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Not So Natural an Alliance? Degrowth and Environmental Justice Movements in the Global South

Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos, Patrick Bond, Ivonne Yánez, Lucie Greyl, Serah Munguti, Godwin Uyi Ojo, Winfridus Overbeek

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Both environmental justice (EJ) and degrowth movements warn against increasing the physical size of the economy. They both oppose extractivism and debt-fuelled economies, as well as the untrammelled profit motive which fails to incorporate full environmental and social costs. They both rely upon social movements that have led scholarship in its activities and achievements, in part through challenging power structures. Therefore, some argue the existence of an obvious alliance between degrowth and EJ movements in the Global South. Yet, direct observation unveils concerns from EJ activists in the Global South about the plausibility of alliances until some significant divergences have been examined and reconciled. Activists inspire, promote and disseminate transformations that overcome several forms of domination. Their perspectives on degrowth advance informed cooperation. Our aim is thus to systematically evaluate tensions and possible analogies between the scope of action of EJ organisations operating in the Global South and the main propositions of the Degrowth movement. The argument relies on methodical scrutiny of core themes in the degrowth debate by critical thinkers in the Global South. It incorporates insights from EJ struggles in Ecuador, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uruguay, with important implications in Brazil, Mozambique, and Indonesia. The paper contributes to an exploration of the implications of the degrowth debate for the Global South, with the purpose of strengthening potential synergies, through an assertive recognition of the barriers to doing so.

Ecological Economics, vol. 157, March 2019, pp. 175-184

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