Life beyond growth

A note from the editor

Wayne Ellwood

I put in a new vegetable garden this year, ambitiously too big, I’m sure. But it feels good to watch the thin green shoots battle with the birds, the bugs and the hot sun. This is growth I can live with – productive and life-affirming. The other kind, the one that rules our economic lives, is more disturbing.

As the iconoclastic US writer Kenneth Boulding once quipped: ‘If you believe exponential growth can go on in a finite world, you’re either a madman or an economist.’

There are lots of people who understand that, at least implicitly. In my neighbourhood in downtown Toronto, our local park has become a laboratory for reclaiming public space, an alternative vision of the way the world could be. There are volunteer gardens, an outdoor bake oven, an organic farmers’ market and Friday night community suppers.

Like the enthusiasm for local food systems and ‘downshifting’, our park is a small part of the transition which is slowly emerging. Thousands of people are thinking creatively and building new lives with a smaller environmental footprint – a post-growth world in the making. You’ll find more examples in this issue.

You’ll find another kind of creativity in our ‘Southern Exposure’ photo feature as Bangladesh photographer Shahidul Alam uses his art to expose the impunity of the state’s notorious Rapid Action Battalion. Another feature from the New Economics Foundation (a terrific source of information on the need to challenge economic growth, by the way) looks at how to define and measure poverty accurately.

As with economic growth, you’ve got to measure what counts, not just count what you can measure.

Wayne Ellwood for the New Internationalist co-operative.

The big story

Eddie Keogh / Reuters

Nature's bottom line

Economic growth is an idea whose time has passed, argues Wayne Ellwood.

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Climate camp activists at Blackheath: ‘We recognize that the causes of climate change are systemic.’Toby Melville / Reuters

System change, not climate change

Jess Worth looks at how activists in Britain are broadening the climate change debate.

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‘Our land is not for sale’. Campesinos in Ecuador’s Intag Valley oppose foreign mining companies.MALCOLM ROGGE / AACRI

Coffee in the clouds

Roxana Olivera looks at local opposition to foreign mining companies in Ecuador.

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Oops, no brakes!

Oops, no brakes!

Without growth the economy collapses. What’s the solution? Rowenna Davis asked Oxfam’s Duncan Green and researcher Tim Jackson for their opinions.

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A smiling worker from Lehman Brothers hits the street minutes after the bankrupt company closed its doors, September 2008.Joshua Loft / Reuters

Workers of the world, relax

Slowing growth could help us work less, live better and save the planet. So what’s not to like about that, wonders Zoe Cormier.

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The front cover of a recent issue of the French anti-growth magazine, La Décroissance.

Vive la décroissance

Julio Godoy talks to French de-growth guru Serge Latouche.

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Brutish Petroleum

Brutish Petroleum

While the world focuses on its catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP is also coming under fire from Colombian workers

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Predators and scavengers

Predators and scavengers

Richard Swift on the nature of the human beast.

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Film, Book & Music Reviews