Degrowth in Canada: critical perspectives from the ground




O'Manique, Claire

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Degrowth is an emerging field of research and a social movement founded on the premise that perpetual economic growth is incompatible with the biophysical limits of our finite planet (D’Alisa, Demaria & Kallis, 2014a; Asara, Otero, Demaria & Corbera, 2015). Despite the important work that degrowth scholars and activists have done to broadcast the fundamental contradiction between endless compound growth and a finite resource base, degrowth remains politically marginal, having received little mainstream attention or policy uptake. This thesis explores why. In particular, I examine barriers to and pathways towards the uptake of degrowth in Canada, a country that disproportionately contributes to climate breakdown. To do so I ask: 1) What barriers exist to advancing a degrowth agenda in Canada?; 2) How specifically do those barriers block degrowth from taking hold in contemporary Canadian policy and political discourse?; 3) How (if at all) are Canadian activists seeking to address these barriers? This research reveals that the political economy in Canada, and the way that is expressed in concentrations of elite and corporate power has given certain actors, particularly the fossil fuel industry, immense economic and political power. These concentrations of power, and the ways they are maintained reinforce a politics and discourse that is highly antithetical to the politics of degrowth, and thus serve as a major barrier to the emergence of degrowth. I argue, in order to move towards a degrowth politics, the hegemony of fossil capitalism in Canada, and the specific class interests that support it needs to be challenged. While degrowth has a strong critique of economic growth and capitalism, this alone is not enough. Any movement towards degrowth will require transforming power relations. This means continuing to explore the concrete ways specific institutions continue to create the political economic conditions that support fossil fueled growth as its main priority, and prioritizing building broad based movements to counter them.



degrowth, neoliberalism, environmentalism, social movement, climate breakdown, Canada