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Beyond Growth Conference 2023

It was called the Woodstock of degrowth, the second conference in the European Parliament on degrowth and post-growth, hosted by 20 members of parliament. Live-streamed to 4920 registered participants, and 2536 registered participants to visit in person.

Published onMay 21, 2023
Beyond Growth Conference 2023

The Beyond Growth 2023 conference took place on the 15th to 17th of May 2023 in the European Parliament, and it was a large-scale and well orchestrated event with more than 7000 participants online and in person.

The conference started with a plenary where Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament and Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, welcomed the participants to the conference. There were some unrest in the room, since the speakers were slightly off target in relation to the conference theme. The atmosphere changed drastically when Club of Rome co-president Sandrine Dixon-Declève gave a fire brand speech, followed by Jason Hickel’s honest and heartfelt urge for an urgent and fair shift in Europe. The first plenary ended with Climate Justice and Human Rights activist Adelaïde Charlier berating politicians for failing the younger generation. The whole session can be viewed here on Youtube.

All sessions were streamed live, and can be accessed through the conference website (click on the live stream button). All plenary sessions were great, and worth a watch. Besides the plenaries, there were 20 Focus panels (4 in parallel every time, the FOMO was real!). One highlight for me was Focus Panel 10 Building a fair, social, green, autonomous digital future for a postgrowth economy, which is particularly relevant for our research group. Another highlight was Focus panel 13 – Repairing and restoring Nature in a beyond growth perspective: is putting a price on biodiversity the right way to go?, where both Vandana Shiva and Clive Spash did not mince their words. Excellent and clear messages on what matters, and what value is.

Personally, I spoke in Focus panel 1 - Which prosperous future? Confronting narratives of growth, which took place in the Hemicycle, where the EU parliament meet. It was daunting but a great honor to stand up in front of such a big crowd. In my panel member of parliament Pascal Arimont moderated the session, and the other three speakers represented different narratives around growth: green growth through Michael Jacobs, post-growth through Maja Göpel, and degrowth through Ekaterina Chertkovskaya. Unfortunately, we ran out of time which made the more interactive part of the session a bit short. But I managed to sneak in some living beings and embodiment by asking all participants who were able to stand up and stretch!

Figure 1

Speaking in the Hemicycle was a bit daunting. And I might have needed something to stand on. (photo: EU parliament)

The whole conference ended with a closing plenary (Closing plenary – Pathways from here: roadmap for a Green and Social Deal or on Youtube) that is well worth a watch. It was a call for arms for going forward, and heartfelt thanks to all who made the conference possible. Anuna De Wever, Climate and Social Justice activist ended the speeches with arguing that we need to mainstream the conversation on degrowth, but that every conversation on climate change need to include and unveil what it rests on, colonization, imperialism and white supremacy. She also invited those whose voices were not heard during the conference to leave messages, and activist throughout the Hemicycle stood up holding up messages to the EU parliament.

Figure 2

Activist messages at the closing plenary. I apologize for the blurriness of the picture - it was taken from my mobile phone. It could also be the photographer.

 

From a personal point of view, attending the conference was almost like entering a healthy relationship after being in a toxic one. No more gaslighting. The threats to our world are real, the economies of the global north need to shrink and transform for a just and safe future. One could be surprised by the relative lack of media coverage on the conference, but the fact that it took place I do think is monumental. It gave me energy and inspiration - as for many others as well. And it brought a large group of scholars, politicians, civil society organizations and activists into the same room - I am sure there will be reverberations!

Comments
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Franzika Moser:

Thank you for this recap. France flowers Here in France, we don’t hear much about European politics, but it’s so important to our future as a community. There is a strong undercurrent of denial for climate change in many European countries, such as France, and it is crucial that institutions come together to spread awareness and implement the changes our economies desperately need.