It wasn’t Yasgur’s Farm, they went one better. Filling the EU parliament with multi-stakeholder representatives from all over Europe and beyond, speaker after speaker talked alternatives to basing society on economic growth.
The Woodstock likeness is fitting: a moment where many gather and co-create around a new way of thinking. If Woodstock was a defining moment for a counter culture generation, Beyond Growth similarly redefined the role of economics as no longer the only kind of music governments sing. Wellbeing, equity, care for the Earth, sufficiency were blasted out from the stage. For three whole days.
The Beyond Growth 2023 Conference , organised by the The Greens/EFA, was searching for answers. How can Europeans live in prosperity in a sustainable way given that the current way of organising society – economic growth, massive material consumption, fossil fuel burning – can’t go on? It is not even working for many. Poverty is unfairly rife even in rich countries.
Like the memorable performances from Woodstock, I am sure speech after speech will be replayed and relived. Because they said it like it is. We can’t go on like this, it’s not working, GDP was never an adequate measure of progress. We have to scale down. And we have to do it in an ordered way.
You have to listen to the presentations as a whole. (Check out this YouTube channel.) No one will give the whole picture. And the whole picture is still emerging. If we don’t vote for growth – what do we demand of political leaders? If we forbid fossil fuels, how do we live? And what do we ask of all those policy makers in the back offices in Brussels? Who makes the rules and what will become of business if it can’t use and discard materials?
Putting peace center stage (like Woodstock) makes sense. Peace with ourselves. We know that more creature comforts will not make us happy. We carry peace with us, we need to acknowledge it, as Aristotle said, “Know yourself”. And Peace with each other. First peace, then prosperity comes. Peace with the Earth. Restoring the natural functions of ecosystems, weather systems, hydrology and mineral availability as the basis of all life. Finally, Peace with the Future. Our ancestors set it up for us so we could have a good life. We owe that to coming generations.