)
    Trade justice (including the assessment of trade and investment impacts, as well as tackling investor-state dispute settlements that force developing countries to carry out practices that go against human rights or ecological commitments)
    . . .

    Maybe I am missing something, but living in a corporate oligarchy, how is any of this going to be put in place?

      1. southern Appalachian

        My sense of it as well. If you don’t attend to the John Woolmans you get the John Browns.

  13. Felix_47 By Murtagh et al, “However, the reproductive choices of an individual are rarely incorporated into calculations of his personal impact on the environment. Here we estimate the extra emissions of fossil carbon dioxide that an average individual causes when he or she chooses to have children. The summed emissions of a person’s descendants, weighted by their relatedness to him, may far exceed the lifetime emissions produced by the original parent. Under current conditions in the United States, for example, each child adds about 9441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average female, which is 5.7 times her lifetime emissions. A person’s reproductive choices must be considered along with his day-to-day activities when assessing his ultimate impact on the global environment.” I guess it is a race to see what will cause a decrease in population….. war, a drop in agricultural production, or voluntary reduction. So far it seems China is the only country to make any progress. I am guessing war and revolution as the global south colonizes the developed north just like the Europeans colonized North America. The natives will be wiped out. We are starting to see this process in Europe as West Asia falls into turmoil due to overpopulation in an environment of limited resources (an environment man made as a practical matter.)

    1. SocalJimObjects

      China does not have the lowest fertility in the world, South Korea does. I think Japan is on a similar path to depopulation.

  14. John

    The list of six priorities read to me like six dead letters. Seeking justice or practical solutions?
    Nuclear power is going to be essential if the overuse of fossil fuels is to be curbed.

    Capitalism as practiced has to go. Free markets, a la Friedman and company, was, is, and will be a euphemism for economic buccaneering, rapine, and butchery.

    Population is soon to begin a decline, or so I read. Since nothing is about to be done, to slow the on rushing climate catastrophe, population will decrease even more quickly.

    There are no feel good or even feel pretty good solutions any more. We blew past those years ago. It saddens me that the rising generations will have to cope with the mess that their elders made and keeping making worse.

  15. furnace

    “How can you make broad-scale changes to how society provisions itself if you can’t assure people they will be not much worse off in any new system?”

    In theory, a popular government could offer certain considerations which might be seen as a worthwhile exchange: “you can’t buy stuff willy-nilly nor can you use your fancy gadgets 24/7, but you have a much reduced working week” or something of the sort. Give quality of life in exchange for consumption. Not everyone would agree, of course, but maybe some people would value quality time with their families or hobbies in exchange for scaled down consumption. This obviously is fantasyland because no neoliberal (or even keynesian, frankly) government would ever enact such a policy, but looking merely at public acceptance it does not seem totally far-fetched to me. I wonder if any polls have been conducted on the matter.

  16. Glen

    When I listen to the futurists pushing demographics and predicting collapse for countries like China because the population is going to decrease (Peter Zeihan comes to mind), I cannot help but wonder if they don’t have it exactly backwards.

    1. Tom Pfotzer


      The pace of automation is reducing the need for labor faster than the labor is reducing in supply.

      The countries with the highest (generalized) educational attainment and the most in-country resources will be in the best position to endure the incoming hurricanes.

      For example, India will do less well than Russia, in my opinion, if the current trend-lines persist.

  17. Craig Dempsey

    Check out Project Drawdown to see an example of an attempt to create a path to a sustainable world.

    I would also like to comment on the comment above by SocalJimObjects. The countries with declining populations without extreme stress, such as happened in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, practice reproductive justice. Give women control over their own fertility and they make decisions that are good for everyone. I suspect such justice would work in many fields. Too bad neoliberalism wants a precariat instead of citizens!

    1. Phil R

      Thanks, made me look up and learn a new term. From Wikipedia, In sociology and economics, the precariat (/prɪˈkɛəriət/) is a neologism for a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which means existing without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare.the term is a portmanteau merging precarious with proletariat.

    2. Phil R

      That got me to wondering if a precariat might be the modern equivalent of the Lumpenproletariat.

      Again from Wikipedia, “In Marxist theory, the Lumpenproletariat is the underclass devoid of class consciousness.Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels coined the word in the 1840s and used it to refer to the unthinking lower strata of society exploited by reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces, particularly in the context of the revolutions of 1848.”

      Then it occurred to me that at least the precariats apparently have some skills and at least are looking for work. Maybe they are just a personal crisis or two away from becoming Lumpenproletariats.

  18. eg

    I don’t doubt that these changes are necessary, but we all know that they’re not going to happen — them that has won’t let them happen.

    So disaster is baked in — those who survive will have to pick up the pieces as best they can.

  19. Paul Simmons

    The comments are great, though wordy, and I must confess, I wore down about halfway through. However, I will offer my take, though it be devoid of pithy links and documentations.
    It has been several centuries since any human group lived a sustainable lifestyle. think of the so-called San peoples of Souther Africa. There were others. Even then, there were turf wars, due to overpopulation and limited resources.
    We can never go back. Yes, through cooperative effort (which I have never seen on any grand scale, nor do I expect to) we may be able to tweak the course of the good ship Homo a bit, but the destination would be the same.

  20. Paul Damascene

    Sorry, Yves, but “solving” the crisis?

    John Michael Greer distinguishes usefully between a problem (susceptible of solution) and a predicament (a situation not susceptible of solution, to be lived with, more or less well).

    Predicament: climate crisis, already in runaway, as just one (significant) symptom of ecological overshoot manifested in the cascading breakdown of multiple complex systems.

    How to live with (survive) this, more or less well.

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