More is more: Scaling political ecology within limits to growth

Erik Gómez-Baggethun responds to the article Is less more… or is more less? Scaling the political ecology of the future, where Paul Robbins (2019) discusses degrowth and modernism as two competing political imaginaries with regard to the growth-technology-environment nexus.

Arguing from the perspective of ecological economics, Gómez-Baggethun uses the literature on political ecology to discuss the notions of limits to growth, Malthusianism, austerity and scarcity, as well as the role of technology as both environmental problem and solution.

Gómez-Baggethun exposes key divergences between different traditions in political ecology with regard to technological and economic scale. First, against the argument that limits to growth is a mere social construct, he draws attention to research on ecological thresholds and to the perils of epistemic relativisms in a post-truth era.

Second, against the idea that limits represent an elitist discourse, he draws attention to long-standing traditions in emancipatory politics that defend limits in the name of justice.

Third, against the thesis that more is less, he refers to mounting empirical evidence indicating that more is more (growth brings more environmental destruction, not less).

Gómez-Baggethun contends that political ecology can have much to gain from engaging with the political utopia of degrowth, but far less so from the technological utopia of modernism, which, he argues, reinforces status quo and offers false solutions to the environmental challenges of our time. Emancipation, he claims, is not about bringing more to more, but about bringing enough to everyone.

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More is more: Scaling political ecology within limits to growth.

Published 30. January 2020 - 9:26 - Updated 26. March 2021 - 11:04