After Venice. What prospects for the degrowth movement

Two hundred and sixty-five people (the maximum allowed by the capacity of the classrooms made available by the Faculty of Architecture of the Iuav University of Venice), of all ages and geographical origins, engaged for three days in four plenaries, divided into fifteen discussion groups on topics specifications (from agroecology to transformative economies, from ecomarxism to democracy of the Earth, from international cooperation to peace and nonviolence, from pedagogy to spirituality), well prepared by basic documents and bibliographies, indicate the existence of a widespread interest around to the theme of degrowth.

And they mark the success of the meeting “Degrowth, if not now when?” which took place in Venice from 7 to 9 September organized by the two associations that deal with degrowth in Italy and by the network of the economy in solidarity with the associated local Aeres. An appointment attended by speakers Vandana Shiva, Amalia Perez Orozco, Viviana Asara, Deborah Lucchetti, Silvia Galassi, Alice dal Gobbo, Lorenzo Velotti, Carlo Modenesi, Jean Louis Allion, Rocco Altieri, Luigi Pellizzoni, Emanuele Leonardi and, remotely, Serge Latouche, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Timothée Parrique, Jason Hikel, Silvia Federici.

But to understand if the meeting also constitutes a step forward in the capacity for analysis and proposal of the movement for degrowth, it will still take some time, necessary to allow the speeches heard here to settle in the associative realities present.

But something can already be said. First of all, the confirmation that the thought of degrowth – that choice, desired and programmed – has come down from the limbo of (only) ideas (cosmovisions) and is being embodied in recognizable practices and policies, as demonstrated by the group’s reflections. The embodegrowth labtranslated into Italian from International degrowth group.

This helps to make people understand “What is degrowth today”, as the title of the latest book by Kallis states, Paulson, D’Alasia, Demaria (Edizioni Ambiente), presented in Venice. Some insights, especially in the field of agroecology, energy, health, education and territorial planning, tell us that the road would already be well marked, just to want to take it. Thus, the link between ecological transition and transformation of social power relations emerges overwhelmingly.

Degrowth – the opposite of recession and impoverishment – is intrinsically democratic (“Earth Democracy”), for the simple reason that it is synonymous with sharing, equitable access to common goods and (responsible and sustainable) use of resources natural. In short, once again, it became clear that the ecological and social dimensions are not separable. Capitalism (in different historical and local forms) imposes its totalizing ethics (competition, exploitation, greed and so on) and its “ecological regime” (devastation and artificialization of the living space through bio-geoengineering). Hence the great concern that the “ecological turning point” announced several times (for fifty years, in UN summits and in climate conferences) by the European Commission and governments is actually a simple pretext, a picklock, to trigger – for plus, with public money – a new cycle of growth of profits, accumulation, production of consumer goods. Beyond the simple greenwashingthe commodification and financialization of nature.

The Venice meeting also caught a novelty in the international political debate with the emergence of an updated ecosocialism (from James O’Connor to Bellamy Foster to Jason Moore) which could facilitate the hoped-for process of convergence between social and social movements. environmentalists. Jason Hickel’s works (“We still have time! How a new economy can save the Pineta “Il Saggiatore) open the challenge of degrowth directly to the heart of economic and monetary policies.

The presence at the Venice meeting of activists of the peasant, workers, economy and solidarity trade movements, together with the promoters of the Italian convergence of the Society of care, give good hope for possible developments. Of course, the word degrowth still arouses reservations and misunderstandings in many movements that are also fighting for a “dignified life” (buen vivir). It is therefore a question of weaving convergent relationships between those engaged in the construction of a non-violent, decolonized, depatriarcalized, non-speciesist, decarbonized and, first of all, demilitarized society. The drama of war, together with that of emigration, has crossed every discussion table. And here, more evident, the limits and the inadequacy of the responses in place emerged. But all and all the speakers agreed that we cannot afford pessimism.

There was no shortage of ideas on how to continue the meeting in Venice, starting to open up to anyone who wants to participate and to make permanent the fifteen discussion groups already started. Those interested can find all the materials, including video recordings of the meetings, on the site

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After Venice. What prospects for the degrowth movement