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The Great Deceleration

That is the title of Alex Jensen’s article in Counterpunch on December 2nd. He first posits that we are now deeply into the “Great Acceleration” with respect to the worldwide economy that is its driver. Sustainability in this context is an absurd concept. This cannot be sustained.

He writes:

“...it is precisely the increasing scale of economic activity – of ‘the economy’ – that is the heart of the multiple interlocking crises that beset societies and the earth today. The relentlessly expansionist logic of the system is inimical to life, to the world, even to genuine well-being. If we wish to instead honor, defend, and respect life and the world, we must upend that logic, and begin the urgent task of down-scaling economic activity and the system that drives it. We must embark upon the ‘Great Deceleration’.”

But all we see around us is a push for more, more and again more. It can be managed, we are told. In Washington state there is an absurdly titled Growth Management Act. As if growth is still something to be managed. Not only can it not be managed, it must be reversed. How about a Washington State Degrowth Management Act? Jensen states:

“Upsetting the great acceleration juggernaut will require innumerable, profound systemic shifts. Since the regnant system is not the consequence but rather the cause of consumerism, acquisitiveness, separation, alienation, etc., it will require first and foremost resistance to the forces that relentlessly propagate it — stopping corporate plunder of all sorts (from mines to minds); stopping and revoking neoliberal ‘free trade’ agreements; breaking up and dismantling corporate-state power and the legal frameworks that underpin it; and, challenging the fundamentalist logic of unlimited growth. It will simultaneously require the (re)construction of radical alternative systems, rooted in environmental ethics, ecological integrity, social justice, decentralization and deep democracy, beauty, simplicity, cooperation, sharing, slowness, and a constellation of related eco-social-ethical values.”

We see this “fundamentalist logic of unlimited growth” right here at home. Attempts to counter it even slightly during recent city and county comprehensive plan reviews were met with howls of rage (and a lawsuit) from the development industry. There is now the horrifying spectacle unfolding in Washington, D.C. of the selection of a presidential cabinet antithetical to that which is necessary to save us, although even during the last eight years the mantra has been to grow the economy at the expense of the nation’s well-being and future. Jensen tell us then:

“The Degrowth movement is assailing the status quo assumption of a cozy positive relationship between economic growth and well-being and even (weirdly) environmental ‘improvement.’ Its many exponents and activists are broadcasting the reality of the obvious-to-all-but-economists inverse relationship between growth and well-being.”

Like it or not, “things-have-to get-worse-before-they-get-better” is now upon us, but the getting better is not guaranteed. Sustainability is not about getting better but about not getting worse. We are not even close to talking about what it will take to get better.

About Dick Conoboy

Writer • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

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