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Scientific paper


Environment versus growth — A criticism of “degrowth” and a plea for “a-growth”

Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

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Scientific paper

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Ecological Economics


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Consumption, Environmental policy, Equity, GDP paradox, Grassroots initiatives, Political feasibility, Reducing work-time, Regulating advertisement

Abstract: In recent debates on environmental problems and policies, the strategy of “degrowth” has appeared as an alternative to the paradigm of economic growth. This new notion is critically evaluated by considering five common interpretations of it. One conclusion is that these multiple interpretations make it an ambiguous and rather confusing concept. Another is that degrowth may not be an effective, let alone an efficient strategy to reduce environmental pressure. It is subsequently argued that “a-growth,” i.e. being indifferent about growth, is a more logical social aim to substitute for the current goal of economic growth, given that GDP (per capita) is a very imperfect indicator of social welfare. In addition, focusing ex ante on public policy is considered to be a strategy which ultimately is more likely to obtain the necessary democratic – political support than an ex ante, explicit degrowth strategy. In line with this, a policy package is proposed which consists of six elements, some of which relate to concerns raised by degrowth supporters.

Ecological Economics, Volume 70, Issue 5, 15 March 2011, Pages 881-890

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