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RADICAL CHANGE IS COMING: Beyond Growth Conference 2023

Photos by Lucy Henshall

Text by Gabry Menéndez

If you’re reading this, I guess that means that you’re alive.

And if you’re alive right now, I guess that means that you grew up in a capitalist economic system.

You’ve been fed the desire for growth, consumption and profit accumulation. You may never have noticed or thought about it. You’ve been taught, brainwashed, that growth is necessary. Mandatory. You don’t really understand or question why, but that’s what your president is always saying on TV right? Some people unemployed? More growth will fix it. People don’t have access to food, water, health services or housing? Easy, more growth will fix it. Ever increasing economic activity is rapidly destabilizing the conditions for life on earth and we are heading for extinction? Sure.

More. Growth. Will fix it.

It just seems to be how the world works. It’s not your fault, you simply inherited this system. We are trapped. Period.

There’s not even room for new thinking. Like if we’ve completely lost our capabilities to dream, imagine and create new realities.


It is precisely this capitalist system and this mandate for infinite economic growth at all costs that has led us to the critical situation in which we are living today. It’s a fucking mess.

While the rich continue to get richer, more than 50% of the global population lives in poverty and 25.000 people die every day of hunger and related causes. Around 2 billion people don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water, and approximately 3.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation services. I could continue throwing facts about the devastating situation of global society, but I think you get it by now. On top of all of that, we’ve already transgressed 6 out of the 9 planetary boundaries that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth System. Yes, it’s hard to come to terms with it, but the truth is that current policies are rapidly driving us towards mass extinction.

Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Credit: "Azote for Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on analysis in Wang-Erlandsson et al 2022".

But listen to this and pay attention because this concerns you: Radical change is coming.

I’ve spent the last few days at the ‘Beyond Growth Conference' in the European Parliament in Brussels, where I really felt that history was being written before my eyes. One of the most amazing aspects was the incredible amount of young people attending. The suits and ties merged with scrappy vintage clothing and XR flags. I don’t think that the atmosphere in this building ever felt so real, lively and connected to the realities of our current society.

Witnessing thousands of citizens including activists, politicians, scientists, professors and civil society gathering under the banner of a new world was nothing like I’ve ever seen before. The environmental proletariat is alive and well. The movement is building up.

With a packed hemicycle, it all started in a weirdly awkward and intense disgust, with Von Der Leyen and Roberta Metsola defending growth at all costs in a conference about DEGROWTH. WTF? Bragging about European Green Deals and circular econo