Wgrowing up in Germany today, he rarely had to do without anything. On the contrary, everything became more and more: more color television, more cars, more holidays for everyone. The economy grew and with it the prosperity. The great crowd has benefited. There have always been people who demonized mass consumption and fought for alternative economic systems. But for the majority, things continued as usual, and uphill.
Then Corona came, and renunciation was the first civic duty. Trips had to be cancelled, restaurants and boutiques remained closed, and people started baking their own bread again. The amazing thing: despite all the hardships, many people were also able to gain something positive from this deceleration. Of course, nobody wants a pandemic. But fewer appointments, more time on the couch and vacation in the Harz Mountains instead of Hawaii, there was something tempting about that too. In surveys, a significant proportion of Germans stated that they wanted to retain some of this in the future.
It remains to be seen how seriously that was meant. In any case, the economy grew strongly again after the lockdowns and restrictions were lifted. At the airports in the summer, it didn’t exactly look as if the Harz Mountains would continue to be the number one holiday destination. However, the next crisis was already on the doorstep, which once again required the Germans to make sacrifices.
Because Russia has invaded the Ukraine and is hardly delivering any natural gas to Germany, energy has to be saved. Natural gas consumption must fall by at least one fifth compared to previous years if the storage facilities are not to run empty. Public buildings are now heated less, monuments are no longer illuminated, swimming pools remain cold. Energy prices have multiplied. the Federal Bank expects inflation to reach double digits.
Suddenly, questions arise that most people have never heard of before: Do I have to put money aside for the next gas bill? Can I still afford to take a warm shower? Or do you prefer washcloths?
Less is more
Two crises, two forced renunciations, twice the economic output is shrinking. It’s a disaster, on the one hand. On the other hand, there could be a chance in renunciation and shrinking, perhaps the very last. At least that’s what parts of the climate protection movement, capitalism-critical politicians and supporters of the degrowth movement think – a loose network of researchers, students and activists. They meet at conferences and write books and appeals that focus on one thesis: A shrinking economy is the key to saving the climate, planet and people from collapse. Because economic growth is inextricably linked to greenhouse gas emissions, deforested forests, polluted rivers, busy schedules and stress-related heart attacks. We will “grow until we collapse,” warns American economist Herman Daly (interview on opposite page). He belongs to another group that dreams of a stable economy at a lower, ecologically sustainable level.