Saoirse Exton
Climate Justice Activist, Member of UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change

In Economics class, the concept of eternal economic growth as a necessity is ingrained from the beginning: students being taught that without a certain percentage increase in GDP from year to year, disastrous recession lies on the horizon. And yes, if we were to immediately halt our economies across the globe, the effect would be detrimental. But if we continue on our current pathway, we will likely face a much larger catastrophe.

Growth is incredibly resource-intensive.(Environment Agency Europe) (Shah et al 2022) If we are to decrease carbon levels by 45% in the next 7 years to limit warming to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels, we need to significantly change the way we produce and consume resources. (Columbia Climate School) (Newell et al. 2021) Degrowth is a proposition for an alternate economic system, one where the concentration of wealth and exploitation that defines capitalism is left in the past. (Perkins 2019) (Chiengkul 2018)

Climate justice cannot be achieved within the framework of our current social structures because they are inherently unjust. (Greenpeace) (Carbon Brief) My native language, Gaeilge (Irish), was systematically stripped from Ireland largely because it was no longer deemed ‘useful’ in a capitalist system. (Cahill 2022) The wealth of knowledge Gaeilge holds has been eroded as it slowly regresses (Harrisson 2007)—wealth that was thousands of years in the making. (Údarás na Gaeltachta)

Instead of growing our economies for the sole purpose of exponentially increasing GDP, we could restructure them entirely to achieve a sustainable and equitable future. We could reduce inequality and increase regulation on corporations to diminish the influence they hold over global governments. Most importantly, we could create communities that place our environment, collective wellbeing and intangible cultural heritage above the profit and power of a tiny percentage of the planet—where the ability to determine our own future lies in the hands of the people.

Degrowth Pamela EA

Passive house tucked in the Scottish countryside. The house is designed to use only what it needs, requires low energy use, and passive heating systems reducing the load from the grid. Scotland, UK, 2023.
Photography By Pamela EA