Open letter and petition: Europe, it’s time to end the growth dependency

Nine years ago I attended the first high profile degrowth seminar in Finland. While I was new to the topic, the argumentation made sense and I became increasingly involved with the degrowth movement that debates and advocates for giving up on our cultural and political dependency on economic growth.

In September 2018, there was a historical conference held at the European Parliament focusing on post-growth. In relation to that, a group of academics put together an open letter to European institutions and its member states. The letter was signed by over 200 researchers in social and natural science, including myself. In the momentum, there is now a petition open to everyone to sign demanding Europe to stop its growth dependency. If you feel that this is a direction Europe should take, please sign the petition.

The open letter arguments for reconsidering economic growth as a primary policy goal and replacing it with maximising wellbeing for humans, nonhuman animals and the planet as a whole. The letter also includes four powerful policy recommendations for European Union, its institutions and its member states:

  1. “Constitute a special commission on Post-Growth Futures in the EU Parliament. This commission should actively debate the future of growth, devise policy alternatives for post-growth futures, and reconsider the pursuit of growth as an overarching policy goal.
  2. Incorporate alternative indicators into the macroeconomic framework of the EU and its member states. Economic policies should be evaluated in terms of their impact on human wellbeing, resource use, inequality, and the provision of decent work. These indicators should be given higher priority than GDP in decision-making.
  3. Turn the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) into a Stability and Wellbeing Pact. The SGP is a set of rules aimed at limiting government deficits and national debt. It should be revised to ensure member states meet the basic needs of their citizens, while reducing resource use and waste emissions to a sustainable level.
  4. Establish a Ministry for Economic Transition in each member state. A new economy that focuses directly on human and ecological wellbeing could offer a much better future than one that is structurally dependent on economic growth.”

The open letter has been published also by several major newspapers, including the Guardian in English and Liberation in French. Maailma.net published the open letter in Finnish.

Duct tape news

News are said to become shallow. No wonder when we consider the way average reader spends time reading one article, not to mention the cuts in newspaper staff. Sacking journalists is due to the decline in orders for printed newspapers. Orders are expected to decline more as electronic publications conquer the domain.

For some time I have managed to not to read a newspaper every morning. To some this is a disgrace. For me it has been an attempt to clear some capacity for my Phd study. It really takes drastic measures to avoid procrastination.

I have not totally left following the world. Instead, I have focused my little leftover energy on following news weekly via one or two magazines. They have interesting longer stories and articles, which to me seem more rewarding to read.

To me keeping up with my field social entrepreneurship and related topics has benefited from Twitter and other social media. As a junior expert I consider already having some capacity to interpret 140 characters of information and turn it into relevant knowledge.

And that’s the trick: it is harder to be a critical reader of a topic new to me. Thus, I need more relevant information. In a quality magazine this is done for me by someone hopefully following the ethical guidelines of journalism. Again, when familiarising with news related to my field, I can evaluate the argument better alone.

Despite the fact I miss terribly the smell of a morning paper and the physical event of taking time for reading over a table, currently I have prioritised other things over this practice. I feel sad for the newspaper industry as I really like the idea of reading a paper version daily. And I can see the benefits of someone having to at least skim topics one otherwise wouldn’t. I wonder if my magazine reading will do open up my horizons enough?

Then there is the industry of news: one sentence from a PhD study is sad. But this is what happened: I heard news over the radio and results from one study were dealt in one sentence. If my PhD study ever gets to the radio news, that’ll probably be my treatment as well. One sentence. We were joking with a colleague that the use of duct tape might give us a second sentence: “Interestingly, the results were gained by using duct tape.”
Am I as the producer of new knowledge contributing to the fast information? I would prefer increasing the amount of slow news and perhaps then knowledge.

Siberia calling

I have been thinking about what it would be like to live outside the system. It all started when we cancelled our newspaper order (in Finland you get newspapers delivered to your home every morning if you want). It’s not that I consider quitting the newspaper order as living outside the system. But it led into thinking the theme as I suddenly have had more time to read other publications. By the way, it is very entertaining to read two to three different types of newspapers/magazines side by side and compare how they analyse the world. Such fun!

The more alternative publications I have had a chance to read put emphasis on the quality of life, which is, according to some views, more probable outside the system. Or as the group of eco-villagers in Siberia consider, the only alternative after the inevitable destruction of civilisation as we know it. My friend pulled me back from my daydreams and asked how would I keep contact with my close relatives and friends from Siberia. If the Siberian eco-village generator is out of order, no Skype connections for this needy villager.

More than Skype connections I have been thinking about the ways to bring about change. Despite the harshness of Siberian winters and hotness of summers, it might be easier to escape the system and stop trying to change it. Overall, is it really needed that we abandon the current arrangement completely and start out fresh? Rather we could try to hold on to our goals in everyday interactions in order to live according to our values. However, if we stay it is tempting to give in.

My friend forgot one issue definitely postponing my eco-villager career in Siberia. My skills in Russian language are nonexistent. Siberia state of mind might be calling but please let it be in some language I understand.