Launch of our new book: Living Well on a Finite Planet – Building a Caring World Beyond Growth

Medical doctor and degrowth advocate Gemma Hayward, marching in Glasgow during the COP26 Climate March

Today, Commons Network is proud to publish Living Well on a Finite Planet: Building a Caring World Beyond Growth. This book is the result of a two-year exploration of the degrowth narrative, merging planetary health thinking, feminist economics and fieldwork from Dutch caring commoning practices.

The degrowth story is about societies that are becoming slower by design, rather than by disaster. It describes a shift to a world that is more autonomous, ecologically sufficient and caring. We argue that a careful degrowth transformation requires a new discourse of health and care, guided by different dynamics and practices.

Why this story, why now?

The COP26 promises a global temperature rise of 2,4 degrees celsius. This means a global health disaster that will hit the most vulnerable the hardest. A future of sea-level rises, drought, floods, heatwaves and storms means more civil wars, famines and violently displaced communities. We are sacrificing so much, just to achieve more economic growth.

In our new publication, we show that the ideology of ‘growth as good’ – and the growth-focused system it upholds –  is the lead cause of rising inequalities and ecological destruction. We explore what it means to move beyond growth, towards a vision for a society that is centered around care, autonomy and sufficiency.

Looking for sparks of degrowth

Throughout the book, we ask the question: If a growth-centered economic system is making us and the planet sick, what can we do to transform it? We introduce the reader to the key features of the degrowth narrative and explore what we can learn from the growing movement of self-organizing caring citizen collectives – or commons –  that display various facets of degrowth. We show that degrowth envisions a world that is already in the making in places where these commoning practices are flourishing.

At caring commons, health and care are approached holistically, with a focus on promoting collective autonomy and community solidarity. They aim to be needs-driven, integrative, collaborative and self-governing. They nurture trust, reciprocity and diversity, all while holding a commitment to remain locally-grounded. The caring commoning practices we present are prefiguring a socioecological transformation that moves beyond the need for economic growth.

Meanwhile, although any real transformation will be animated from the bottom-up, we will need bold politics as well, rooted in political courage. This is why we discuss three degrowth-promoting policy strategies that support and promote the organisation of care through commons in a structural way.

We acknowledge that the proposals discussed are ambitious, under today’s growth regime. These ideas could transform not only the way we live and work, but how we relate to each other and the natural world. But we hope that readers will find comfort and hope in the fact that most of these new ideas and models are already being put into practice by communities all over the world. It is up to us to help them flourish.

For more information about this research, press enquiries or requests for a print copy of the book, please contact Thomas de Groot: thomas [at] commonsnetwork [dot] eu.

About the authors

Living Well on a Finite Planet: Building a Caring World Beyond Growth was written by Winne van Woerden, who works as Lead Researcher Degrowth and Caring Economy at Commons Network in Amsterdam and Thomas de Groot, co-director at Commons Network.

Contributing authors: Dr. Remco van der Pas, Senior Research Fellow Global Health at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp and Sophie Bloemen, co-director at Commons Network.

Expert reviewers: Stacco Troncoso, Commons Advocate and Co-founder of and Guerilla Translation and David Hammerstein, senior advisor at Commons Network.

Copy editor: Luke Bailey.

Artwork and formatting: Mick van Dijk.

This book is published under the Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

About Commons Network

Commons Network is a collaboratory for the social and ecological transition. We bring together people and ideas and we provide tools and insights for social movements, governments and other civil society groups and NGO’s. We explore new models for economy and society in order to collectively transform the system and shape a caring and just future.