The challenges of voluntary de-growth
When discussing possible limits to human ecosystems, IIER is regularly meeting with individuals and organizations promoting actively planned and managed de-growth as a possible solution. This approach comes in various flavors. Some suggest an active reduction of rich countries' energy use and consumption, while others point out that there are too many people on our planet, and that we have to reduce or reverse population growth in order to prevent a collapse in the near future. Yet irrespective of individual focus, organizations promoting de-growth either suggest a path of voluntary reductions of consumption by individuals or wish for governments to act by mandating behavioral change or by establishing incentives to drive their de-growth objective.
IIER research suggests that all those de-growth approaches will not be successful at an aggregate societal level, at least not before reality enforces de-growth when economic expansion is no longer possible. Although small groups of people actually might sign up, societies as a whole likely won't. We see three key reasons for our skepticism: evolution, substitution effects and financial markets locked into a growth model.(Mar 24, 2010)