November 25, 2019

The green growth myth

According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), green growth means “promoting economic growth and development, while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide environmental resources and services on which our well-being is based”. (

Green growth is similar to the concept of sustainable development. Both assume that continued economic expansion is compatible with the sustainable use of the planet’s resources. We could therefore continue to consume more and more, while preserving biodiversity and environment.

Unfortunately, with green growth and sustainable development, nature and what it has to offer are seen exclusively as resources: all these resources are limited.

In the “Is Green Growth Possible?” published in the journal New Political Economy (April 2019), Jason Hickel and Giorgos Kallis (resp. anthropologist at the University of London, and professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology, Autonomous University of Barcelona) confirmed that green growth is not possible.
Study summary available at

The European Environmental Bureau also published a report entitled “Decoupling Debunked. Evidence and arguments against green growth as a sole strategy for sustainability”.

“The conclusion is both overwhelmingly clear and sobering: not only is there no empirical evidence supporting the existence of a decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures on anywhere near the scale needed to deal with environmental breakdown, but also, and perhaps more importantly, such decoupling appears unlikely to happen in the future.”

Of course, green growth is very attractive. It make us believe that scientific and technological progress will allow us to continue in the same way, which is reassuring: no need to change our habits, no need to question our lifestyle.
Fortunately, more and more people are realizing that green growth is a myth, and that keeping believing in it will not reduce the environmental crisis.
It is on this basis that movements and organizations such as Extinction Rebellion and Climate Strike were founded. Their demands come together to call for the end of our current consumer society in order to move towards a more resilient society.

As a responsible citizen and consumer, it is essential to keep in mind that what is produced, manufactured and cultivated at industrial scale cannot be sustainable for the environment, regardless of its selling points.

To go further:
  • As an individual, start your own degrowth by adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Sharing your experiences around you is also very important to spread the word.
  • Watch the film "L'illusion verte", a documentary film by Werner Boote.
  • Jason Hickel & Giorgos Kallis (2019) Is Green Growth Possible?, New Political Economy, DOI: 10.1080/13563467.2019.1598964.
  • Parrique T., Barth J., Briens F., C. Kerschner, Kraus-Polk A., Kuokkanen A., Spangenberg J.H., 2019. Decoupling debunked: Evidence and arguments against green growth as a sole strategy for sustainability. European Environmental Bureau.