Berlin. - Does the end of growth lead to panic or salvation? asks Reiner Klingholz, the Director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, a think tank for issues of demographic change in the March edition of the Digital Development Debates. In the issue focused on the topic "movement" Klingholz claims that all countries seem to be following the same development path taken by the industrialized states and are enjoying greater prosperity and quality of life. Economic growth is seen as the solution to poverty and population growth. Policies everywhere are driven by the idea that growth can solve all our problems. But does it?
As Klingholz said "We have enslaved our prosperity to growth." But rising consumption will continue to damage the environment and take up resources. He predicts the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better as the population will cease to grow in the midterm and eventually shrink. In "just 200 to 300 years" there will be a "paradise of sustainability". To Klingholz it seems that "no one is asking whether sustained growth is even possible, since no one has another alternative to suggest." And he is right, no real alternative managed to win meaningful recognition.
Although, for decades civil society thought about alternatives to growth. Worldwide there are post-growth initiatives such as the Center for a New American Dream and national as well as local degrowth networks promoting less consumption. Progress is measured by Gross National Happiness in Bhutan and the concept of the basic income redefines the value of work. Alternatives to the current economic model are discussed at events such as the World Social Forum and Degrowth conferences.
According to Klingholz the industrialized countries are forced into the end of growth and no one is happy about it. But within the next 200 to 300 years due to population decline a sustainable society would be possible. He argues that a smaller population size would hardly damage the environment. But at the same time he states that in countries "most responsible for the global destruction of the environment, population growth is coming to an end." Population, especially overpopulation is often constructed within poverty, development, security, migration and environment. It neglects the impact of food speculations, unfair trade rules and environmental disasters caused by heavy industry.
Klingholz states that the environmental movement failed and their demands fell on deaf ears as they contradict economic interest.
Why do environmental demands contradict the market? Should the economy not serve the people? Can economic and environmental interests not be the same? It is a choice to let economic interest prevail over environmental and social well-being, not a natural law.
There are plenty of solutions applicable in developing as well as industrialized countries. Sustainable and appropriate technology such as those by demotech and appropedia undermine the very core of the logic of growth and capitalism. These inventions are not for sale, they are based on participation and open source to ensure people´s self-reliance. In this approach human prosperity stands above economic growth, rising stocks do not feed people.
It seems more as politics failed. There are solutions to almost every problem ready to be used. Yet again e.g. in the post-2015 agenda, growth is not questioned and people´s progress is measured in regard to how well they integrate into the job market. Although civil society and the environmental movement demanded another approach. What could they have done differently? Scream louder? Pick up arms?