Feminist Degrowth: A  Solution to the Climate Crisis? 

Sara studies Business Management

Liz Truss’ premiership may now seem like ancient history, but it was merely months ago that the former PM introduced her ‘Trussonomics’ policy that has since tipped the UK into huge economic and social disorder. Although Truss’ premiership was undeniably disastrous, I want to zoom in on one key mantra that fuelled her debate and that I have particular grievance with: “growth, growth and growth” (the Guardian, 2022). Economic growth was perhaps her only agreed upon cause; indeed, it was tough to find a political commentator who did not immediately support this widely accepted economic ‘necessity’. But I believe a more critical lens is needed when evaluating the continued necessity of growth in our society, especially when it causes severe damage to the environment, society, and women.  

Anti-growth (or degrowth) theories are rooted in environmentalism as a response to the ever-increasing need for climate action and a move towards a sustainable global society. Degrowth calls for an end to unnecessary production and consumption to preserve finite resources, ultimately preventing climate disaster and improving global social wellbeing (degrowth, n.d.). Although the movement hasn’t gained mainstream traction yet, an extreme version of how it would look was demonstrated during the initial months of the Pandemic, as production and consumption were greatly restricted by lockdown and Scientists consequently reported “unusually low air pollution emissions” (Bourzac, 2020). It was almost as if a global experiment had been conducted, proving the glaringly obvious: reduced consumption is a necessity to prevent climate disaster. Yet as lockdown gradually lifted and the world went back to normal, pollution levels rose once again (Shezhad et al., 2021) and the climate crisis now appears worse than ever. In this case the capitalist system’s fundamental need for growth to restore economic stability overpowered the environmental concern, an ongoing battle that environmentalism continues to lose. 

So how do growth and feminism interact? Ecofeminist theory draws a link between the two, highlighting that women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to constituting a larger proportion of the global impoverished who do not have the funds to mitigate its damaging effects. Additionally, in many developing countries women’s access to income is limited to working on the land, therefore climate damage such as droughts or floods can push them further into poverty or dependence on male family members. The implication here is that climate justice will contribute towards female justice by preventing the aforementioned injustices. However, such a narrow viewpoint on merely environmental contributors neglects countless social, political, and economic factors that contribute towards inequality; this is where feminist degrowth builds on what ecofeminist theory lacks. 

Feminist degrowth addresses the inherent exploitation of women associated with growth. The theory is that growth is in part made possible by the exploitation of women, in the form of unpaid care work and gender wage gaps; therefore, a growth society is inherently an exploitative and unequal one. Feminist degrowth aims to reposition mainstream economic focus, moving away from the growth rhetoric towards “well-being, social justice and ecological sustainability” (Europe, 2021). A feminist degrowth system would recognise the value of the neglected secondary economy of unpaid care work and unmonetized environmental processes, through schemes such as Universal Basic Income and Ecosystem Valuation frameworks among others. I would highly recommend reading Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’ for a more detailed proposal of feminist degrowth, however in a nutshell the idea is that we should ditch exploiting the 99% to create economic value for the 1% at the expense of the natural world we all live in, and instead share and regenerate necessary resources equitably. The beauty of coupling feminism and degrowth environmentalism is that the two are mutually reinforcing: as gender equality improves, growth and ecological exploitation will decrease, and the environment will benefit. Similarly, as environmental damage is reversed, female welfare will improve and so a virtuous cycle begins. 

As with many radical theories, feminist degrowth has its limitations, most notably that the sudden implementation needed to achieve the desperately needed climate action would cause huge societal damage (as seen during and after lockdowns). Additionally, global agreement over committing to degrowth is unlikely and controversial: how can a western country morally justify demanding a developing country to downscale their production? Nevertheless, there remains one clear takeaway from feminist degrowth theory: always remember to critically challenge the status quo before accepting it as rule. 


Bourzac, K. (2020). Covid-19 lockdowns had strange effects on air pollution across the globe. [online] Chemical & Engineering News. Available at: https://cen.acs.org/environment/atmospheric-chemistry/COVID-19-lockdowns-had-strange-effects-on-air-pollution-across-the-globe/98/i37

degrowth (n.d.). Degrowth. [online] Degrowth. Available at: https://degrowth.info/degrowth. 

Europe, A.P. for (2021). Reimagining Care: Feminist degrowth and UBI. [online] A Path For Europe (PfEU). Available at: https://pathforeurope.eu/reimagining-care-feminist-degrowth-and-ubi/. 

Shehzad, K., Xiaoxing, L., Ahmad, M., Majeed, A., Tariq, F. and Wahab, S. (2021). Does air pollution upsurge in megacities after Covid-19 lockdown? A spatial approach. Environmental Research, 197, p.111052. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2021.111052. 

the Guardian. (2022). Liz Truss promises ‘growth, growth and growth’ in protest-hit speech. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/oct/05/liz-truss-says-she-wants-growth-growth-and-growth-in-protest-hit-speech-tory-conference


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