Degrowth and Spirituality

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The society of degrowth is a shift to a different model of society where economic growth can be there but it is no longer the main goal of nations. It is a radically different paradigm that places human and nature, i.e Life, at the center of its concern.

It acknowledges the good things that economic systems based on economic growth have brought to human lives and conditions. But it also acknowledges its discontents, the many threats and crisis it has engendered.

Our current system has now sufficiently shown its limits regarding the three pillars of sustainable development: it is not sustainable socially, economically and environmentally. Even politically it is now sources of more and more tensions and threats to democracies.

The deconnexion from our spiritual essence

What about other concerns such as values? mindsets? beliefs?

Back in the days, religion used to be the major playor ruling these links between individuals within a same community.

Today, due to an economy based on competition, people are encouraged to be individualistic. Moreover, the waves of liberty that started in the late 60’s have valorised liberty in all the fields, including values, mindsets, beliefs. Little by little, people living in this unchained society have started to have no point of reference anymore; and everyone can arbitrarily choose his/her own depending on the social and cultural influences.

With the progress of science, religion started not to be an answer enough convincing. At the same time, it was more and more emptying its spiritual content, losing this way its core component. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a spiritual leader from India, says:

“Religion is the banana skin. Spirituality is the banana itself”.

So religion is only here to keep spirituality “fresh” and alive throught ceremonies and custom. But I feel like many religious people tend to focus only on these upper layers and to the functioning of their institution, thus forgetting spirituality.

I think all these factors are part of the reason why more and more people claim to be atheist. With religion on the sideline and few considerations to morals, people get embarked in the consumption society model and materialism seems to be a decent enough approach to rule one’s life.

In such an environment, spiritual aspects are totally out, yet it leaves people with a feeling of emptiness. Indeed, spirituality is not something you get out of your life that easily precisely because it is deeply linked to our human nature.

Consume? It makes people feel poorer and poorer instead and comfort them in a whole set of illusions. However this is what society as a whole is designed to make you do.

Recolonizing the minds

Do you understand where I am getting to?

Degrowth is more than a revolution in the way we want to organize our society. By putting Life at the center of its concern, it opens the big door of spirituality!

But what is spirituality?

You admire stars in the night? This is spirituality.

You admire a dog raising its little puppies? This is spirituality

You admire wonderful landcapes of trees and plants? This is spirituality

You admire the beauty of the human body? Spirituality!

All these non-activities have something in common: they address our very nature of being human on Earth.

Anytime you just keep quiet and reconnect to your own being, letting your mind go, feeling yourself alive, feeling the connections between you and the world, embracing the “wholiness”, it is spirituality.

Therefore not only is the project of degrowth to decolonize the minds from consumerism, but it is also to recolonize the minds with a sense spirituality, which is very different from religion. We don’t speak about common custom or ceremonies that don’t make a lot of sense to a lot of people nowadays. No, we are speaking about rebuilding core values, human values, Life values, common to everyone by nature.

Then it is up to every community to create its own new adapted custom, or renew the old ones, or just not to do anything, it doesn’t really matter as long as people live “enlightened”.

The first universal value that I believe comes out of spirituality is respect.

Respect yourself.
Respect people, whoever they are.
Respect all living things on Earth, animals and plants, they are all made out of the same matter, they deserve the same right to live good, to enjoy life on Earth as good as it can be.
Respect the Earth, it is house to Life, a miracle that goes way beyond our understanding.

Other values: Being tolerant, Caring, Empathic, Sharing, Contributing…

Willing to build a better world is acknowledging the spiritual part that goes with it by essence.

So this is my message here: degrowth and spirituality are two faces of the same coin. One necessarily goes with another, and conversely. Let’s show both the faces because I believe both of them are needed to build more peaceful and resilient society.

I know these topics can be quite new for many people, and this is precisely why I’m bringing them up. If there is anything that you would like me to develop, or anything you want to say about this post, please let us a comment!

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2 comments on “Degrowth and Spirituality
  1. Jaudon says:

    Le décroissantisme est une philosophie établie sur les fondements théoriques de la décroissance économique.

