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Scientific paper


Are there limits to growth?

Ulrich Brand, Barbara Muraca, Christoph Goerg, Christoph Goerg

Entry type:
Scientific paper

Year of publication:

Budapest 2016



Has the planet reached its carrying and absorbing capacity? And do we face natural boundaries which objectively exist that limit human activities in any general way? According to the study of the Club of Rome, published in 1972 under the title “Limits to growth”, that stage was already approached 40 years ago. Today in the era of climate change, biodiversity loss and other ecological problems, the limits metaphor has re-gained momentum. According to the seminal article of Johan Rockström and others, “planetary boundaries” have already been transgressed in three subsystems of the earth: biodiversity loss, climate change and the nitrogen cycle. These findings are alarming and may even have a politicizing effect. But what is also alarming from a critical theoretical perspective is the fact, that neither the “Limits of Growth” study from the 1970s nor the concept of “planetary boundaries” from 2009, consider more carefully the manifold social relations that underlie the multiple phenomena of the ecological crisis. Social relations rather remain hidden behind apparently objective and pregiven biophysical conditions for human life.

The following questions will guide our discussion: Are there natural limits to human activities? How are these limits conceptualised? What are the limits of the limits metaphor from a critical theoretical perspective? What would be alternative forms thinking and politicising the ecological crises? How can such alternatives be linked to the critics on growth and to our political action?

The logistics of this panel is supported by Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Berlin.

This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Are there limits to growth? “ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.

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