Over the past 50 years, humans have multiplied by 2, 4, 10 or more, their population, their physical possessions, and the flow of merchandises and energy they use. And humanity hopes that this growth will continue. Indeed, many people think that growth also allows providing the resources necessary for the protection and improvement of the environment. But, if the growth has been able to solve some problems, it can create others.
Our societies are over dependent from fossil energies, and meet the limits of our world. The exponential growth of demand has become synonymous with unnecessary destructive superfluous merchandises. The economy must obviously have some place in our societies, but just a small place. And unfortunately, economy has now taken the whole place; nevertheless, humanity cannot be at its service.
Besides, our species’ whole recorded history has taken place in the geological period called the Holocene – the brief interval stretching back 10,000 years. But our collective actions have brought us into uncharted territory in less than 250 years! A growing number of scientists think that we have entered a new geological epoch that needs a new name – the Anthropocene – which is an informal geologic chronological term for the proposed epoch that began when human activities and industrial revolution has had a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems.
Since the 1970s, the crisis is regularly at the center of all policies and all media discourses. The latest consequences of neoliberalism lead to austerity plans that reinforce social inequities. The “crisis” is the society of growth in its inability to imagine alternatives to the high productivity and capitalism, which are the causes of the crisis. ‘Sustainable degrowth’ is as a way out of social, economic and ecological crisis affecting our societies.
Sustainable development is a reformist ideology that does not call into question the principle of economic growth and maintains the hope that it is possible to reconcile capitalist accumulation, social justice and preserving the planet. Unfortunately since the 70s, despite the quality of analysis and the relevance of the proposals, discussions, reflections and practices do not lead to the desired reorientation. The Western model of society is unbearable as such, it is urgent to stop trying to export it to the rest of the world, especially into the third world societies.
On the other side, the technological options do get into a terribly uncertain territory. A new technological energy matrix is a rare invention in the history of mankind. And there is no guarantee that a new sustainable technology is about to appear. The scientists’ demiurgic fantasy faces the law of entropy. The end of the industrial era may be delayed as a result of technological change, but the technological miracle probably will not happen.
And finally, the trans-humanism, this performance-oriented Promethean project of creating a new man already exists. This reinvented man would be able to survive and thrive in a polluted and socially, environmentally degraded world. In the meantime, the techie drive that eats us out comes up with:
an outsourcing of our cognitive capacity in machines;
a way to prevent fears, loneliness and abandonment thanks to the network; and finally, technology fills the interstices of our existential doubts.
Ultimately, technology gives us hope to exceed our finitude and becomes the armed wing of our ancient desire to overcome god, and thus be in perfect control of our nature and of the Nature. Transhumanism gives humans the opportunity to outsource in the technique all that human feels to be disabilities. And the sordid religiosity of transhumanism is finally asked to keep us away from aging and to free us from death.
The increase in human capacity by the technique will be paid off with a decrease in our human power and a form of devitalization of the Human. This mutational jump of the humanity would be an outgrowth of the bio-evolution. But ethical and moral prudence of any emancipated individual remains widely questioned by such an approach leading humanity into unknown and dangerous territories.
This withdraw against humanity may already be on the verge of success. Meanwhile, the most visible and most tangible result is the transformation of the real world, the one in which we live, as a huge garbage dump.
Sustainable Degrowth, a Way Out of Crisis
The cost of the industrial miracle resides in the paradox of a model of civilization with so many favorable factors but nevertheless impossible to globalize without a bankruptcy at the scale of the planet:
- The dogma of consuming and producing of the northern hemisphere societies builds a soulless world without future;
- The crisis of the consumer model of the sole northern hemisphere, based on the utilization of desire thought by Edward Bernays generates a crisis at the planetary level;
- The impulsive behavior of speculators and consumers creates a logic of “throw-away”, short- term, and in the end, a massive disinvestment in the future.
Post financial crisis, the logic of the infinite “always more” has not yet provided a solution to the most basic human necessities. And it is unreasonable to mortgage the resources of future generations following an individualistic logic.
The essential bifurcation in entering the Anthropocene is the unsustainable profitability of expensive production machines, focusing on quantity rather than quality or durability of manufactured goods.
Due to the lack of ethics and generous intelligence in the implementation of great technical innovations and progress, we are witnessing fragmentations of a reality, unitarian in nature, economic and financial dysfunctions, and nuisances due to the dominant model.
Sustainable degrowth is presented as a way out of social, economic and ecological crises affecting our societies. It is based on a strong idea: economic growth is not a solution but a problem that must therefore cease to continue.
Sustainable degrowth means a tool of decolonization of the imaginary face to the religion of growth, whereas the economic crisis continues and many economists now recognize its permanent characteristic, in addition to the invariant improbable return to sustainable growth as solution.
This term, as opposed to ‘sustainable development’, is not easily recoverable, and not possibly reusable by the marketing, advertising, and communication of the society of growth. Temporary, the word ‘degrowth’ will persist as long as the religion of growth will continue to exist. ‘Degrowth’ is the word given to the transition from a society of growth, to a society without growth, to a post-growth society.
Talking about sustainable degrowth allows us to denounce the inconsistencies of growth and to question this particular ‘religion’. The aim consists of exploring and bringing limits, both individual and collective, to excess. That does not mean any negative growth, but an absence of growth, in leaving the religion of growth, in a sustainable manner. Because any slowdown is not decreasing, a slowdown in the 1/5th of humanity which consumes 4/5th of resources is necessary to enable an acceleration of the other 4/5th of humanity, in logic of sustainability.
Sustainable degrowth does not mean any decrease of all and for all, or a backward. Sustainable degrowth means that we recover the toxic religion of the economy, protect us from the fear of tomorrow, fear from the other. The goal is to build a society able to survive for many generations after us, which is sufficiently far-sighted, flexible and thoughtful to avoid weakening the physical and social systems that underlie our society.
Destructive, unjust and alienating. These are the charges against the growth. These criticisms are based on the core values of Western modernity: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Liberty has nothing to do with selfishness advocated by the proponents of economic liberalism. Furthermore, the concern for Equality aimed not only the current generation of human beings; it is extended to future generations and other living beings, animals in particular. Thus, this is an opportunity to embrace collectively within Fraternity, our own standards, our own laws. The desire to preserve ‘the love of the world’ is questioning the anthropocentric characteristic of Western modernity.
Because FreeMasons bring answers in the philosophical realm, apt to promote the awakening of Humanity, in response to freedom of conscience, we call upon the international community to radically leaving behind the models of societies based on growth only, regardless of political convictions, and to invent new paths for living together, in a true democracy, respectful of the values of equality and liberty, based on sharing and cooperating, and sufficiently simple, materially, to be durable.
CLIPSAS freemasons urge all Member States to promote from the start a new economic model avoiding the ‘error’ of our consumption-based model.
- Avoid enforcing a marketing that reinforces a uniform mode of life and thought process;
- Avoid the rise of an ultra-liberal system promoting the domination of short-term speculation
without ethical responsibility for the long term;
- Avoid globalization of a consumerist system that causes the enormous waste that everyone now
understands to be unsustainable;
Promote new models of economies of contribution against a financial capitalism turned
speculative and toxic, although still seductive.
A chosen sustainable degrowth, instead of an imposed negative growth, is the noble approach to revisit the notion of progress in order to allow a sustainable development that contributes to a sense of social solidarity.