Episode 34

#34 - Climate Change II: Growth, Degrowth, Reactions, Responses


November 9th, 2021

55 mins 3 secs

Your Hosts

About this Episode

In this episode Ben convinces Vaden to become a degrowther. We plan how to live out the rest of our lives on an organic tomato farm in Canada in December, sewing our own clothes and waxing our own candles. Step away from the thermostat Jimmy.

We discuss:

  • The degrowth movement
  • The basics of economic growth, and why it's good for developing economies in particular
  • How growth enables resilience in the face of environmental disasters
  • Why the environment is in better shape than you think
  • Availability bias and our tendency to think everything is falling apart
  • The decoupling of economic growth and carbon emissions
  • Energy dense production and energy portfolios

And we respond to some of your criticism of the previous episode, including:

  • Apocalyptic environmental predictions been happening for a while? Really?
  • Number of annual cold deaths exceed the number of annual heat deaths? Really?
  • Your previous episode was very human-centric, and failed to address the damage humans are causing to the environment. What say you?
  • Are we right wing crypto-fascists? (Answer: Maybe, successfully dodged the question)

Social media everywhere



On Degrowth

This would be a way of life based on modest material and energy needs but nevertheless rich in other dimensions – a life of frugal abundance. It is about creating an economy based on sufficiency, knowing how much is enough to live well, and discovering that enough is plenty.

In a degrowth society we would aspire to localise our economies as far and as appropriately as possible. This would assist with reducing carbon-intensive global trade, while also building resilience in the face of an uncertain and turbulent future.

Wherever possible, we would grow our own organic food, water our gardens with water tanks, and turn our neighbourhoods into edible landscapes as the Cubans have done in Havana. As my friend Adam Grubb so delightfully declares, we should “eat the suburbs”, while supplementing urban agriculture with food from local farmers’ markets.

- Samuel Alexander, Life in a 'degrowth' economy, and why you might actually enjoy it

It would be nice to hear it straight for once. Global warming is real, it’s here, and it’s mind-bogglingly dangerous. How bad it gets—literally, the degree—depends on how quickly the most profligate countries rein in their emissions. Averting catastrophe will thus require places like the United States and Canada to make drastic cutbacks, bringing their consumption more closely in line with the planetary average. Such cuts can be made more or less fairly, and the richest really ought to pay the most, but the crucial thing is that they are made. Because, above all, stopping climate change means giving up on growth. That will be hard. Not only will our standards of living almost certainly drop, but it’s likely that the very quality of our society—equality, safety, and trust—will decline, too. That’s not something to be giddy about, but it’s still a price that those of us living in affluent countries should prepare to pay. Because however difficult it is to slow down, flooding Bangladesh cannot be an option. In other words, we can and should act. It’s just going to hurt.

- Daniel Immerwahr, Growth vs the Climate

On Perennial Apocalypticism

My offices were so cold I couldn't concentrate, and my staff were typing with gloves on. I pleaded with Jimmy to set the thermostats at 68 degrees, but it didn't do any good.
- Paul Sabin, quoting Rosalynn Carter in The Bet

Mostafa K. Tolba, executive director of the United Nations environmental program, told delegates that if the nations of the world continued their present policies, they would face by the turn of the century ''an environmental catastrophe which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible, as any nuclear holocaust.''
- New York Times, 1982

A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of "eco-refugees", threatening political chaos, said Noel Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program, or UNEP. He said governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control."
- AP News, 1989

On Environmental Conservation

It’s not the case that humankind has failed to conserve habitat. By 2019, an area of Earth larger than the whole of Africa was protected, an area that is equivalent to 15 percent of Earth’s land surface. The number of designated protected areas in the world has grown from 9,214 in 1962 to 102,102 in 2003 to 244,869 in 2020.

- Michael Shellenburger, Apocalypse Never, p.75

Thanks to habitat protection and targeted conservation efforts, many beloved species have been pulled from the brink of extinction, including albatrosses, condors, manatees, oryxes, pandas, rhinoceroses, Tasmanian devils, and tigers; according to the ecologist Stuart Pimm, the overall rate of extinctions has been reduced by 75 percent.

- Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now, p.160

On Environmental Optimism

  1. Following China’s ban on ivory last year, 90% of Chinese support it, ivory demand has dropped by almost half, and poaching rates are falling in places like Kenya. WWF

  2. The population of wild tigers in Nepal was found to have nearly doubled in the last nine years, thanks to efforts by conservationists and increased funding for protected areas. Independent

  3. Deforestation in Indonesia fell by 60%, as a result of a ban on clearing peatlands, new educational campaigns and better law enforcement. Ecowatch

See the remaining 294 good news stories here, here, and here

Set your thermostats to 68, put those gloves on, and send an email over to incrementspodcast@gmail.com

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