Less is More. How Degrowth Will Save the World. Jason Hickel. Windmill Books, 2020.
NOTE May 20, 2021: I have altered the first and last lines of this review, see my discussion in the comments below.
Less is More is an important book that seeks to popularize the idea of economic “degrowth,” though it is somewhat flawed in significant details. Degrowth is a deliberate attempt to reduce the physical size of the economy — for example, we should prefer bicycles to cars, and plant foods to animal foods. Degrowth is widely discussed in Europe, where the idea originated. In America, the “heart” of the capitalist beast, it is still a relatively unknown idea.
Jason Hickel is right on his key point in this book. Our economy is already massively unsustainable. If human civilization is to have a future, we cannot continue with the growth economy. This should be the starting point of any discussion about the environment. Continue reading →
VOTE poster (1920) from the League of Women Voters. Public domain.
The President’s bizarre behavior and statements during the first 2020 Presidential debate on Tuesday amplified political weirdness. Many people are concerned that he could seriously impair or destroy the integrity of the elections. Americans are living in separate realities right now, each with its own “alternative facts.” If we can’t agree on basic realities, it is inevitable that public debate is going to degenerate, and the President has certainly accelerated this process.
Don’t panic yet: the smart money is on democracy to win in November, and the debate seemed to help the challenger. But what are the issues over which we are potentially ripping the country apart? Continue reading →
VOTE poster (1920) from the League of Women Voters. Public domain.
In politics, people are doing and saying a lot of weird things right now. President Trump (without any particular evidence) is tossing around accusations that the election could be stolen by the Democrats, while Democrats are mulling over the very real possibility that the election will in fact be stolen by the President. What is this weirdness, exactly, and what is its source, and what should we do about it?
If you get right down to it, there are a lot of weird things other than in politics going on right now. Climate change, for starters. Then there’s humans overrunning the earth. We kill and eat almost all of the large animals on the planet (livestock), but not before first confining and torturing them. The few wild animals that are left are increasingly crowded out by the human economy, and mass extinction appears to be in progress. And then there’s peak oil, soil erosion, and resource depletion more generally, which each have civilization-ending potential. Our growth-oriented economy is incapable of dealing with limits to growth. Continue reading →
Some of the survivors on July 4, 2019 in Washington Park. Author’s photo.
We learned on the news today that the city is proceeding with its plan to slaughter more geese, just as it did last year. We urge all Denver residents to protest this brutal, stupid, and unnecessary plan. Below is a letter that Kate and I sent to our city council representatives (Paul Kashmann, Debby Ortega, and Robin Kniech) one week ago, on July 1. For more details or to get involved, visit the website of the grassroots group Canada Geese Protection Colorado. Continue reading →
Basic income demonstration in Berlin, 2013. Credit: stanjourdan, https://www.flickr.com/people/39524850@N04, CC BY-SA 2.0.
Systemic, radical changes in the United States are now in the cards. You can feel it in the news and in the streets, even with COVID-19 acting as a damper on protests. But we haven’t had much discussion of what specifically these changes should be. We know—though mainstream economists still haven’t figured it out—that economic growth isn’t the answer: we have hit the limits to growth. We need a basic income: a guaranteed cash payment to all adult citizens sufficient to support a minimal lifestyle.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “OK, basic income: possibly a good idea. But what does this have to do with veganism?” Continue reading →
Several years ago, I took a look at the book Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken. It has now been turned into a web site, “Project Drawdown,” which several people have recently mentioned to me. It’s a list of proposed solutions to global warming. It is not so much a plan to deal with global warming, but rather strategies that could be integrated into a plan. There are lots of good ideas, including not only the standard ones such as renewable energy, but also including plant-rich diets, forest restoration, bicycle infrastructure, and others.
Approaching global warming in this way looks like an attempt to retrofit sustainability onto our existing system. Is this going to work? Continue reading →
A makeshift memorial near the bus stop where the incident occurred, photographed on May 27. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Lorie Shaull at https://flickr.com/photos/11020019@N04/49943807607.
