The Keep It in the Ground (KIITG) activists have been surprisingly candid about their real objectives in recent weeks.
In a stunning admission in front of a reporter from The Washington Post, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, said that the real reason Rep. Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Green New Deal was to overhaul the “entire economy.”
“The interesting thing about the Green New Deal, is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all,” Chakrabarti said. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
That same week, 350.org founder Bill McKibben admitted in an op-ed that, “Progress on the climate fight in its own right can help drive systemic change ... If we replace fossil fuels with sun and wind, the effect will inevitably lead to at least some erosion of the current power structure.”
Even student activist Greta Thunberg has invoked the climate-change battle cry of “system change, not climate change” saying, "If solutions within this system are so difficult to find then maybe we should change the system itself.”
The “system change” that the KIITG activists are clamoring for is called degrowth, “an alternative economic model that emphasizes limiting production and consumption.”
Here’s how the “degrowthers” describe it:
Renewable energy cannot sustain an energy-intensive global society of high-end consumers. A degrowth society embraces the necessity of “energy descent,” turning our energy crises into an opportunity for civilizational renewal.
After a reduction in material and energy consumption, which will constrict the economy, there should also be a redistribution of existing wealth, and a transition from a materialistic society to one in which the values are based on simpler lifestyles and unpaid work and activities.
We would have less income, but more freedom. Thus, in our simplicity, we would be rich.
But just what would this new “degrowth” economic system actually look like? Well, if the plan put forth by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network is any indication, it’s going to look a lot like the dystopian society depicted in the early Mad Max films, where people live in micro-houses, repair their own computers, and share tools, “kitchen gadgets” and toys.
So what does this “civilizational renewal” actually entail? Here’s how one degrowth disciple described it:
Wherever possible, we would grow our own organic food, water our gardens with water tanks, and turn our neighborhoods into edible landscapes as the Cubans have done in Havana.
We do not need to purchase so many new clothes. Let us mend or exchange the clothes we have, buy second-hand, or make our own. In a degrowth society, the fashion and marketing industries would quickly wither away.
We would become radical recyclers and do-it-yourself experts. This would partly be driven by the fact that we would simply be living in an era of relative scarcity, with reduced discretionary income. One day, we might even live in cob houses that we build ourselves.
Degrowth offers a more humble—and I would say more realistic—vision of a sustainable future.