silpol » from archive - Journal of Cleaner Production - Societal metabolism, working hours and degrowth: a comment on Sorman and Giampietro -
"Abstract Can we choose whether to degrow? Sorman and Giampetro in this Special Issue argue that degrowth can only be forced upon us; it will never be the outcome of voluntary or collective choice. In this commentary, I argue instead that although sooner or later we will have to degrow because of bio-physical limitations, we still have a choice of how to do it. Constructing a positive vision of degrowth as an inspirational political project that mobilizes citizens, increases the likelihood of a “prosperous way down”. I agree with the authors that in an energy scarce world we will have to work more to maintain the same level of material affluence, but I contend that under conceivable conditions we might be equally happy with less work, less energy and less material affluence. A multi-scalar analysis of societal metabolism is essential for the evaluation of degrowth policies and trajectories. However, unlike what Sorman and Giampietro suggest, there is nothing in existing metabolic analyses that suggests that a prosperous degrowth trajectory is a priori impossible. Highlights ► Degrowth is inevitable due to biophysical limitations, but we can still choose how to degrow. ► Less oil means more work for the same output; but we can work less and prosper with less output. ► Institutional changes for sustainable degrowth are hard, but not inconceivable. Keywords Degrowth; Work; Metabolism; Institutions" ‎- silpol