Limits to growth are now here. Our economy used to work just fine but hasn’t been working so well for the past few decades. With limits to growth, it is now not going to work at all.
One failure is our way of dealing with social inequality. The only way that we have tried to deal with social inequality is through economic growth. We’ve assumed for some time that capitalistic expansion of the economy will solve problems of inequality. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” that is, a bigger economy will be bigger for everyone. Continue reading →
“Castle Bravo” blast in 1954. Public domain image from US Department of Energy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Castle_Bravo_Blast.jpg
Will a million Americans die due to the COVID-19 pandemic? I doubt that the casualties will get this high, but it is not unthinkable.
When I was young, the “unthinkable” was the possibility of human-caused nuclear war. Today, we face the reality of human-caused pandemic diseases. The destruction from this pandemic probably won’t be quite as grim as an all-out nuclear war. But it is getting into, perhaps, the terror of a limited nuclear exchange. Continue reading →
Trump is slated to become our new Overlord, and a lot of people are really nervous, with good reason. I hope that people take care not to trample each other as they stampede toward the exits. Immediately after the election, the papers reported that so many people were asking about immigration to Canada that the Canadian immigration web site crashed. On top of that, there is now a movement for California independence. They are proposing to do it entirely legally and peacefully, via a California referendum and amending the U. S. constitution. Continue reading →
Remember the very beginning of Cowspiracy, where the producers interview Bruce Hamilton representing the Sierra Club? Hamilton gives a litany of all the dire consequences of climate change, ending with a prediction of “climate wars.” He is then asked, “what about livestock and animal agriculture?” to which Hamilton innocently (and seemingly obliviously) responds, “well, what about it? I mean —”. This is the lead-in to Cowspiracy’s general theme that environmental organizations are either clueless or hypocritically silent about livestock agriculture and the environment.
If the producers of Cowspiracy had showed up at a local Sierra Club meeting last week, instead of interviewing Hamilton, Cowspiracy might have taken a very different turn. Continue reading →
A growing economy is what almost everyone expects. But a growing economy is exactly what our system cannot honestly deliver, due to resource limits. This makes both business and political fraud much more likely.
Donald Trump’s unfortunately brilliant slogan, “Make America Great Again,” encapsulates this expectation of economic growth perfectly. It has brought this dishonest bully uncomfortably close to the levers of ultimate political power. But the natural resources to make the economy grow like we want it to just aren’t there. Our resource situation today is noticeably worse than it was just two decades ago, at the end of the twentieth century. Climate change is the most obvious environmental problem that we face, but others are waiting in the wings — peak oil, mass extinctions, deforestation, antibiotic resistance, the Zika virus, and others. Continue reading →
How much longer are we going to have to put up with the cowboys who have barged onto the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, armed to the teeth and making demands? The situation is both comic and frightening, and it is easy to lose sight of the basic problem, which is livestock agriculture. What we need to do now is to act compassionately and vigorously to protect the wildlife refuge itself. Let’s make the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge an actual wildlife refuge. This means enforcing the principle of law, but going further. We need to change the law and get the cattle out of Malheur completely. Continue reading →
This photo by Mike Hudak dramatically shows the impact of cattle ranching on the American West
Many people are now discussing the situation in rural Oregon, where a group of armed militants have taken over the headquarters of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The militants are supporting unlimited access of cattle ranchers to public lands and are apparently willing to use force. In an age where people snapping pictures of factory farms are accused of being “animal rights terrorists,” it is going to be interesting to see how the government will react to what seems to be the genuine article — actual terrorists with actual guns.
How can we deal with climate change, let alone peak oil, water shortages, deforestation, and everything else — given that truly effective environmental action would probably stop the economy from growing and totally change everyone’s lifestyle?
Our whole economy depends on fossil fuels, and our livestock-centered agricultural system is pillaging the earth’s biosphere. Veganism is surely part of the needed approach here. Continue reading →