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Degrowth, Learning to Live within Planetary Limits: Te Whanganui-a-Tara - November 2023

For our final 2023 Te Whanganui-a-Tara event we hosted a presentation and workshop exploring Degrowth and how we can learn to live within our planetary limits. Our amazing MC, Sharn Maree, was joined by a fantastic line up of speakers; Mike Joy, Sahra Kress and Rhonda Thomson. We finished off this event with a group kōrero facilitated by the wonderful Hannah Blumhardt.

This kōrero was closed off with an incredible summary from our MC Sharn, which is shared below.

"We are but a small planet in a great universe.

Mike Joy on Death by Hockey sticks.

Sounds funny but the loss of Biodiversity, animal mass and increase in populations and all driven by availability of fossil fuels.

Our world is a one off and we have to accept that.

Climate change is a symptom. Ocean loss. Biodiversity loss are all symptoms.

80% of the electricity in Aotearoa is renewable- great. Yet it is only 28% of our total energy consumption. And that figure was as at 30 years ago.

We've done a whole lot of harm to stay in the same place.

We can convert fossil guels into human equivalents to get our heads around it.

A tank of petrol is the same as 4 years full time work for one human.

Every river in Aotearoa that could be dammed has been dammed. Resulting in incredible biological, social and ecological impacts.

Wind turbines, solar, are dependant on fossil fuels. 

98% of the bio mass of animals on the planet now is us and what we eat.

We are burning too much fossil fuel to fix by planting trees. We can not mitigate carbon by planting trees.

We don't have a choice. We will degrow. The choice is weather we manage that sensibly or we crash.

Sobering, humbling facts.

Degrowth refers to a radical political and economic reorganisation leading to drastically smaller, much more equitably shared resources and energy use.

A purposeful response to over consumption.

Quality, not quantity.

An economy of enough - get satisfied!

Less stuff, more joy! And that not in reference to Dr Mike, however I'm sure every household could benefit from your teachings Mike.

GDP was not designed to measure welfare. We only need to look at our mental health statistics in Aotearoa to see that. We have more stuff and things byt Wellbeing is not going up.

Green growth that isn't actually green.

Consumerism is our religion.

Growth is insufficient for taxking poverty. Policies are far more important than growth.

Our current plans rely on technologies that don't exist and the promise of human ingenuity.

The difference between growth an expansion.

We are existing in the infrastructure of a system that is deeply deeply flawed. A system of barriers designed to see us fail.

Degrowth. An alternative paradigm. A name chosen deliberately. A critique of the delusion of infinite growth on a finite planet.

Intergenerational justice.

Wealth redistribution.

How to Degrowth.

By actively intentionally decoupling wellbeing from growth. Principles and policies that are noted on this banner here.

1. Managed reduction of energy and materials throughput

2. Providing supports for wellbeing and anticipated disruption.

3. Systematic changes to transition towards a steady state economy.

Read Less is More by Jason Hickles

The Living Pā -

A marae that speaks to Values, beliefs and culture. Our relationships to each other, to the whenua the Land, to te taiao through natural environment.

The Living building challenge, the summit of regenerative buildings.

The massive leap of living buildings. Premised on the idea of to do good, to do less harm.

A living building isn't trying to reduce negative impact, its trying to build positive impact.

It forces us all into action.

It's an investment in the future.

Ecology of place.

Net positive water.

Net positive energy.

Treating all water, especially wastewater, as a precious resource.

Supporting a just and equitable world and creating space that supports human connection.

If you aren't outraged you aren't paying attention.

Of you aren't awestruck by the beauty of life, you aren't paying attention.

So much to think on whānau, and realistically- so little time if we want to preserve what is left of our world for the coming generations."

Taking the Kaupapa Forward  


Personal Level

Find ways to reduce consumption that suits your personal circumstances. Some ideas are:

  • Drive and fly less

  • Try to avoid "buying new", wherever possible, and to get your everyday essentials (e.g. groceries) without packaging or in reusable packaging.

  • If you can, choose to buy/access your essentials from local businesses that centre degrowth/environmental practices in their business model.


It is also important to talk with friends and family about the environmental crisis and to raise others' awareness of real solutions.



 Collective/ Political Level

  • Vocally support land back for Māori and Te Tiriti-based constitutional transformation

  • Vocally support investment, infrastructure and policies that enable and increase public transport (within regions and between regions) and active modes of transport

  • Call for producer/corporate responsibility for pollution and environmental taxation (e.g. tax on resource usage)

  • Vote in local and central government elections

  • Ideally, give your vote to parties and candidates based on the quality of their policies to address inequality and environmental degradation, and to support redistribution and the mitigation of climate change and other environmental issues.






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