Decoupling issues are complicated but simple in the black and white. It can work at the local but it is doomed at the macro is the simple. The complicated is everything in between. At the local people can make great strides in going local with living and eating. They can avoid traveling which is one of the biggest factors in lowering one’s footprint. This is more than the energy used it is about the presence of the individual that builds community. There is no community when people are traveling out of the local. People can eat local which lower’s goods travel another huge savings to one’s footprint. They can downsize into a smart poverty of less satisfaction of material wants offset by more spiritual meaning that offers wonderful satisfaction.
At the macro the situation is far different. The globalized world is carbon trapped in path dependencies. These involve the production and distribution of goods but also the behavior of competitive cooperation. We agree to a game of competitive living. What has resulted is the current global system of economies of scale and comparative advantage driving value chains. These value chains are based on the only really solid variable in the competitive game and that is price and return with agreed to fiat currencies. This will not allow measurable decoupling because the global world is not onboard with the need to decouple. Many nations are more concerned with sustainable development or hegemonic development. These are just capitalism at is best/worst which is competitive production of goods and satisfaction of wants.
The green growth meme while worthy is caught up in the macro trap. It cannot be competitive unless it goes big with economies of scale. This is not green although it is greener than fossil fuels. We should pursue green growth but be honest about it. It is not green and it is not going to save us. The physics are not right and most of all the human behavior is very wrong. The biggest issue with why decoupling will not be meaningful is human behavior is not solidly behind it. If it were, we would be in a managed degrowth along with green growth but in an overall gradient of managed decline. IOW the world as a whole would be embracing relative poverty along with draconian efforts at population reductions. So, a combined consumption and procreation reduction with expanding material poverty. Be honest where in the world will that platform win votes!
This is why I promote REAL Green in my realgreenadaptation.blog. REAL Green is realistic green of the individual and small community. This is where one can relatively lower one’s footprint and find meaning in palliative care for the planet and the web of life. This is about lifeboats of things and hospices of behavior. The hospice revolves around acceptance of human failure. It recognizes we are trapped in limits of growth and at or near the inflection into forced planetary degrowth. IOW the planet is now driving degrowth and this means a randomness of decline with abandonment, dysfunction, and the irrational found in turbulent degrowth.
It is at the local where humans scale and can make a difference. We are trapped at the macro but this does not mean all is lost at the macro. Green growth is legitimate for resilience and sustainability but the key point is green growth at the local is the real force that should be promoted. It is not promoted there because the economics are not good. Low carbon capture at the local does not add up like at the macro with huge projects. Low carbon capture is about food and biomass for heating too. It is about little things that add up to amazing things. It is also about tough work that needs to be done daily with little reward. This is where the spiritual payoff has to be found. Meaning can go a long way to making up for physical loss.
“Is economic growth compatible with ecological sustainability? To answer this question, we need to talk about decoupling. The term ‘decoupling’ refers to the possibility of detaching economic growth from environmental pressures…Green growth vs. degrowth The debate on decoupling has two main sides. Proponents of “green growth” expect efficiency to enable more economic activity at a lower environmental cost; on the other hand, advocates of “degrowth” appeal to sufficiency, arguing that less goods and services is the surest road to ecological sustainability…For green growth advocates, decoupling is either inevitable or has not yet occurred because of lack of adequate policies and technological development. Degrowth proponents, however, argue that the reason why this long-awaited decoupling has not yet occurred is that because it is impossible. Here is a list of seven reasons why this is so:
- Rising energy expenditures
- Rebound effects
- Problem shifting
- The underestimated impact of services.
- Limited potential of recycling.
- Insufficient and inappropriate technological change
- Cost shifting.
Decoupling should today be recognised as what it is, a figment of statistical imagination. This should prompt us to reframe the debate altogether: what we need to decouple is not economic growth from environmental pressure but prosperity and the good life from economic growth.”