How stalling growth hurts the planet - Axios

Some environmentalists and economists are pushing for "degrowth" — stabilizing or even shrinking the economy — to avert environmental catastrophe.

The big picture: Degrowthism may seem like the only reasonable response to the climate challenges we face, but the experience of enforced economic shrinking during the pandemic indicates the pain would outweigh the benefits — especially for the world's poorest.

Where it stands: The global economy shrank by an estimated 4.3% in 2020, according to data from the World Bank.

How it works: However accidental, 2020 represented perhaps the best example we've ever experienced of degrowthism in action.

The catch: The very real human pain of 2020 — and the political fallout it created — should be taken as a warning sign to degrowthers.

Between the lines: The strongest argument around degrowth is one rooted in a goal that its own advocates strive for: global equity.

Be smart: With reason, we tend to focus on the huge and growing wealth gap between the ultrarich and the middle class and poor in rich countries like the U.S. But a much bigger gap exists between even the relatively less well-off in the developed world and most of humanity.

Flashback: This isn't the first time the idea of degrowth or economic stasis has been raised. Utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill argued in mid-19th century England that "economic growth in the richest countries had run its course."

What to watch: For all the environmental pressure growth has created, in recent decades, both rich and poor countries have been able to continue to grow while reducing many pollutants through more efficiency and cleaner energy.

The bottom line: To paraphrase Winston Churchill on democracy, the pursuit of growth has its faults, but it still may be the least worst way to organize an economy.