Analysis

‘We Demand a More Care-full World!’ & Other COVID Statements We Like

Garden snail, symbol of degrowth. Image: Jürgen Schoner via Wikimedia Commons.

Marisol Cortez

1. First up: “Reimagining the Future After the Corona Crisis,” a hot-off-the-presses open letter by New Roots for the Economy, written collaboratively by members of the international degrowth network and signed by over 70 organizations and 1,100+ scientists, artists, activists, academics from 66 countries (including a couple of my fave Latin American post-development political ecologists, Arturo Escobar and Alberto Acosta).

As described in a press release issued May 13, 2020, New Roots demands “a farewell to our economy’s growth dependency to avoid further crises”:

The crisis triggered by the novel coronavirus has already exposed many weaknesses of our growth-obsessed capitalist economy: insecurity for many, healthcare systems crippled by years of austerity and the undervaluation of essential professions. This system, rooted in the exploitation of people and nature, was considered normal – but this so-called ‘normality’ was already a crisis. For decades, the dominant strategies were to leave economic distribution largely to market forces and to reduce environmental degradation through decoupling and green growth. This has not worked, and it will not work in the future.

A key point that must be stated up front: economic crisis under duress is most definitely NOT degrowth, which is intentional and democratic. Also important to underscore: growth here refers to the profit logic of limitless economic expansion and NOT to population (always a foothold for ecofascist creep or other racist bullshit).

Open letter

2. Then there’s this statement, released by the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE), which offers an important precaution to those overeager to see an environmental silver lining (ergo, a green lining?) to the pandemic. (Note, though, that the numbers provided in this statement have already been eclipsed by the botched response of governments and the galloping virus itself, particularly in the global epicenter of the United States. Currently the count sits at 283,000 dead worldwide and 83,150 dead in the US).

At worst, celebrating the environmental benefits of a disease that disproportionately threatens the lives of Indigenous peoples and people of color echoes racist rhetoric that has long positioned people of color as environmental threats. It too easily affirms an ecofascist logic that positions humans as a virus. Ecofascism exploits fantasies of a purified land to assert white supremacy and purge the nation of ‘unclean’ people. Celebrations of suddenly clean environments risk the undertones of genocide. This historical moment is a reminder of the interdependency of humans and the world we inhabit differentially, and it is an occasion in which we must affirm the need for environmentally and socially just ways forward.

ASLE Statement on COVID-19

3. Last up is my personal favorite: “Collaborative Feminist Degrowth: Pandemic as an Opening for a Care-Full Radical Transformation,” released by the Degrowth and Feminism Alliance (FaDA). I’ve often thought that power within capitalist economies operates as the ability to act as though one were not embodied and ecologically embedded–because the labor of caring for embodiment falls to those laborers (women, people of color, immigrants, the earth itself) whose unpaid work of caring and cleaning and feeding reproduces life and makes wage labor possible. So, I love the way this statement makes the “provisioning” and “reproductive” economy central to any real post-COVID recovery:

Focusing on provisioning and the reproductive economy brings economics back to its core. The word economics comes from the Greek oikonomia, which means administration of the household. A feminist degrowth calls for restructuring our economy to shift the emphasis from the production of things to feed the growth imperative and endless desires, and towards the reproduction and provisioning of life and meeting needs.

And:

The pandemic offers an unprecedented, vital insight: the true, total interdependence of all humans on the biosphere. It reveals the interdependent and systemic way in which we must transform economies in the face of the growing climate and environmental emergencies to foreground care for humans and the environment. We need an economics based first and foremost in care, stewardship, cooperation, sharing, and commoning. For industrialized societies, this means vast resource and wealth redistribution, sweeping protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as degrowth, and decarbonization of the economy. This must include social and environmental justice that make up for centuries of coloniality and plunder.

Collective research notebook

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Interested in learning more about these approaches? Consider attending the free Degrowth Vienna 2020 Online Conference, held virtually from May 29-June 1, 2020.


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