In his 2020 book, Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save The World, Jason Hickel explores how humanity is dramatically overshooting what scientists have defined as safe planetary boundaries, owing to our thrall to ‘the growth economy’, and its associated use of energy, resources, and inevitable waste.
He states that for companies to make aggregate profits, GDP must grow 3% each year, yet this is totally at odds with our goal of keeping temperature rises within 1.5, or even 2, degrees.
Hickel calls for a planned descaling of energy and resources use in order to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a safe and equitable way. As well as outlining a clear and positive path for how this can be achieved – something that is rarely attempted on such a holistic scale – the book outlines compelling reasons why degrowth is necessary is the first place, including the following key ten:
1.5 degrees of warming is the upper limit we should restrict the world’s global heating to.
More than two times as many extreme storms occur each year than in the 1980s, meaning once in a generation events are becoming the norm.
4 degrees of warming by the end of the century is the current trajectory for Earth if we continue with business as usual. If we factor in counties’ pledges to meet the goals set out in the Paris climate agreement, the temperatures will still rise as much as 3.3 degrees.
10% of insect species are at risk of extinction due to the use of agricultural chemicals and the conversion of forest to farmland, which is leading to pollinator die-off and soil degradation; insects that keep soil resilient and fertile.
25% of all species are at risk of extinction and the number of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians has dropped by more than half since 1970.
A 30–90cm rise in sea levels is expected even if we meet the goals set in the Paris climate agreement. This will lead to ever more frequent storms and flooding. Much of Bangladesh will disappear and major cities, such as New York, Amsterdam, Jakarta, Miami, Rio and Osaka, will be permanently flooded.
40% of Earth’s soil is seriously degraded which can only support 60 more years of harvests. What is more, 1 degree of additional global warming equates to a 10% decline in the planet’s cereal crop yields, and in some places, such as India, this will be significantly worse.
65 million people are currently displaced by war and drought. This number is set to rise as droughts, and indeed flooding, become more frequent. For each additional degree of warming, a billion climate refugees will be displaced.
85% of global fish stocks are now depleted or facing collapse as a result of overfishing. This is also in part due to leakage of agrichemicals into rivers and oceans, creating surface algae blooms which cut off oxygen to the ecosystems beneath.
90% of all large fish have been removed from the ocean due to overfishing and poaching. Just 5% of the oceans are protected, but there is a global campaign to protect 30%.
To find out more about how the degrowth economy can provide solutions to these pressing issues, head to Hive.co.uk (an ethical alternative to Amazon) where Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World is available at a discount with free shipping for UK buyers. If you’re anywhere else in the world, you can get it from Blackwells.co.uk. Less Is More is also available as an audiobook.