growth | edit

Intergenerational equity, Dematerialization, Sustainable development, Scarcity, Degrowth.

For me, growth in a finite world is pure utopia. And even if it could be possible, why on Earth do we want to waste energy, resources and consume more than we could, need? Selfishness is a virtue developed by modern society and for-profit corporation to compensate for the natural goodwill in each of us. Anybody is able of compassion towards other, towards nature.

Intergenerational equity

Most of us are lucky enough to live in a country where we can walk freely in the street, buy what inspires us, study what excites us or even start a family in his image, according to his criteria. However, are we measuring this chance correctly?

Measuring your luck by vague ideas of physical, economic or cultural freedom should not be done in this way. How many times have I heard colleagues tell me that we are not in a country at war, that life is good? Nothing more true. However, this is only part of the equation that is considered. Even if war is not raging in your country, even though the free market allows you all the follies and even if you don't have the problems of third world countries, that does not mean that you have to live like s. 'there was no tomorrow, as if another reality did not exist at the same time.

To measure one's luck is to reconsider one's life within the whole of Humanity. So why would people favor a life without structure when they consider themselves lucky? Why not take the opportunity of glut of possibilities and materials to turn it into a life that is simpler and less predatory of the other Earth citizens that we all share?

It seems to me that even if the environmental, social, cultural, political and economic problems were only the inventions of the ill-intentioned few, it would be only the least thing to think of the next one, that he lives in another country. less developed or born in 50 years in the same city as you.

This is the principle of intergenerational equity.


« Face au constat environnemental actuel et à la difficulté du système économique à considérer l’environnement, la dématérialisation de l’économie s’impose comme une alternative. C’est en découplant la création de richesse avec l’utilisation de matière qu’il est possible pour l’entreprise de concilier augmentation du profit et diminution de la pollution. »
L’économie de fonctionnalité, un modèle pour le développement durable

Too often, I read articles on the dematerialization of the economy as if it were an obvious solution. However, I highly doubt it.

As some works (such as The Conundrum by David Owen) have illustrated, reducing resource use per unit of output does not automatically mean reducing overall resource use. A fuel-efficient car allows its owner to cover a mile using a reduced portion of fuel, but the other part of the equation should not be forgotten: the number of miles driven may be greater. for this same owner. And if this type of vehicle becomes more democratic, then the use of the resource, oil, will not have decreased in totality, but only per kilometer. Yes, each of these kilometers is efficiently covered, but you always have to come back to the global situation.

A paperless economy would ultimately reduce pollution from packaging, post-consumer waste, required transportation and more, but, again, that's only part of the equation. In a more efficient economy, the number of consumers will undoubtedly tend to increase. Thus, the use of resources will also tend to increase. Each unit of consumption will be more efficient, but the whole situation will put pressure on the limited resources available on the planet. Whether we are 50 billion or only 20 inhabitants, the non-renewable resources on which we rely do not change.

Thus, for me, dematerialization will only force a different use of resources and in no way regulate the fact that we will consume them until exhaustion.

Degrowth is a term that comes up often and which refers rather to the reduction of what we consume (as opposed to dematerialization which rather refers to a change in the way we consume, without implicitly including the reduction). Thus, decreasing is rather badly perceived and interpreted by a majority, it is, for some, positioning the health of the planet before the human being. Swapping your car for a bike, reducing your meat consumption, returning to a more down-to-earth way of life, making long-term choices, this is undoubtedly not accepted by everyone, but sometimes the simple fact of no longer depending on oil to move around refers to degrowth.

Ultimately, the decrease also includes a limit on population growth or a pure reduction in the overall population. Theoretically, if 7 billion individuals consume for x units of resources, apply to them a decrease in the consumption of each of these individuals as well as a decrease in the number y of individuals, then the sum will probably be less.

However, we are a long way from resolving the problem.

Sustainable development

Having difficulty having my courses in sustainable development recognized within a company, I decided to write a document in order to make known my reasons.

To continue our last discussion on the sustainability certificate that I want to complete, I thought about the breadth of how this can help the business be successful and how it can help me grow as an employee. At first glance, this does not appear to be in line with the business of the company.

Perhaps we should consider that sustainable development is not just about the environment. Rather, it is based on three components: the environmental dimension, the social dimension and the economic dimension. All of these 3 dimensions can help me be successful in my job and help Canada Post provide more information.

  1. The environmental dimension concerns all the challenges we face in preserving and improving what surrounds us in the long term. In my opinion, individual citizens and businesses have a responsibility to reduce their impact and use. All organizations are confronted with public opinion and the environment is one of the main public relations issues in the years to come. Within our company, I firmly believe that changes come from the bottom of the structure. Giving decision-making power to employees with regard to the environment will probably be a priority topic in the near future, here, but also in all organizations. From small behavioral changes to huge structural restructuring with a sustainable future in mind will help us set ourselves apart from the competition.
  2. The social dimension is more about meeting human needs in terms of equity, inclusion, health, employment and culture, all that a society like ours can provide to its members. employees using actual and future resources. The change in our culture in recent years reflects the fact that we have started to see our people as a valuable resource and to stop focusing on mail only. This means more open supervision, a more solution-oriented work environment and person-based development.
  3. The economic dimension is in accordance with the objectives of each company, developing economic growth and efficiency, but adding sustainable production and consumption patterns. The recent streamlining of our operations (the five-year plan of December 2013) is a start of the direction we need to aim to ensure sustainable operations and good public opinion. Again, developing employees around a primary goal to create a lasting structure is all that the business needs to continue for years to come and stand out from the competition.

