The Degrowth Paradigm

Jim Merkel's garden, "poop palace" and power station. Photo: CBC.

Jim Merkel’s garden, “poop palace” and power station. Photo: CBC.

Now in its 50th year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ideas show, hosted by Paul Kennedy, tackles controversial topics thoughtfully and in-depth. On the latest episode, a rebroadcast from 2013, Ideas looks at a topic NPR wouldn’t touch with a 100-foot pole:”degrowth.”

As engineer and degrowth advocate Bob Thomson puts it,

Growth has become an element of faith. It’s so deeply ingrained into our cultural narratives. Growth is something that is seen as necessary, where in actual fact, we could probably be a lot happier with less consumption.

The show begins with an interview with Jim Merkel, author of Radical Simplicity, Small Footprints on a Finite Earth and concludes with a visit to the radical degrowth activists of Catalan, Spain.

To those of you who haven’t jumped on the podcast bandwagon yet, I’d suggest Ideas as a start.

The episode I’m talking about, “The Degrowth Paradigm,” can be found here.




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  1. I have a Masters in Finance. Like any model, finance, markets, and capitalism has certain underlying assumptions that the model is built upon. I have *always* thought that the model failed to measure the quality of what people have versus the quantity. Growth of quantity is easy to measure. Growth of quality is harder to measure and maybe harder to come by. There are also a huge percentage of people who do feel less secure and less optimistic about their present and future when they feel like they have “less.” I think it is important for all of us to remember that “more” is right at our fingertips and only has a certain amount to do with how much money we have….most of us would be better off simplifying.

    I look forward to listening!

  2. Interesting! Thanks for sharing. This is certainly a concept I believe it, but never had a term for. I shall give it a listen.

  3. Thanks for the links about the English equivalent of décroissance, a concept I am familiar with from my time in France. You can actually buy a monthly newspaper on this topic at most French newsstands (La Décroissance). The grandaddy of the French degrowth movement is Serge Latouche, a French economist critical of the idea of sustainable development.

    No time to listen today, but the picture of Merkel in front of a yurt at the CBC page also brought back memories of a visit to a yurt of a similarly minded individual in the Drôme in France. Vive la décroissance conviviale! And if you need any help with French while reading about degrowth, I’d be happy to help.

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