Oliver Balch tackles key topics in sustainability research
Capitalism loves growth. The whole system is founded on promoting it, creating it, defending it. “Growth, growth, endless growth.” If you wanted neoliberal capitalism in a nutshell, there you have it. And the formula has worked, up to a point. Millions elevated from poverty, billions of jobs created, trillions of dollars earned (and spent - on healthcare, food, shelter, iPhones).
But can the physical world continue to support the perpetual drive for growth? Can we as a society sustain the dogged quest for ever more economic expansion? Do we even want to? Capitalist doctrine has never troubled itself much over this line of questioning. Of course we can, it asserts. Growth is natural. Growth is good. Yet exponential growth and a finite planet are beginning to show themselves as increasingly awkward bedfellows. Pollution, climate change, resource depletion, wage inequality: the growth juggernaut is looking increasingly unsteady.
Sufficiency, not efficiency
Enter degrowth. More of an emergent movement than a cogent theory (the academy has yet to really embrace it), degrowth-ism shares many of the same starting points as corporate sustainability. Both argue that business has to change. It cannot go on taking and taking, using and using. At least, not without...