This report is taken from chapter 7 of Green House's book The Post-Growth Project: How the End of Economic Growth Could Bring a Fairer and Happier Society published in 2014.
A post-growth world is inevitable. More technically, there is no evidence for the possibility of the absolute decoupling of economic growth and environmental degradation. The question is: will the post-growth world be unplanned or planned, catastrophic or benign?
In what follows we take it for granted that the era of economic growth that has dominated our political and social horizons for the last 250 years is coming to an end. The question for us is whether the inevitable transition to a post-growth world will be unplanned or planned, catastrophic or benign. We argue that certain conditions are necessary for the transition to be benign, sustainable and just. We need to work to ensure that those conditions are present now, and every departure from them, or every delay in securing them, will make it less likely that the transition will be benign, and more likely that it will be catastrophic. The economic crisis that began in 2008 is a powerful reminder of what happens when growth declines in a precipitate and unplanned way: ‘We know that simply contracting the economy plunges our societies into disarray, increases the rate of unemployment and hastens the demise of the health, social, educational, cultural and environmental projects that provide us with an indispensable minimal quality of life’ (Latouche, 2009: 8). The challenge that faces us is not to try to return to the status quo ante by pursuing policies for growth, which in the long term are doomed to fail1 , and in the short term result in growing levels of inequality and environmental degradation, but to plot a path to benign degrowth. That is what we aim to do here.