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"Change the system, not the climate"

We hear this cry often in the climate space. But what system do we actually want? And how might we get there?

A new documentary, Outgrow the System, explores how we might design an economic system that genuinely manages our scarce resources, in a way that is fair and just. Last week, Kiwis in Climate hosted a screening in Amsterdam, in collaboration with cultural centre Pakhuis de Zwijger and the Amsterdam Donut Coalition, led by our Amsterdam-based KiC Convenor, Ellie Domigan.

KiC convenor, Ellie, interviews Federico Savini from the University of Amsterdam and Dagan Cohen from the Amsterdam Donut Coalition.

Beyond the narrow mainstream debate and teachings of business schools, numerous other economic ideas and practices exist, and are increasingly emerging around the world. Concepts such as Donut Economics, Degrowth, Economic Democracy, Participatory Economy, and the Not for Profit World challenge old assumptions and offer fresh perspectives on how we can reorganise our production and consumption.

If Earth’s history is compared to a calendar year, modern human life has existed for 37 minutes, and we have used one third of the Earth’s natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds. At the time of writing, based on our current consumption habits, we would need 1.8 planets to provide resources and absorb our waste. We only have one.

Neoclassical economics traditionally sees the economy as an abstract entity, separate from the natural world. Under that school of thought, when the economy and environment interact, it is an ‘externality’ that can be corrected with market-based tools.

However, as Kate Raworth (creator of Donut Economics) points out that we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet, and we cannot continue to survive on a dead planet:

‘The death of the living world is not an externality, it is the foundation of life on which everything depends, including, of course, the success of an economy.’

And Timothee Parrique (degrowth economist) challenges us to structure the economy differently, aligning with what we truly value such as our wellbeing and time and energy to spend with loved ones.

‘We tend to subordinate the social, the cultural, the political, and especially the ecological, to the economic.’ 

Following the screening, two experts, Federico Savini (Associate Professor of Environmental Planning and post-growth cities at the University of Amsterdam) and Dagan Cohen (Board Member and Creative Lead for the Amsterdam Donut Coalition) discussed their reflections with the audience.

Two particularly interesting thoughts that arose from this discussion were:

1. To face the crises, we need the pessimism of the intellect, and the optimism of the willing.

We need to be informed and realistic about the facts, while steadfastly remembering our agency to create the future we want.

2. Three ingredients for society to influence political and systemic change are:

  • prefiguration: live the change you want to see in the future, now.

  • popularisation: bring the change into pop-culture, to be adopted by the majority.

  • pressure: through advocacy, activism, and diplomacy with political leaders, to accelerate policy and systemic change from the top.

As KiC, we work with each of these three ingredients, and so can you. We do our best to practice and role model what we preach; we support each other as a community, sharing ideas on how we can meet the crises and better steward the power humans have in our living world; and we engage with the NZ government on important climate and environmental issues.

For more information about our network, you can get in touch with our convenors here.

Find more information on Outgrow the System, including future screenings around the world, here.

Outgrow the system trailer

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