    Selon Jean-François Jaudon, cette philosophie contemporaine se définit par les trois postulats suivants :

    – la spiritualité peut lutter contre le pire des écueils des sociétés de type occidental, le consumérisme,
    – la recherche de solution politique aux problèmes écologiques a pour condition sine qua non la sortie de la société de consommation et de son corollaire, la croissance économique,
    – l’intensité du désordre de la fin de la société de consommation sera inversement proportionnelle au niveau de prise de conscience par les citoyens de cette fin.

    Le décroissantisme ou l’anticroissantisme constitue une véritable composante de l’altermondialisme.

    Agnostique, Jean-François Jaudon, né le 14 mars 1970 à Grenoble (France), est ingénieur de formation. Il a étudié le processus de transition économique du système communiste au système capitaliste à Budapest – Hongrie – après la chute du Mur de Berlin et a obtenu un diplôme de Mastère sur la transition économique. Il est l’initiateur de cette philosophie.

    Il est convaincu que les économies de type occidental entreront dans une économie de sobriété du fait de la rareté physique des énergies fossiles et ce , pour trois raisons :

    – en effet, les énergies fossiles sont non renouvelables à l’échelle humaine,
    – elles sont consommées par de plus en plus de sociétés,
    – 80 % de l’énergie utilisée dans le monde est de l’énergie fossile.

    D’autre part, l’économie de sobriété est salvatrice pour l’environnement. On parle pour utiliser un vocabulaire anthropologique de l’homofrugalis par opposition à l’homoconsuméris.

    Un exemple : l’Europe.

    Son empreinte écologique actuelle est deux fois supérieure à la moyenne admissible par la Terre. L’Europe dispose de technologies pour diminuer son empreinte écologique, mais dans des proportions plus modestes. La technologie n’est pas la solution aux problèmes écologiques : seule l’économie de sobriété est une solution. Cette société de sobriété sera marquée par la reconnaissance de l’initiative individuelle, notamment par le microcrédit, dans l’économie et la reconnaissance du collectif dans l’urbanisme et les transports.

    La transition de la société de consommation à une économie de sobriété passera par une période de décroissance. Son expérience de la transition économique dans les pays d’Europe Orientale lui a montré que pour éviter l’anomie lors de cette transition, les responsables politiques doivent planifier la décroissance économique, en faisant notamment prendre conscience aux citoyens de la finitude de la société de consommation.

    Enfin, il soutient la candidature de listes favorables à la décroissance pour les élections européennes de 2009 .

    Le décroissantisme ou anticroissantisme fait face à l’idéologie dominante de la croissance économique, appelée croissantisme, et se situe dans la tradition des philosophies orientales fondées sur l’être et non sur l’avoir.

    Il ne faut pas confondre décroissance et récession : la décroissance doit être planifiée alors que la récession est un cycle du capitalisme.

    Au-delà de la remise en cause de la croissance dans les pays riches, le décroissantisme est favorable à une prise de conscience par les citoyens des conséquences écologiques désastreuses et de la finitude de la société de consommation.

    Dans son livre Microcrédit et Maxiconso, Jean-François Jaudon parle de macro consommation.

    Cette philosophie reconnait l’empreinte écologique par habitant comme indicateur principal de développement d’un pays, prônant la croissance économique pour les pays dont l’empreinte écologique est inférieure à celle admissible par la Terre, et la décroissance économique pour les pays dont l’empreinte écologique est supérieure, sachant que le problème de l’effet de serre est lié au modèle économique occidental.

    L’empreinte écologique est un indicateur multidimensionnel : on parle de l’empreinte écologique d’un habitant, d’une ville, d’un pays, d’un continent.

    Le décroissantisme est favorable à la croissance économique des pays pauvres : Jean-François Jaudon évoque le paradoxe du décroissantisme.

    En tout état de cause, la technologie n’est pas une solution aux problèmes écologiques, en reconnaissant qu’elle peut diminuer l’empreinte écologique de certains pays dans des proportions sans commune mesure avec la problématique écologique, qui nécessite une baisse massive de l’empreinte écologique mondiale.

    Enfin, la légitimité donnée à la croissance économique dans les pays riches pour sortir de la pauvreté est un leurre : la sortie de la pauvreté dans les pays riches est une question de justice sociale et non de croissance économique.

    Dans un article du journal Politis n°1022 du 16 octobre 2008, Jean-François Jaudon, initiateur de cette philosophie, a parlé du décroissantisme comme suit :

    « la notion de décroissance est indissociable de la notion d’empreinte écologique. L’empreinte écologique est la part d’écosystème nécessaire au mode de vie d’un être humain. Ainsi, selon Serge Latouche, il faudrait l’équivalent de 8 écosystèmes planétaires si tous les êtres humains vivaient comme des Américains. Toujours selon Latouche, la Terre peut supporter ses hôtes à condition qu’ils vivent comme des Français dans les années 1960. C’est un indicateur intéressant. En tant que décroissantiste, je suis pour la croissance des économies du Burkina, du Vietnam, […], car ces pays ont une empreinte écologique inférieure à la moyenne admissible par la Terre. Je suis pour la décroissance des économies américaine, française, allemande, car ces pays ont une empreinte écologique supérieure à la même moyenne. Ces affirmations font partie de la philosophie décroissantiste. Le problème de l’éco-croissance est qu’elle ne remet pas en cause la société de consommation en mettant en exergue le développement durable (par exemple, les 4X4 avec moteur peu émetteur de CO2, autoroute avec crapauducs, etc.). La décroissance, elle, remet en cause le toujours plus vite, le toujours plus. Les êtres humains font ce qu’on leur a inculqué dans leur imaginaire : consommer plus, c’est « bon pour l’emploi ». […] Si, demain, les êtres humains des sociétés de consommation comprennent que la décroissance est nécessaire pour la sauvegarde de l’environnement et donc pour le monde de leurs enfants, ils feront des efforts. Serge Latouche parle de « décolonisation de l’imaginaire ». De toute façon, avec la pénurie de pétrole (80 % de l’énergie utilisée mondialement est fossile), les économies occidentales entreront en décroissance. Si les habitants en prennent conscience, le choc sera moins rude. Si nombre de pays ne « décollent » pas économiquement [ et donc, ne rentrent pas dans ce cycle de la croissance et dans le modèle de société de consommation ], l’aspect culturel est très important. La notion de croissance des économies est très nouvelle (apparue au XIXe siècle). Durant des milliers d’années, les pays ont vécu sans croissance. »

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  2. Jaudon says:

    The downshiftism is a philosophy established on the theoretical bases of the economic decrease. According to Jean-François Jaudon, this contemporary philosophy is defined by the three following postulates:
    – spirituality can fight against the worst of the pitfall of Western economy, the consumerism,
    – the search for political solution to the ecological problems has as a sine qua non indispensable condition the exit of its corollary and consumer society, the economic growth,
    – the intensity of the disorder of the end of the consumer society will be inversely proportional to the level of awakening by the citizens of this end.
    The downshiftism constitutes a true component of the altermondialism. Agnostic, Jean-François Jaudon, born on March 14th, 1970 in Grenoble (France), is engineer of training. He studied the economic transition process of the communist system to the capitalist system in Budapest – Hungary – after the fall of Berlin wall and obtained a diploma of Master’s degree on the economic transition. He is the initiator of this philosophy. It is convinced that the economies in Western type will enter in economy of sobriety because of physical scarcity of fossil energies and this, for three reasons:
    – indeed, fossil energies are nonrenewable on a human scale,
    – they are consumed by more and more companies,
    – 80% of the energy used in the world are fossil energy.
    In addition, the economy in sobriety is saving for the environment. One speaks to use an anthropological vocabulary of the homofrugalis in opposition to the homoconsuméris.
    An example: Europe. Its current ecological footprint is twice higher than the acceptable average by the Earth. Europe lays out of technologies to decrease its ecological footprint, but in more modest proportions. Technology is not the solution with the ecological problems: only the economy in sobriety is a solution.
    This economy of sobriety will be marked by the recognition of the individual initiative, in particular by the microloan, in the economy and the recognition of the collective in town planning and transport.
    The transition from the consumer society to an economy in sobriety will pass by one period of the reduction. Its experiment of the economic transition in the countries from Eastern Europe showed him that to avoid anomia at the time of this transition, the political officials must plan the economic decrease, while in particular making become aware with the citizens of the end of the consumer society. Lastly, it supports the candidature of lists favorable to the decrease for the European elections of 2009. The downshiftism coped with the dominant ideology of the economic growth, and is in the tradition of Eastern philosophies founded on the being and not on having it. One should not confuse decrease and recession: the decrease must be planned whereas the recession is a cycle of capitalism. Beyond the reconsideration of the growth in the rich countries, the downshiftism is favorable to an awakening by the citizens of the disastrous ecological consequences and the end of the consumer society. In his book Microloan and Maxiconso, Jean-François Jaudon speaks about macro consumption. This philosophy recognizes the ecological footprint per capita like principal indicator of development of a country, preaching the economic growth for the countries whose ecological footprint is lower than that acceptable by the Earth, and the economic decrease for the countries whose ecological footprint is higher, knowing that the problem of the greenhouse effect is related to the Western economic model.
    The ecological footprint is a multidimensional indicator: one speaks about the ecological footprint of an inhabitant, a city, a country, a continent. The downshiftism is favorable to the economic growth of the poor countries: Jean-François Jaudon evokes the paradox of the downshiftism. In any event, technology is not a solution with the ecological problems, by recognizing that it can decrease the ecological footprint of certain countries in proportions without common measurement with the ecological problems, which require a massive fall of the world ecological footprint. Lastly, the legitimacy given to the economic growth in the rich countries to leave poverty is a lure: the exit of poverty in the rich countries is a question of social justice and not of economic growth. In an article of the newspaper Politis n°1022 of October 16th, 2008, Jean-François Jaudon, initiator of this philosophy, spoke about the downshiftism as follows: “the concept of the reduction is indissociable concept of footprint ecological. The ecological footprint is the share of ecosystem necessary to the lifestyle of a human being. Thus, according to Serge Latouche, one would need the equivalent of 8 planetary ecosystems if all the human beings lived like Americans. Always according to Latouche, the Earth can support its hosts provided that they live like French in the years 1960. It is an interesting indicator.
    As a downshiftist, I am for the growth of the economies of Burkina Faso, of the Viêt – Nam, […], because these countries have an ecological footprint lower than the acceptable average by the Earth. I am for the decrease of the economies American, French, German, because these countries have an ecological footprint higher than the same average. These assertions are part of philosophy downshiftist. The problem of the éco-growth is that it does not call into question the consumer society by putting forward sustainable development (for example, 4X4 with engine not very transmitting CO2, motorway with frogducs, etc). The decrease, it, calls into question always more quickly, always more. The human beings do what one inculcated to them in their imaginary: to consume more, it is “good for employment”. […] If, tomorrow, the human beings of the consumer societies understand that the decrease is necessary for the safeguard of the environment and thus for the world of their children, they will make efforts. Serge Latouche speaks about “decolonisation about imaginary”. In any event, with the oil shortage (80% of energy used universally are fossil), the Western economies will enter in decrease. If the inhabitants become aware of it, the shock will be less hard. If many countries “do not take off” not economically [and thus, do not return in this cycle of the growth and the model of consumer society], the cultural aspect is very important. The concept of growth of the economies is very new (appeared at the 19th century). During thousands of years, the countries lived without growth. “

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About me
I'm passionate about sustainable lifestyles and urban agriculture. I believe that community-supported initiatives and bottom-up policies are key to foster necessary societal changes. I'm an advocate of degrowth, agro-ecology, sharing economy and participatory democracy. Based in Bratislava, Slovakia, I like learning, reading, writing, sharing, hiking, dancing, eating, and celebrating.
Nicolas Giroux
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