Niamh Reilly, Dublin City University

The twin emergencies of climate change and more recently the coronavirus pandemic has seen degrowth – economic policy focused on a wilful contraction of the global economy – begin to be seriously considered with a view to increasing individual wellbeing and ecological preservation which has been neglected under the classic neoliberal model. Against the
background of this increasing interest in degrowth, this paper offers a critique of academic and ecopolitical degrowth philosophies, concluding that current policy proposals remain largely betrothed to the capitalist regime they ostensibly seek to dismantle, and may potentially
exacerbate socio-economic inequality in the name of “one-planet living”. A hitherto unreported undercurrent of techno-pessimism in the degrowth literature has also been identified, raising questions about the ultimate consequences of embracing the movement. To address this, the paper proposes that concerted efforts to decarbonise the global economy be
undertaken in the renewable energy research sector through emulating the urgent approach taken by medical science in the search for a COVID 19 vaccine by taking the initial step of making renewable energy research Open Access. Failure to rise to the challenge of bringing renewable energy technology to state-of-the-art may mean that degrowth is deployed as a
necessary survival strategy to avoid resource depletion and associated climate breakdown. An exploration of anthropogenic climate change within the broader context of cosmology suggests that degrowth may indeed be an inevitable consequence of technological civilisations throughout the Universe having reached the limits of their technological capabilities. This
scenario is proposed as a novel explanation for the Fermi Paradox – the continuing lack of evidence for advanced extra-terrestrial life despite high odds in favour of its existence – entitled the Reversion Hypothesis.

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