[Image via The Telegraph]
Following the financial crisis of 2008 it has been discussed, argued, stated, and realised by many that our current global economic system cannot continue to grow without drastic repercussions and consequences. The alternative? Degrowth. This blog post will look at the concept of degrowth alongside Slow Media and explore ways that societal transition to degrowth can be made possible.
Degrowth is a critique of growth which involves a downscaling of human production and consumption. Degrowth encourages future societies to live within their ecological and natural means with open economies and resources distributed through new democratic institutions (Research & Degrowth). There are “social limits to growth,” as stated in Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era that “growth can never satisfy positional competition; it can only make it worse. Growth therefore will never produce ‘enough’ for everyone” (Skidelsky and Skidelsky in D’Alisa et al, 2011: 7). Growth has become uneconomic, unsustainable and unjust. Degrowth it is a radical alternative to the economic society we live in today.
If society were to transition to one of degrowth, media must play the role of communicator. Currently, there are small grass-roots organisations promoting the concept of degrowth: Degrowth Canada and Club for Degrowth. And there are websites based solely on degrowth related to Slow Media: Slow Media, Adbusters, Research & Degrowth and more. How would mainstream media build on these ideals?
In May 2015, the BBC aired BBC Four Goes Slow: a series of four television programmes promoting the idea of slowness. Half a million people watched the first of four in the series – considered an unexpected and “unlikely hit.” The reaction to the BBC Four Goes Slow success proves there is a clear space in mainstream media to promote and work with the idea of Slow Media in a society of degrowth.
What is Slow Media? In The origin of Slow Media, Jennifer Rauch provides the following guiding principles:
- Using media in a more attentive and deliberative mode;
- Doing more by doing less;
- Strengthening local communities;
- Stressing quality over quantity;
- Promoting artisanal products;
- Reducing time spent producing and consuming digital communiqués;
- Re-appraising heirloom forms of media such as books, newspapers, postcards and film (Rauch, 2011: 4).
Consider Rauch’s guiding principles in reference to Sarah Lazarovic’s essay, A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy. In 2012, Lazarovic embraced slow shopping for one year in which she stopped the act entirely. The result is her whimsical visual essay and tip-worthy Buyerarchy of Needs illustration below.Throughout her essay, Lazarovic stresses many of Rauch’s Slow Media principles: doing more by doing less, quality over quantity, reduced digital consumption, and re-appraising the art of the book. Although Lazarovic’s slow year of shopping is in direct relation to the retail industry, her essay may be viewed as a broader media example in which the concept of degrowth encompasses Slow movements. The Slow Media Manifesto offers the following: “Slow Media are not about fast consumption but about choosing the ingredients mindfully and preparing them in a concentrated manner. Slow Media are welcoming and hospitable. They like to share” (2010). In a transition to degrowth, it is in the hands of both small media sources such as Lazarovic’s essay and large media corporations such as BBC’s Four Goes Slow series to continue to strategise and encourage the concept of slowness with the greater aim of implementing and acting on societal degrowth.
- D’Alisa, G., Demaria, F., and Kallis, G. (2014) ‘Introduction: Degrowth,’ in G. D’Alisa, F. Demaria and G. Kallis (eds), Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era. Abingdon: Routledge.
- en.Slow Media (02/01/2010) The Slow Media Manifesto. Available at: http://en.slow-media.net/manifesto/.
- Research & Degrowth. Available at: http://www.degrowth.org/.
- Rauch, J. (2011) ‘The origin of Slow Media: early diffusion of a cultural innovation through popular and press discourse, 2002-2010’, Transformations 20.