I’m not sure how I missed it when it came out in December, but this week I read a report from Christian Aid called An Unquenchable Thirst: faith and economic growth. It’s a radical document, and plants a flag firmly in postgrowth territory.
That’s bold for a charity. I’ve been involved in internal discussions around postgrowth economics in a couple of different development NGOs, and I know the kind of risks that are mentioned – is it too political? Will it scare business partners or wealthy donors? Will it be misunderstood as anti-capitalist or anti-markets? Does it undermine our work for those in poverty?
I imagine similar discussions were held at Christian Aid, and they’ve chosen not to pull their punches: “we suggest that it could be time to abandon the goal of endless growth and increasing consumption – at least for those who are already prosperous by global standards – and seek to be more just and efficient at sharing existing resources and wealth.”
The paper, which is well worth a read, argues for this from the point of view of the poorest. Christian Aid’s starting point is those they work for, and growth all too often by-passes those who need it most.
It’s also a call to make wealth history, in that it suggests a scaling back of Western affluence in order to make ecological space for others:
There is a need to recognise that the wellbeing of all demands different policies and understandings from different nations and from different sectors within society. While some look to grow materially, albeit in a sustainable and just way, others, including most of us in the richer global North, need to examine our assumptions about the pursuit of economic growth and our desire to consume more both for our own future and that of the planet. We are looking at a model of convergence and contraction, which might demand that we who already have much actually retrench to create space for others to experience living and not just surviving.
Good words there, and I look forward to hearing more from Christian Aid as they explore the practicalities of contraction and convergence.