Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Ecosocialism and degrowth folly

By David McMullen - posted Tuesday, 2 July 2024

Ecosocialism has become all the rage among quite a few "left" sects. They believe that we need to degrow the economy to some much lower steady state if we are to reduce greenhouse emissions and save the biosphere, and that this cannot be achieved under capitalism with its drive to accumulate.

This "success" is remarkable given that the whole idea is so obviously and totally at odds with reality. Let's be clear. Capitalism is not going to be overthrown and replaced in any relevant timeframe. The only alternative - communism - will not happen without considerable growth. So if we really need degrowth to save the planet, then we are stuffed and there is nothing to be done.

Decoupling technofix is the way to go


The more fruitful option is to concentrate one's efforts on prodding the present system to do a far better job of decoupling our increasing economic activity from undesirable environmental impacts. In part this means working for a much quicker pace of technofix. The biggest present failing here is the far too low government funding of relevant research and development, and of the demonstration and initial deployment of new "clean" technologies. The shackles imposed on nuclear power are another problem. As for the conversion of rainforests and other natural areas to other land uses, this is not something that capitalism actually requires, so, there is scope for an evidence and results based environment movement to make a big difference.

Despite poor funding the amount of innovation in the last decade has been remarkable. So, better resourcing is bound to bring faster and better results. Renewable energy has made considerable progress. There have been some major breakthroughs in enhanced geothermal energy technology. Plant-based meat alternatives plus cultured meat promise to reduce land and water use with all its problems. Precision farming and genetic engineering can reduce emissions from crop growing. Progress is being made in developing "green" cement, steel and aluminum. And now that we started looking, we have discovered that hydrogen in its elemental state does indeed exist in vast quantities under our feet.

Degrowthers are not impressed. They have three objections. (1) Technofixes just create new and probably bigger problems. (2) Even if you reduce environmental impact to a satisfactory level at present output, growth will eventually increase that impact back up to a damaging level. (3) Decoupling is too slow given the urgency of achieving zero emissions and protecting the biosphere.

Does technofix just create new problems?

Bagging nuclear power and genetic engineering are always top of the list when talking about the dire effects of technofix. It is appalling how this stuff is quite mainstream, particularly in Europe.

There is nothing about the new technologies that would overall make them more dangerously extractive compared with those that have been with us for some time. Besides, we should expect cleaner methods and practices.


Reducing land use seems quite manageable. Land saving technologies in agriculture and human settlement are progressing quite nicely. Renewables are more land intensive than fossil fuel power. Nuclear and geothermal take up little land. Hydrogen distribution presumably would have a similar impact as fossil fuel distribution.

In the case of water use, we would expect to see considerable reductions as a result of the new technologies in agriculture, industry and domestic consumption.

With both land and water use, you then just have to ensure that the bulk of resources freed up go back to nature rather than some new human use.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

6 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

David McMullen lives in Melbourne and can be found at Simply Marxism. Follow him on Twitter at @dfmcmullen.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by David McMullen

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of David McMullen
Article Tools
Comment 6 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy