The Racism of “De-Growth” or “Anti-Growth” Environmentalism

Sághalie Latlah

Sághalie Latlah

Sághalie Latlah is a pro-trade neoliberal technocrat and unapologetic globalist. Sooner or later, he will enrage you.

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    If global warming predictions turn out to be as accurate as the bad case scenarios, minorities will bear the burnt of that. Somehow I don’t think the developed North will deal will with hundreds of millions of climate change refugees.

    The best way to deal with the environment, and I realize this is impossible and not going to happen, is for the wealthy nations to subsidize the cleanest energy and green technology, in the least wealthy nations. That way the economy gets developed but the environment is saved.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      If global warming predictions turn out to be as accurate as the bad case scenarios…

      Last week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its draft environmental impact statement for reversing the Obama-era increase in CAFE standards. One of the basic assumptions in the analysis was a 3.8 °C increase in global temperature by 2100. The argument then followed that the reduction in CO2 emissions from requiring higher mileage was not enough to change that increase.

      3.8 °C is at the upper edge of the predictions for current policy (ie, promised reductions actually take place). It’s also enough that parts of at least Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh become uninhabitable for part of the year — the combination of heat and humidity is enough to keep the human body from maintaining a safe temperature.Report

      • Avatar Swami says:


        Are you saying that climate change science is now shifting to warmer day temperatures in the summer in hot climates? I was under the impression that virtually all the effects were to milder night temperatures in the winter in northern climates.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          Humidity is the main culprit. Wet bulb temperatures of 31 °C can be a serious problem for the elderly. Six hours of WBT at 35 °C is fatal for almost everyone. The 1995 heat wave around Chicago got near 30. The 2015 Pakistan/India heat wave touched 30 in a few locations (two or three thousand people died from heat stress). The highest ever officially recorded was 33.3 along the coast in Saudi Arabia. Someplace in Iraq had an unofficial reading that would have been 35 briefly, but there are reasons to not believe that one.Report

    • Avatar Swami says:

      I agree with the emphasis on clean energy technology. It probably is the best way forward, perhaps along with carbon mitigation/removal technology.

      That said, not sure how the majority of the global population is a “minority”?, nor do I agree that technological growth disproportionately harms those in developing nations. The benefits of growth and technological advance offset the effects of climate change by at least an order of magnitude. The developing world is the recipient of technology, science, and institutional learning created by developed nations and this is primarily a huge net positive.Report

  2. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Even as a self-described rabid leftist, I find much to agree with in this post.

    Which is sort of a point in itself.

    For the youngsters here, “environment” used to be as much a flash point between parties as #metoo or BLM is today.
    This was back in the days when smog was so bad that children had to stay indoors, and rivers so polluted that the river itself actually caught fire, and housing tracts were built atop toxic waste dumps.

    We don’t see much of that anymore. And this is because the environmentalists won for the most part. We live in a culture where it is unimaginable to just dump toxic waste in any field or stream, when everyone just accepts that cars come with all sorts of gadgets to reduce tailpipe emissions. These things aren’t controversial.

    So the only quibble I would have with the essay is the suggestion that this was a market phenomenon. It actually was the result of the market being hit with a 2×4 of regulation, after a long period of furious public debate and argument.

    And that quibble aside, the concept of some drastic reduction in global consumption is one of those abstract ideas that wouldn’t make it past the dorm room bull session stage intact.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      If the global warming science is right, the massive reduction in global consumption is coming one way or another. 4 degrees celsius of warming would do plenty on that front on its own.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Good piece, I agree in the main.

    I am though, skeptical of population growth predictions – they’ve been continuously revised downward my entire life. And I’m pretty sure the ‘trick’ for stabilizing population growth is pretty simple and non-intrusive – give women education and basic human rights. Birthrates take care of themselves after that in every country that has occured.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      This. Social policy change with regard to the rights of women (allowing them to be equal citizens) does more to slow the birth rate than anything else.Report

    • Avatar KenB says:

      That’s one correlation, there are others — I assume you’re not seeing that as a simple cause & effect relationship. Improvements in life expectancy, health care, & economic prospects also correlated, plus moving away from agrarian economy, etc.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Yes, correlation is not causation – but it is a pretty darn strong correlation. And if I’m not mistaken, even intra-country (i.e. in the US) there’s a very strong correlation for women between number of years of education and age of having your first baby (as well as total number of kids).Report

    • I totally agree. I have many fertility clients in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia and they don’t WANT big families. Many of them are facing very strong social pressure to stop at 2 (not as strong as my European clients face, but definitely more social pressure than Americans, that’s for sure.

      Obviously this is a group self-selected for affluence since they’re able to be online but I believe the trend towards smaller families even in “less developed” countries (is there a better way to phrase that?) is on the rise.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I largely agree with you but Lee also makes a good point. Even if the worst case scenarios for climate change don’t happen, climate change will have serious consequences for human life.

    Kevin Drum had the best description for climate change as a problem though when he called it the “ultimate grad student problem for hell.” The problem with climate change is a lot of the real damage will probably happen after everyone on this planet is dead.* So it is a slow moving and abstract problem. It is hard enough to get people to care enough about the world their children or grandchildren will inhabit. How do you do it with great or great-great grandchildren?

    That being said I think a lot of anti-growth activists are more of a bogeyman than they exist in reality and power. Maybe it is more skewed in Oregon.

    *The drought in Cape Town is really bad.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      I arrived in Cape Town in mid July….to pouring rain….it’d been raining for days…and it rained while I was there for another 48 hours….

      So much rain fell that local expected the water restrictions to be lifted anytime.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Not only will the effects of climate change take a long time to develop, but there is almost no relationship between who bears to cost of preventing climate change and who benefits from it, as the effects of climate change are so diffuse.

      I cannot imagine another problem that would be so hard for our political institutions to solve.Report

  5. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I dunno. Where I live, the “de-growth activists” barely exist and the “populist conservatives” run for office and win by promising to tear down wind farms (quixotic, no?) and get rid of emissions inspections and generally opposing any green technologies as being supposedly “anti-growth”. You might have a few politicians of that ilk in the states- not just in West Virginia and the White House! But I think liberals and economics majors are pretty united in thinking there are “market solutions” to most problems.Report

  6. I really enjoyed this, Andrew. Very thoughtful piece. Thanks for writing it.Report