Fairytales of Growth

Pierre Smith Khanna
Fairy Tales of Growth, 2020
Level: beginner
Perspective: Ecological Economics
Topic: Alternatives to GDP, Capitalism, consumption, degrowth, growth, International Political Economy, mainstream critique, markets, social ecological transformation, social movements & transformation
Format: Documentary
Duration: 00:47:27
Link: https://www.fairytalesofgrowth.com/watch

The effects and risks of climate change are compelling young people the around the world to call upon a radical system change as the only solution to avoid a catastrophic collapse. This film looks at the role economic growth has had in bringing about this crisis, and explores alternatives to it, offering a vision of hope for the future and a better life for all within planetary boundaries. In the first section, it comments on how progress or growth as a concept has roots in colonisation, slavery and exploitation of resources in countries of the Global South. Set in the backdrop of our current climate protests, it smoothly connects the views of important scholars, like Jason Hickel and Giorgos Kallis, questioning the validity of the concept of economic growth in the 21st century Planet Earth.

The second section covers the concept of green growth and whether we can really grow economies while not damaging the environment. There is a positive statistical correlation between GDP growth and CO2 emissions, and no evidence of “decoupling” away emissions from GDP growth even in the pursuit of improved energy efficiency. Given that we don’t have much time to exceed our carbon budgets for 1.5 or 2 degree warming, even transitioning to renewables will not be able to save us. Thus, it will be key to reduce energy demand to prevent a climate crisis since alternate carbon capture measures have not been tested. The third section introduces degrowth as a concept to prioritise people, and the planet over economic growth. We don’t need growth to survive, and we need to reduce economic activity in a democratic way, without compromising on overall human well-being. So what could the degrowth economy look like?

  • GDP will not be our ideal measure of economic progress, so we won’t intrinsically be biased towards ecologically destructive production
  • Our view of money would evolve to move beyond debt and financial instruments
  • Shorter working weeks with higher hourly wages ensure similar standard of living with
  • Production to focus on products lasting for longer, embedding recycling and repair in design

Overall, the film critically introduces capitalist notions of growth not only from a purely economic or ecological standpoint, but also looks at the social and human needs for degrowth. Our rat race of materialistic, consumerist lifestyle does not bring as much happiness as we think it does. This documentary will be a good way to revisit your own definition of economic growth, well-being and happiness.


Comment from our editors:

The video, also a dissertation thesis of the director, serves as a solid introduction to the historical foundations of growth and the new emerging concepts and critiques around it. From the first formal introduction of the limits to growth in the 1970s by Donella Meadows and a team of MIT researchers to growing popularity of the concept of degrowth, this documentary film will be educational and create greater curiosity to question whether our current frameworks for civilisational progress still make sense.


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