Degrowth: When less is more - PAU inglés Cataluña 2010

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Degrowth: When less is more - PAU inglés Cataluña 2010
A shift to sustainable development is not enough in itself to resolve the challenges facing the future health of the planet. Growth must slow down and people have to adopt better life styles using less. In other words, reducing consumption and distributing resources more equally is the only way to bring the depletion of the planet’s resources to a halt.
This is the premise behind “degrowth,” a new trend in political, social and economic thinking which questions consumerism as the basis of our society and suggests a new way of looking at wealth, basing it not on material goods and the creation of artificial needs but rather focusing on simplicity. The moral question of whether it is fair that 20% of the world’s population should have 80% of its wealth is only part of the degrowth equation. Another fundamental question is that of survival; that an economic model such as ours, based on constant growth, is not compatible with the planet’s finite resources. The resources we have at our disposal are limited and, the argument goes, if we do not stop plundering them they will inevitably run out.
“We can clearly see that the current system is unsustainable and if we carry on this way it will be disastrous,” says Santiago Vilanova, president of the association Una Sola Terra, which organised an international symposium in Barcelona in December 2006—the first intellectual and political debate in Catalonia about degrowth. And he insists: “Put another way, growth and the accumulation of wealth are not equivalent to well-being, quite the opposite, in fact.” Arnau Montserrat, a member of the Xarxa pel Decreixement, a group of individuals and organisations already working with these ideas, says that “we have been sold the idea that progress is only linked to growth. Obviously not all growth is bad but the sort we are talking about has nothing to do with personal growth, community links or public and social amenities, its only aim being the accumulation of money.”
It is easy to see degrowth as a utopian ideal and something very difficult to apply in practice.
However, for degrowth supporters now is the time for a change of mentality and this change does not necessarily have to be for the worse. “We’ll be happier if we work fewer hours and have more free time, we’ll socialise more and we can do without piles of consumer goods that we have no need for,” explains Carlos Taibo, a professor of political science at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. “Hyper-consumerism in our societies is an indicator of unhappiness, not happiness. You just need to look at the data showing the growing numbers of Americans saying they are unhappy—three times greater than those who express contentment, which is very surprising considering that income per head in the United States has multiplied by three since the end of the Second World War,” he adds.
Text adapted from Catalonia Today
  • shift: canvi / cambio
  • growth: creixement / crecimiento
  • depletion: reducció, esgotament / reducción, agotamiento
  • to halt: aturar / detener
  • to plunder: abusar / abusar
  • income: ingressos / ingresos


Reading comprehension

Choose the best answer according to the text. Only ONE answer is possible.
1. According to the text, the health of the planet depends on…
2. “Degrowth” is a new…
3. Our economic model is based on…
  • surviving strategies.
  • permanent growth.
  • a few moral questions.
  • the equal distribution of resources.
4. According to the text, the resources of the planet…
5. Santiago Vilanova believes that…
6. People in “degrowth” organisations think that…
7. “Degrowth” supporters are…
8. According to Carlos Taibo, more Americans say that they are…


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