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Degrowth, a policy that divides environmentalists


It is a word that frightens and is not necessarily well understood. The concept of degrowth is the surprise guest of the “sobriety plan advocated by Emmanuel Macron to contain the consequences of the energy crisis. For a long time confined to the political margins of radical ecology, degrowth is increasingly mobilized by part of Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV). As part of the party congress, which is to be held at the end of 2022, a group of ecologists, including the deputy mayor of Paris David Belliard and several other elected officials from the capital, even claim to be of the “popular decline”.

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Opportunism or real conviction? The fact is noteworthy. During the 2021 environmental primary, only Delphine Batho, a non-member of EELV and president of Génération Ecologie, claimed “decreasing”. Now, many ecologists join it.

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Problem: the concept is a fuzzy and complex notion. Its defenders recognize the difficulty of giving a clear definition: “The word itself is not without its problems: it is struck by an irremediable ambiguity, writes Serge Latouche in his little book The decrease (What do I know?, 2019). (…) It can be understood in a literal sense, that of an inversion of the GDP growth curve, this fetish statistical index supposed to measure wealth; or in a symbolic sense: to decrease is to get out of the ideology of growth, therefore of productivism. »

“Sober growth does not exist”

Former national secretary of EELV and a kind of organic intellectual of the party, David Cormand has just published What we are, ecological benchmarks (Early mornings, 240 p., 18 euros). The author certainly advocates “get out of the cult of growth”, but the word “degrowth” is not used in the chapter devoted to the question. Yet, according to him, this notion remains “a standard of political ecology”. He adds : “This is what differentiates us from the start and has earned us criticism from the left and the right. For them, growth is access to abundance, and abundance is the key to freedom. But on a planet where resources are finite, that’s an untenable promise. »

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This perpetual search for economic growth is, for the decrements, an impossible and harmful quest. Degrowth is therefore seen by some, including Delphine Batho, as the only watchword “effective and relevant” in a situation of” collapse “. “The voluntary reduction of the consumption of energy and raw materials organized and democratically decided is the only way outaccording to her. Sober growth does not exist. The government is undergoing events that it did not anticipate. »

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