Can ‘degrowth’ solve our ecological, social & economic problems?

  • Economist Tim Parrique speaks with co-host Rachel Donald on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast about the economic model known as “degrowth.”
  • According to the Lund University researcher, degrowth originated in France in 2002 to address the current “limitless growth” economic model that stretches the ecological limits of the planet — the so-called Planetary Boundaries — unsustainably.
  • The degrowth concept seeks to provide sustainable development pathways for low- and middle-income countries while stabilizing quality of life in wealthy nations, via producing and consuming less in the latter.
  • Recent research indicates that the United States wastes 65% of its economic output on things that do not provide essential or quality-of-life needs, bolstering the argument that the economy could be strongly scaled back to decrease its impact on the environment.

Research published in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications finds that just in the United States, trillions of dollars are wasted on things that do not improve the quality of life for Americans. Podcast guest Timothée Parrique, an economist and researcher at the Lund University School of Economics and Management, argues this is strong evidence that the United States (and other wealthy, industrialized nations) could significantly scale back production and consumption, thereby decreasing their impact on the planet’s stretched ecological limits — the Planetary Boundaries — allowing low- and middle-income nations the latitude they need to raise their standards of living.

The concept behind this idea is called “degrowth,” says Parrique. On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, he explains exactly how and why he believes it’s time to rethink the global economy and consider how this model could be used to address the planetary polycrisis.

Listen here:

Degrowth is generally a misunderstood concept — previous podcast guest Hannah Ritchie, an author and data scientist at Our World in Data, criticized degrowth in her book Not the End of the World, but she was not able to articulate precisely what that meant when asked by co-host Rachel Donald during the interview. Ritchie argued that economies need to continually develop to raise the standard of living for low- and middle-income nations, but she did not specify which variables of the economy, how, in what way or for how long.

In this interview, Parrique dissects these questions in more detail, explaining why using only a single metric such as gross domestic product (GDP) doesn’t correlate to fulfilling the basic life necessities people need to thrive, nor allow nature to survive. In fact, GDP can rise as people’s average longevity and well-being fall, while the biosphere suffers.

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Banner image: Two people biking in Amsterdam, a city well known for its cycling culture. Image by Sabina Fratila (@momhasapples) via Unsplash.

Rachel Donald is a climate corruption reporter and the creator of Planet: Critical, the podcast and newsletter for a world in crisis. Her latest thoughts can be found at 𝕏 via @CrisisReports and at Bluesky via

Mike DiGirolamo is a host & associate producer for Mongabay based in Sydney. He co-hosts and edits the Mongabay Newscast. Find him on LinkedIn, Bluesky and Instagram.

See related reading and audio from the planetary boundaries series:

‘It’s Not the End of the World’ book assumptions & omissions spark debate

The nine boundaries humanity must respect to keep the planet habitable


Tønnessen, M. (2023). Wasted GDP in the USA. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 10(1). doi:10.1057/s41599-023-02210-y