Fourth International Conference on Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity

“We are here to discuss how to transform the world. This is the big task” claims Alberto Acosta during his opening speech at the “Fourth International Conference on Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity” in Leipzig . More than 3000 participants joined and/or contributed to the trans-disciplinary program of “visions and strategies for the transformation,” emerging from the arts, general debates, practice & activism and, science.

Acosta introduced in the opening plenary one of the main discussion paths of the conference connecting the European degrowth discussion with the Latin American Post-extractivim debate. He talked about the discussions of “the global North and the global South” as two sides of the same perspective marked by planetary boundaries, the need to rethink processes of production and consumption, and responsibility towards future generations. This addressed one of the key issues of the conference: co-responsibility.

Post-extractivist transformation cannot be thought of independently from the high interests and benefits related to American, European, and Chinese demand for minerals. If this consumption and demand would decrease Latin American countries with an extractivist economic model would be forced to develop alternatives. The multifaced contributions enriched the dialogue for transregional learning between “South” and “North” as e.g. discussions workshops about “Degrowth in Latin America” , “A right to grow? Meeting the needs of all within the planetary boundaries” , or the impacts of the special commission on „Growth, Prosperity and Quality of Life“ of the last German parliament.

Another key discussion path of the Degrowth conference was a commons-oriented approach as e.g. the key note “The Transition to a Sustainable Commons Society in Ecuador and beyond“, or the workshops on “Commons, Economy for the common good and Solidarity Economy: What do they share?” or “Climate Justice and Degrowth: commonalities, resistances and alternatives” . Views were exchanged about the new actors of transformation, combining a global open design based in communities, local on-demand distributed manufacturing, and the use of renewable distributed energy.

In many aspects the degrowth conference made an effort to go beyond the conventional format of a conferences. This became particularly evident by introducing artistic approaches and formats during the whole conference as e.g. a seminar examining how “Art meets artivism in times of global movements” provoking social criticism and shifts in perception; the workshop on “Transition Theater: how to resist the cultural voices of growth and acceleration within us?” working on the topic through body language, or the performative lectures on "Artistic Research | Production of knowledge where art, science and society meet" examining art’s contribution to the production & transfer of knowledge, and to transformation research. Also, the Challenge Yasuní platform was presented by Dan Norton and Stella Veciana at the conference with the “Challenge Degrowth” interactive art installation.

Even though the conference programme was overwhelming in it’s diversity, there was a relaxed and joyful conference atmosphere impregnated by a sort of degrowth conference community feeling. To this atmosphere contributed the excellent vegan food of the “Volksküche” and the musical programme in the lively courtyard, which become the network plaza. From there also started another of the surprising conference formats as the “short-film walk”, showing the utopian, sobering or empowering conference-topics to the passer-by’s of Leipzig, an innovative creative public demonstration. On the final action demo Leipzig initiatives presented their criticism of the growth economy with a flash mob for deceleration, street theater and musical interludes of a samba band. The conference showed that the crossroads of degrowth and post-extractivism are not only discussed but a task of transformation that is already undertaken with courage by trans-disciplinary activists worldwide.

Here you will find more press reviews and the programme of the conference.