The OnePlanet team shares their thoughts:

As we look for new ways of thinking in challenging climate change, Tash got the OnePlanet team to think about the question “has economics made ‘growth’ into a dirty word?

Tash - Customer Success Consultant

It’s no revelation that growth of capital has come at the cost of a depletion of resources, the gross exploitation of people and irreversible damage to natural systems. The way I see it, too much value has been placed by those in power upon economic growth, and too little on the truly valuable – the invaluable – things on our planet. 

The idea of continual growth whilst living on a resource finite planet is nonsensical… unless we are also talking about a balance being found within a changing system. However, what is frequently referred to as growth is a process of inherently having more than before. This takes far too narrow of a view. 

It’s not that there should be no growth. Like nature, we should be converting, growing, decaying, moving material around different systems, and changing flexibly with the times. Within this process growth is working within a cyclical system and is as dependent on the other components as they are upon it.   

Is growth a dirty word? It should only be that. The kind of growth we need is that which is dirty, from the soil, coming with its rich cacophony of forms of life, a changing state of materials, all made possible through decay and regeneration. 

Pete - Community Partners Lead

As you allude to above, labelling growth as a dirty word would be a mistake as it depends entirely on what is being referred to. Growth of what? We’ve made this mistake with regards to profit and money, and many people think these are dirty words too, but again it depends how the money is used and how profit is defined, i.e. where profit includes the wellbeing of people and planet it becomes something that can drive social and environmental progress – profit for purpose.  

Growth of GNH instead of GDP, of wellbeing instead of financial wealth, of soil, air and water quality instead of our possessions, of the nutrition within our food instead of intensive farming; could all be seen as positive references to growth, where these become metrics of a society we’re aspiring to and that have the capability of sustaining and nourishing us on a myriad of levels. 

Ben - Head of Customer Success

Growth is another word like, market or hedge, that used to be an innocent description of our world but has been co-opted by our economic system to mean something specific – the increase in GDP. We know that GDP growth is driven by everything that is wrong with our system – and so must be curtailed is we are to have any chance of address our poly-crisis of health, climate and nature disasters.  

Conversely almost every other form of growth; personal, spiritual, ecological and cultural, should be nurtured and enhanced. 

Pooran Desai - Founder Comany

Pooran - CEO

We need to see life as a process of growth and degrowthWe need to grow in community spiritedness and health, and degrow our consumption of resources.  Certainly our obsession with GDP growth is massively problematic.   

Niamh - Customer Success Consultant

I very much echo what my colleagues have said above. I always found the analogy of growth in the biological world a useful one. In the biological world, when growth takes form as a circular process, we see abundant ecosystems thrive in a coherent system of birth, growth, decay and rebirth. Yet, when growth is present in a linear form, we see something very different.  

Whether it be an invasive species in an abundant garden or a virus attacking the human body, if left to its own devices, it will grow and spread until everything in its path is eliminated. Therefore, when endless growth is present in our economic systems, it should be seen as destructive, not productive. Currently, it is destroying nature, depleting our health and widening inequalities more than ever.  

Growth should always be viewed as part of a circular process. With this mindset, we can think about what areas have been growing for too long and have now reached their time of decay, whilst simultaneously evaluating what areas of society have been neglected and need a chance to flourish. This will help us bring the world back into balance.  

Suggested reading:  

LESS IS MORE: How Degrowth Will Save the World by Jason Hickel 

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth  

Unlocking Sustainable Cities: A Manifesto for Real Change by Paul Chatterton 

Felix - Marketing

How we think of growth has changed massively over the last decade. As my colleagues have mentioned above, when we think of growth, despite all that goes into the word, the most common interpretation in a global context are the economic factors. In that definition, growth is often framed as an inherent good. Although, it is impossible to have infinite growth in a finite system such as our planet, with how our systems are currently arranged and understood, the idea of moving away from growth can seem incoherent. Especially if, engaging wholeheartedly in the economic context, the other options are stagnation or shrinkage.  

What we might be seeing is the concept of growth being laundered: even when we propose alternatives, we keep it around (e.g. sustainable de-growth) so perhaps we’re clinging on to the good in the unsustainable. Whatever we think about it, it doesn’t seem like growth is going anywhere any time soon.  

However, economic growth is just one definition, and the meaning of words change all the time! Perhaps it’s time to stir in some other concepts of community, ecology, skillsets, and biodiversity; finding a way to grow that develops human agency and enjoyment beyond the financial.

Gaurav - Head of Health

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Mark - Account Manager

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Nicola - OnePlanet Ambassador

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