The June 23 editorial, “Degrowth is deranged,” by The Washington Post’s Editorial Board, presents a controversial view on the future of humanity and the role of economic growth in addressing environmental challenges. Critics argue that the editorial oversimplifies the issue and fails to acknowledge the negative consequences of unchecked economic growth.

Richard Wilkinson, an author and economist, points out that human societies have repeatedly been forced to exploit the environment more intensively to meet growing needs, and this exploitation has been a crucial part of economic development. He also notes that as societies become wealthier, they are no longer able to afford pleasures that were within reach when they were poor.

Nadia Johanisova, a researcher, criticizes the Western globalized industrial project for threatening the resources that are the very basis of survival in the Global South. She argues that the Green Revolution and new green energy infrastructure have had severe ecological and social repercussions in these countries. Johanisova calls for a serious and respectful discussion of degrowth as a way out of the environmental crisis.

Gary Norton, a writer, argues that technology has not overcome our rapid approach to the 1.5-degree climate threshold and that not all technological innovations are good for the world. He warns that the amount of electricity needed to power AI servers is astronomical and that this growth in power needs could drive a natural gas boom at a time when we need to move away from old fuel sources.

Robert Engelman, a senior fellow with the Population Institute, argues that degrowth is not about ending or reversing growth but about questioning whether humanity needs more of the same at this point in our expansion. He suggests that we might celebrate the possibility that population growth could end relatively soon through lower birthrates and find ways to reduce poverty by shrinking inequality in wealth and income.

James K. Boyce, an author, argues that the real issue is not the size of the pie but its composition. He suggests that we need more of the things that enhance well-being, such as health care, knowledge, and music, and less of the things that diminish it, including pollution and natural resource depletion.

The Editorial Board responds by acknowledging that innovation has always been the escape route of societies caught in the ecological pincers of population growth and scarce resources. However, they argue that slowing economic growth will slow the emission of climate-changing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and that getting to zero (or even negative) emissions will require more innovation. They also argue that growth is not inherently destructive and that it has led to improvements in the lives of many people. They plan to return to these issues in a future editorial.

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