Sunday, October 1, 2023

Reduce inequality and decline

A very rich 1% of the world consumes most of the energy needed for a decent life for 1.7 billion people. Let’s start there to understand what reduction means and why it is the key to stopping the ecological disaster.

This first episode of the series ‘Keys to face climate change’, coordinated by Fernando Valladares, written with Juan Bordera, screenwriter, journalist, activist of Extinction Rebellion and València en Transició and deputy of Comromís in Valencian Cortés.

The world’s richest 1% consume the vast amount of energy needed to provide a decent life for 1.7 billion people.. Let’s start there to understand what reduction means and why it is the key to stopping the ecological disaster.

A survey carried out by YouGov and promoted by many media such as The Guardian shows that “many Europeans want measures against climate change, but not so much if they change their lifestyle. ” This survey suggests that the problem really lies in the individual’s fear of losing comfort, and it seems insurmountable, but is it really? Not good.

Growing social inequality will lead to collapse

The main problem is growing economic inequality. Many works and models analyze this question, which is very reasonable. A system dynamics model called HANDY (Human And NatureDYnamics) studies the topic and its conclusions are illuminating.

Summing up a lot: Inequality is one of the main reasons why a society collapses. And it played an important role in the historical downfalls of various past civilizations.

The bubble of luxury and the fountains of power

It’s very simple, for two reasons: The elites of an unequal society live in a bubble of luxury, very disconnected from reality and unable to avoid alarm signals., so often they do not understand the risk clearly and they do not take the appropriate measures, which are those closest to the levers of power. On the other hand, The less favored strata are due to growing inequality and suspicion of the behavior of the elites that, in many cases, they idolize and aspire to emulate..

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Norwegian sociologist Thorstein Veblen gave a name to a phenomenon, “conspicuous consumption”, which is very interesting to understand.

she conspicuous consumption This means that a part of the consumption is done to reflect the status or social position. Therefore, the more examples of insulting wealth we have around us, the more things we envy, even if we don’t need them.

If inequality were as bad as it is today, it would be easier for us to focus on those who have the most and try to emulate them. precisely because the gap is so large.

she myth of leak the economic theory in which wealth redistributes itself to the lower classes, collapsed during the pandemic years years in which, while the 10 richest people in the world doubled their wealth, 160 million people joined the poverty statistics.

It is absolutely essential to bridge this gap between those who have everything and those who have nothing.

More technology or less consumption?

The problems of the sister of the environmental crisis and the social crisis They are essentially addressed in three ways:

The green growth scenario based on technological progress and economic development supported by environmental policies, a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has been achieved, but at the cost of increasing income inequality and unemployment .

The policy scenario for social equity It adds direct interventions in the labor market that lead to environmental performance similar to green growth, while improving social conditions, but at the cost of increasing the public deficit.

The decline scenario achieved a reduction in consumption and exports, and achieved a greater reduction in emissions and inequality with a high public deficit, despite the introduction of a wealth tax.

Social development and low carbon emissions as a practical proposal

Theoretical studies modeling these scenarios reveal that there are radical new social policies which can combine social prosperity and low carbon emissions and where in economics and politics LIVE.

Currently, all these radical, effective and practical policies are under the framework of economic decline and not the so-called sustainable development nor the seductive but wrong concept of growth verde.

In fact, we face a crossroads with an easy solution: redistribute wealth or collapse under the weight of an elite that insists on continuing to raise the weight until the base can no longer support the weight.

The reduction of the working day is one of the measures of the decaying star

The difficulty comes when it comes to its implementation, because, if Many climate deniers are motivated by greed and self-interest. the acceptance of this distribution has and has many personal and institutional obstacles. But there is no alternative but to value wealth y it will be distributed democratically because either way we’re all going to lose a lot more.

One of the best ways to distribute is to give the gift of time. Reduce working hours without reducing wages This is one of the star proposals of degrowth. The recipe that advocates that you can live better with less if you share it.

The IPCC includes the word degrowth 28 times in its latest report on climate change and its mitigation, the presidents of Colombia and Ireland openly support these ideas, and the citizens’ assemblies generally support the propositions derived from degrowth theories.

Development scenarios mitigate many of the key risks to recovery and sustainability compared to existing technology-driven pathways.

Economic decline allows a more direct and clear mitigation of climate change than trying to achieve the miracle of decoupling energy and GDP, eliminating CO₂ from the atmosphere in one large scale and movement on a large scale and at high speed towards renewable energy.

You can’t grow forever on a finite planet

However, even though there are important challenges regarding the political viability of the recession, in the mainstream media there are more and more voices responding to a truth that we take too long to accept: we cannot grow forever in a finite planet. .

A brainless one that even economists who never suspected revolutionaries like John Stuart Mill all in 1848. For the first time the concept of stationary state or steady state This is in the work of a liberal.

To navigate the century of limitations in the best possible way, it is inevitable to include the ideas of degrowth. This is not just an ethical question.

Economic inequality is very expensive around us, so soon we won’t have enough money to cover all the expenses.

Millward and Hopkins (2022) estimate that, in energy terms, a moderately unequal society (and we have left that moderation far behind) represents twice the energy consumption of a egalitarian society. However, The world economy continues to move towards ecological disaster and inequalities continue to grow.

The energy cost of inequality is more important than population size. Even the most moderate level of inequality that citizens consider acceptable increases the energy needed to provide a universal decent life by 40%.

At that socially acceptable level of inequality, a very rich 1% of the world consumes a lot of the energy needed to provide a decent life for 1.7 billion people.

Ecological collapse and economic inequality are among the greatest contemporary global challenges, and the two issues are intrinsically linked, and have been throughout the history of various civilizations.

The environment establishes the limits, the society how it is distributed. Development, especially in the global north, is not only the long-term way out of the labyrinth of the environmental and climate crisis but it is also the way to progress, to achieve what Jason Hickel calls. “radical abundance” a situation where humanity, well-being, values ​​and true sustainability prevail over economic growth and unequal and indefinite enrichment.

The time has come to shrink

Victor Hugo said that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.. The development is beginning to be accepted even in the most neoliberal Europe, which recently dedicated a three-day congress sponsored by the European Parliament itself. Of course, under the name of after growth or beyond growth (_beyond growth), denominations that seem to raise a little suspicion among economists, politicians and businessmen.

Basically, these are two different concepts that can also have different uses. While degrowth is more clear and committed to recognizing the historical debt contracted by the Global North in relation to the exploited South, other points go beyond the need to strengthen a planet Earth whose most important ecosystem is on the border of the point of no return.

So many after growth As reduced They seek to avoid ecological disaster, which will drag down the economy, well-being, democracy and peace. Both require a drastic reduction in inequality, the gap over which societies have historically been torn apart.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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