Post growth (also known as post-growth) is an overarching approach to global futures that looks to proactively respond to the limits-to-growth dilemma. The limits-to-growth dilemma refers to the fact that, on a planet of finite resources, economies and populations cannot grow infinitely.
The foundational points that connect “post growth” perspectives are:
- Acknowledging limits to economic and population growth.
- Recognising that, due to these limits, it is necessary to embrace shifting beyond economic growth as a goal.
- Shifting focus from current metrics of success such as GDP to new ones such as GNH (Gross national happiness), the Happy Planet Index, and/or other well-being indices.
- Using wisdom gained in the growth-based economic era (and before it) in order to transcend to sustainable futures.
- Thinking and acting according to values of cooperation, sharing, social justice and ecological stewardship, on local as well as global levels.
The term “post growth” acknowledges that economic growth can generate beneficial effects up to a point but beyond that point (cited as $25,000 GDP/capita by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better), it is necessary to look to other indicators and techniques to increase wellbeing.
Post-growth can be distinguished from similar movements (such as de-growth, steady state economics, post materialism) in that it focuses on acknowledging, supporting and building on the sustainable initiatives, systems and products that are already in place. Post growth advocates try to encourage, connect and further develop these existing ideas and actions. In this way, "post growth" does not specify the answer to the limits-to-growth challenge, as “steady state economics” and “degrowth” do, but rather seek to understand and address this challenge from a complex systems perspective that is constantly evolving. With this holistic complex systems approach, post growth deals with all aspects of self and society (such as psychology, human nature, human evolution, cultures, social systems and economies) and the interrelation of all of these aspects. Accordingly, the post growth concept also advocates solutions that are appropriate with regards to place, time, resource and cultural factors. Therefore, post growth initiatives take shape in very different ways under different circumstances.
Post growth can be considered an asset-based approach to community development, applied not only to community development but across a wide range of categories and in response to limits-to-growth challenges, as it seeks to build on the cultural and technological assets that already exist and are facilitating the emergence of post growth futures.
Post growth initiatives
A main concept present in the post growth movement is that there is not one post growth future, but a diverse range of post growth futures that can unfold simultaneously.
“Just as there are many ways of living now in a growth-oriented society, a multitude of post growth futures are possible and many ways of living post growth already exist today. What these futures hold in common is a desire to separate good growth from bad, and to develop human potential and happiness within, and in relation to, a physically finite earth. A post growth economy puts life and everything needed to maintain it at the center of economic and social activity as opposed to the never-ending accumulation of money, and the pursuit of growth of all kinds without regard for its consequences.”- Post Growth Institute’s website.
There is an increasing number of post-growth-oriented initiatives that are emerging in order to create prosperity in locally resilient, self-sufficient ways. Often these initiatives have come about as a response to sustainability issues. One example of a post growth initiative is the Transition Movement, which seeks to create local resiliency in the context of peak oil and climate change (Transition Network). Voluntary simplicity (also known as simple living) and downshifting are also growing trends that can be considered post growth. The Quakers are a good example of how voluntary simplicity can be put into practice (see the Testimony of Simplicity). Post growth ideas and actions are gaining international attention in the mainstream media, as The Guardian and Treehugger both featured articles about the post growth movement in 2012.
Free Money Day is an annual, global post growth event, in which people give away money to strangers as a way of sparking dialogues and critical thinking about money, peoples' relationships with money, and the value of economics based on sharing.
In 2012, the Post Growth Institute released the (En)Rich List, a parody of the Forbes List of Billionaires that aimed to highlight influential post growth thinkers “whose collective contributions enrich paths to sustainable futures”.
There are many other organizations worldwide that are dealing explicitly with ideas about how to move beyond the growth-centered paradigm. These include: the Post Growth Institute; the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy; the Center for a New American Dream; the Danish Degrowth Network; Degrowth Vancouver; the Donella Meadows Institute; Growthbusters; Gund Institute for Ecological Economics; the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society; the International Society for Ecological Economics; Mouvement Quebecois pour une Decroissance Conviviale; New Economics Foundation; New Economics Institute; the Population Institute; Population Media Center; the Post Carbon Institute; Research and Degrowth; the Simplicity Institute; Transition Culture (Transition Towns); and Via Campesina.
- Post Growth Institute. "About Post Growth". Post Growth Institute Website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- Meadows, Donella; Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows (2004). Limits to Growth- The 30 Year Update. London: Earthscan. pp. 5–14. ISBN 978-1931498852. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- Daly, Herman (1996). Beyond Growth: the economics of sustainable development. Washington D.C.: Beacon Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780807047088.
- Jackson, Tim (2009). Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. Sustainable Development Commission. pp. 3–11. ISBN 9781844078943.
- Wilkinson, Richard; Kate Pickett (2010). The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. London: Penguin Books. p. 8. ISBN 9781846140396.
- Maclurcan, Donnie (9 July 2012). "Post Growth Futures Are Already Here". Treehugger. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- Jacobs, Sherelle (19 September 2012). "Germany's 'post growth' movement". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- New, Catherine (14 September 2012). "Free Money Day: On Lehman Brothers' Death Anniversary, Activists Pay It Forward". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- Post Growth Institute. "The (En)Rich List". The (En)Rich List. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- Post Growth Institute. "Forums and Groups". Post Growth Institute Website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.