Ultimately, Kallis is in search of a philosophical worldview that can make limits an expression of freedom rather than bondage. Drawing upon his heritage, he holds up the Greek republic as an exemplary model even if you take into account the retrograde treatment of women and slaves. As an analogy, Marx and Engels (as well as Ben Franklin) admired the Iroquois confederacy even as it exhibited the same sort of brutality toward its enemies. What they all had in common was an understanding of the need for equality, living modestly, and having respect for the natural world ....
As made clear in my CounterPunch article “Ecological Limits and the Working Class,” I am a degrowth advocate and even come down on the side of emphasizing footprints and over-exploitation. I cite Hickel’s article “Is it Possible to Achieve a Good Life for All Within Planetary Boundaries?” that violates Kallis’s strictures even though I am deeply sympathetic to his call for returning to the ethos of self-control and moderation.
What worries me, however, about the degrowth literature in totality is its usefulness to a revolutionary movement. Unlike the Green New Deal, what are the political implications of degrowth? What is a possible slogan? Stop building new factories? Or ground all Boeing 737’s, Max or not?
Unlike the Green New Deal, degrowth only makes sense in a post-capitalist society. If social and economic equality were universal, it would not generate opposition since a sacrifice would be shared equally. You can see a foreshadowing of such a social compact from an article titled in the December 14th Globe and Mail titled, “The climate crisis is like a world war. So let’s talk about rationing.” Eleanor Boyle, the author of the op-ed, also wrote “High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat.” Such a book is necessary even if it is mostly irrelevant to people making $8 per hour who can barely afford a Big Mac. Under socialism, we should develop the kind of egalitarian ethic that allows everybody to enjoy a steak as long as it doesn’t compete with land dedicated to quinoa cultivation.