Beyond Growth Conference Highlights


By Mike Duff

This “Beyond Growth Conference Highlights” post is full of links to the various videos from the conference, which was held in Brussels last month.  As many of you will know, we are a Living Lab for the Research & Degrowth Association’s Masters Degree in Political Ecology, Degrowth and Environmental Justice, at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.  Last month, after a tonne of great work from many actors in the Post-Growth, Degrowth, Steady State Economics, so-called Circular Economy space, the Beyond Growth 2023 Conference took place in the European Parliament, including speeches, lectures and side-events from our colleagues and friends in Research & Degrowth International.  It is all available online to watch, so below, I have been collating a bunch of links, quotes and impressions from the Beyond Growth 2023 conference, which I sadly missed, as I was at a Dark Matter Labs gathering in the UK (which was also awesome though). I spent the subsequent weekend catching up on the conference plenaries and panels on YouTube though, whilst working at La Bruguera de Púbol.

Research & Degrowth Association retreat at La Bruguera in 2022

VIDEOS of the Conference:

You can catch the videos of ALL the sessions on the The Greens/EFA in the European Parliament YouTube channel, at the following link:

I cannot recommend watching these enough – the depth, breadth and diversity of speakers and ideas from the Degrowth, Post-Growth, Steady State, and Ecological Economics guest experts makes for riveting talks.There was a tremendous energy in the Hemicycle and the other chambers – it is a rare thing for so many people who have the planet, people and the idea of a fair distribution of resources in their hearts to come together in the EU Parliament.  The fact that every seat was still full at the end of each day compared to the half-empty half-asleep afternoons one sees on Parliament videos in the news was testament to the fact that these motivations are in our very beings, and drive us fundamentally as humans, I’d argue.  One presenter jokingly called the event the “Woodstock of Post Growth”. I can feel what motivated the attendees, even in the videos (and because I know many of them personally or as colleagues). But it is something WE ALL HAVE.  You don’t have to dig deep to find a love for nature, other people, and equality – we are all born with this and some people have just been educated otherwise, thanks to our highly-specialised, individually-focussed, business-is-war neoliberal capitalist culture. And I say culture intentionally as I am a firm believer that capitalism has become more than an economic system – it subsumed politics decades ago (thank you lobbyists and private sector donors), and it came for our culture in recent years. And tech-optimists, some blindly, some intentionally, continue enabling it with ever increasing technological efficiencies, which thanks to the Jevons Paradox/Rebound Effect, merely lead to greater overall consumption of resources. And with GDP as our measure of success, we believe this means we are on the right track, as the planet burns.


If you would like a critical view of the proceedings, do check out Stanley Pignal’s piece (“Charlemagne” at The Economist), which, frankly, sounds as if it was written during the reign of Charlemagne, and by someone who would believe that monarchy and empire are effective ways to ensure “development” for all people – it’s some of the most conservative opinion I’ve ever read in the Economist.  Not to mention it demonstrates a clear lack of background reading on post-growth economics, going so far as to equate Degrowth with a Recession, and confusing Degrowth and Post-Growth.  I know the media representing the dominant worldview doesn’t have to contend with actually doing their due diligence in a post-truth world anymore, but it is a shame to see The Economist get it so badly wrong about something that is about ECONOMICS (and more).

You can read Charlemagne’s article here:

You can read Timothée Parrique’s response here:

Beyond Growth Conference Highlights – some of the talks:

Tim’s talk is a great one, from the conference, a 10-minute blinder, with some great slides illustrating some of the key arguments against the realistic possibilities of Green Growth, and the need for Degrowth.  He ends with a question which gave me goosebumps:

“The fact is, rich countries today still look like see-saws, when GDP goes up, Nature goes down. The real question is: which one do YOU really want to save?”

Our R&D colleague Jason’s talk is another one available as a stand-alone vid on YouTube, and  is another 10 minute blinder, where he pulls no punches. In his lyrical and systemic style, he weaves the dimension of time into an examination of rich countries’ decarbonisation commitments, to debunk claims by EU representatives at the conference that Green Growth is possible, and highlights “the EU is not on track to meet its Paris Agreement targets, not even close”, illustrating that “even if the slowest decarbonising countries in the EU made it up to the speed of the best performing countries, the EU would still blow its share of the carbon budget, many times over. There is nothing green about this. It is a RECIPE FOR DISASTER”, he says “and relies on a constant plunder of the Global South”, “drains their economies of funds which could be used for development, colonises their land, and externalises the costs of economic growth to vulnerable communities”. On the optimistic side, he goes on to tell us about polls and surveys in many EU countries which overwhelmingly support “universal public services, more equality, an economy focussed on well being and ecology rather than growth”. He asks:

“Is there hope? Yes. But our hope can only ever be as strong as our struggle. So build the struggle. Focus on the future we need. A just and ecological economy for the 21st century.”

If you are not already familiar with the concept of Doughnut Economics, from Kate’s many brilliant talks, and the eponymous book, do check out her talk from the conference. She and the Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) have been fantastic in developing models for the private and public sector to apply economic thinking which attempts to “meet the needs of all people, within the limits of our shared planet”, which, of course, can never mean endless growth. Her Doughnut graphics in the talk for a range of countries across the “development” spectrum (Malawi, China, EU27, USA), are a great, quick way, to understand how different types of economies, at different stages of development, are at very different levels of progress regards to social metrics, and planetary overshoots / tipping points.

The President of the Club of Rome (authors of the Limits to Growth report our western world has been ignoring for 51 years now) gives a rising talk! “It is now very obvious that the idea of growth and democracy are inextricably linked. The discussion today comes a year ahead of major elections in the USA, the UK, the EU, and across these countries every major party will campaign about Economic Growth. They will all have their solutions to drive growth. The media will challenge them about whether they can foster growth. But the growth narrative never changes. We are all here to change that, and show that the Emperor, or the Empress, has no clothes.”

There are no words I could put here to do justice to the mighty Vandana Shiva. Just. Watch. And. Learn. And. Love.These are just a few from the 3 day conference, there were also great panels on:Understanding the Biophysical Limits to Growth:

Johan Rockström (at 23 minutes) does an incredible (and scary) presentation helping us understand that climatic tipping points  (including but in addition to CO2) are going to drive new growth paradigms.  “We are the dominating force of change on planet earth, the only place that can support civilization as we know it, and we are hitting the ceiling of biological processes which regulate life-supporting systems”. “Economic growth has only been possible with the subsidies of eroding life-supporting systems on earth.”Pathways from here: Roadmap for a Green and Social Deal:

Tim Jackson is SUCH a good speaker (goosebumps, if not tears) and is on at 23 minutes in this one, but the entire panel is GREAT, and it is worth watching right through to the end.  Youth Climate activist leaders Anuna De Wever Van der Heyden and Agata Meysner give AMAZING talks, and demonstrate how THEY ARE THE FUTURE and we must support young, brave activists NOW, before a teary farewell from

Macroeconomic Governance Frameworks:

Changing the Goal: From GDP growth to social prosperity:

Ann Pettifor (a heroine of mine!) is in this panel (at 26 minutes), called “The Power of Economic Models on Decision Making and Society at large”:


There are also some other summaries online, such as the one by Research & Degrowth International, here:

Another one by Teemu Koskimaki here:

#degrowth #postgrowth #goodgrowth #socialprosperity #prosperitywithoutgrowth #neweconomics #ecologicaleconomics

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