A few years ago I started a certificate in economics because it was an area of ​​study I was curious about, but in all of my research I found that the moral aspect of the economy was absent. Then the social orientation of sustainable development stimulated me. I did a few courses on this last subject, which opened my horizons on what is really possible in economics. There are more than rough rules from Adam Smith's invisible hand, there are our people who have needs, not only about their work schedule, but also what we can do collectively to aim for a future. better.

We have this line on “If we care, they will care”. I think that's all it is about.


The book Objecteurs de croissance by Serge Mongeau is a work which aims to be critical of sustainable development while being critical of the prevailing economic vision nowadays.

Somewhere in the book there is a distinction between scarcity of resources and limited resources. Economists often mention the principle of scarcity. This principle does not refer to natural resources as such, but rather to available resources, those which have been transformed by human beings. The distinction is great. Oil can be buried in the ground to meet the “needs” of consumers for millennia, but the accessible and processed portion of oil, the one that can end up in a car's fuel tank, is much rarer. So, economics does not say that resources are limited, but rare because our needs exceed the means we have to meet them, even if the resources are indeed limited in terms of quantity in the soil.

Anthropologist Marshall Sahlins mentions that “rerety is not an intrinsic property of technical means. It arises from the relationship between means and ends. ”

Just like a company which manufactures a good x and which limits its distribution to create a scarcity effect, the oil industry mirrors stocks that are difficult to reach in the short term in order to put downward pressure on supply, while speaking from the other side of the mouth by mentioning that these same stocks will be able to be accessed with the help of technological evolution in the near future, in order to guarantee the sustainability of their industry in the long term.

This therefore refers to a kind of game with the meaning of words to counterbalance supply with demand and thus play the game of the "free-market" economy.


Below is a translation of pages 38 to 40 from the document Faisons les comptes! written for Journées québécoises de la solidarité internationale by Fabien Leboeuf in 2012 on the subject of economic decline. I find this extract totally adequate and neutral.

For the supporters of economic decline, we are living in a development crisis. This school of thought completely rejects the current economy based on unlimited economic growth and technological progress. He proposes to initiate a process of economic decline and the adoption of voluntary simplicity. He readily quotes Ghandi: “The world is sufficient to meet the needs of all, but it is too small to satisfy the greed of a few. - Live just so that others can just live. "

The decrease

The word degrowth is intentionally provocative to shake up people's minds. Its supporters define themselves as "growth objectors": the economy should never have the last word. It is fundamental for them to recognize that the ecological footprint left by the growth economy has reached a threshold where even sustainable growth or development is no longer viable. The future of humanity would depend on lasting degrowth. This idea rests on two pillars: a negative assessment of the consequences of the ideology and economics of unlimited growth, and a theoretical critique of this unlimited growth.

Taking growth into account

For degrowth advocates, the fruits of the growth economy are rotten.

The economic theory

The concept of economic degrowth is generally attributed to a Romanian economist who emigrated to the United States, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen. As early as 1971 he used in economics the scientific concepts of thermodynamics and entropy, and notions of biology. For him, biology reveals the true nature of the economic process, which is an extension of evolution, and physics shows that natural resources are irrevocably depleted. The frantic race for productivity and growth of industrial society, whatever the political system that underlies it: liberal, socialist, etc., is leading to its demise. The economy must change its vision and organize degrowth to reach a state of equilibrium allowing the renewal of resources.

At the same time, in 1970 the Club of Rome commissioned researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study the planetary consequences of economic and industrial policies. In the study published in 1972 under the title Stop Growth? - Limits to Growth Report, the researchers perform a computer simulation of the interaction of five major trends in current societies: accelerated industrialization, rapid population growth, food production, depletion of non-renewable resources, and deterioration of 'environment. They arrive at the following conclusions: (i) the limits to growth on Earth will be reached over the next hundred years, the likely result being a sudden and uncontrolled decline in population and industrial capacity; (ii) it is possible to change these trends and establish a stable equilibrium situation that will be sustainable into the distant future, provided that we act now.

Some advocates of degrowth do not absolutely reject the notions of technology and progress, but the idea of ​​indefinite progress that does not take into account the finiteness of the Earth. Moreover, they do not believe that technological progress can solve the problems within the framework of the growth economy.

What does the growth offer?

It does not offer an alternative that can be applied everywhere, the very idea of ​​a universal system going for the decreasing ones against human development, which implies respect for cultures and identities. Rather, we invite (i) to have recourse to imagination and creativity to give birth to a proliferation of local degrowth initiatives, and (ii) to organize the sharing of knowledge and experiences. Collectively, the basic proposition of degrowth is the "relocation" of the economy, or its "location": to produce and consume in communities the goods and services they need for their development. The ecovillage and the maintenance of localized peasant agriculture are good examples. The degrowth movement sees itself as a matrix, as an incubator of degrowth communities.

At the individual level, degrowth offers voluntary simplicity, or even "frugal abundance". It's not about living less, it's about living better, with fewer goods and more connections. Sustainable degrowth is a means of seeking a higher quality of life.

Degrowth is a proposition aimed primarily at the North, even though the proliferation of degrowth initiatives has come and continues to come in part from the South. The South obviously needs to develop economically. But to impose the northern model on him would only make his situation worse. It is not about leaving the South to its fate; it is about not imposing "our" plans on him under the pretext of helping him. The North must "give back" to it what it has historically taken from it and respect what it chooses to do with it.

Interesting reading: Richard Heinberg wrote Climate Change Isn’t Our Biggest Environmental Problem, and Why Technology Won’t Save Us about how the modern dialog shifted from using way to much resource to climate changes, allowing corporations to act like normal and pretend technology can fix the problem.