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  • Q&A Federico Savini (degrowth)
  • Q&A Students (artwork)
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Q&A Federico Savini (degrowth)

  • 1. What is degrowth?

    Degrowth is a concept based on the principles of sustainability and social justice. It proposes a radical new way of thinking about our society: economically, socially and culturally. It consists of 2 parts:

    1: Reducing what is unnecessary and harmful to people and planet, like excessive wealth and consumption (think SUV’s, private jets, villa’s).

    2: Increasing essential needs, like proper housing, healthy food, and public spaces.

    Degrowth shows us that there is an alternative way of living. A life in which well-being, sustainability and justice come first, instead of economic growth and excessive consumerism. It allows us to realize that we can slow down. That we need less. No one wants to give up their wealth and privileges. But we need to reframe this. It’s a liberation! We will get more freedom and time in return. We can use this for the most important things in life. Like family, friends, education, culture, sports, art, fun. Who doesn’t want that?

  • 2. What is not degrowth?

    A common misunderstanding is that degrowth leads to less quality of life. This is the result of fifty years neo-liberal and growth-dependent thinking: we think we need to consume to be happy. We also think we are all equally responsible for the pollution our consumption causes. But that’s not true. The ultra rich pollute the most and are most responsible. Hence, they have to degrow, not the lower middle class. The poorer social class must get access to more resources to improve their well-being. 

    Degrowth is primarily a social project. For a better climate, we must distribute blame and responsibility fairly. I’m aware that these ideas probably don’t appeal to super-rich people. But the fact is: the majority of people are not super rich (we tend to forget this). So in a democracy you can arrange that.

  • 3. Why is degrowth important?

    We’re facing massive social and climate challenges. We need realistic solutions for them. Relying on new technologies like solar power or electric cars is not realistic. It just won’t suffice. Instead, we must embrace systemic changes and move away from deep-rooted views and ideas about capitalism and economic growth. Yes, it’s hard to let go of it. But we need to realize that we need to change our way of living. In the end, it’s for our own benefit.

  • 4. How can degrowth become reality?

    I think 2 things are important. 

    First: we need to redistribute wealth and resources from those who have too much towards those who need it most. This can be achieved through measures such as taxes and regulations. An example is excessive housing ownership. If someone owns more than 10 houses, they should redistribute them. Also, if the space per person exceeds 30 square meters, it is actually not aligning with planetary boundaries. This promotes shared living and challenges existing power structures related to property ownership.

    Second: a new mindset. For example, now we start by asking what we would like to have, as if anything is possible. But the question should be: what is the limit of what we can have, and on the other hand what is the minimum required. In between that space is what you should get. Ask yourself, for example, what is the maximum number of cars you would want in your neighborhood, or what is the minimum amount of greenery and social housing. This way of living is more focused on quality instead of quantity.

    In order to achieve these 2, creating more awareness is key. Through education, communities, and the media. Education should emphasize consuming less and finding fulfillment in non-material values. Grassroots movements play a pivotal role, influencing both politics and businesses. In the media we could showcase alternative ways of living. In any case, we need democratic processes. So that the interest of all people are taken into account.

  • 5. What are the biggest myths about growth?

    These 3 myths I often get questions about:

    1. Economic growth is good for society and personal well-being 

    It is important to realize that economic growth is unsustainable and only benefits the ultra rich. You might think you’re rich, but really, there is a small group of people who own most of the world’s wealth. In cities the contrast between rich and poor becomes very visible and tangible. You see people suffer on the streets, while others sleep in fancy hotels and drive around in expansive electric cars. Besides, did you know that after a certain point, more money no longer makes you happy?

    1. Economic growth can be decoupled from environmental degradation

    This is simply not true. Moreover, we’re not even close to achieving the preferred scenario outlined by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). So degrowth is necessary. But be aware: not everyone is equally responsible. Redistribution between rich and poor is needed. 

    1. Economic growth is necessary to achieve climate targets

    It’s simple: rich people pollute the most. The top 10% is responsible for 23% of the emissions growth. The bottom 50% is responsible for only 16% of the emissions growth. There’s a big difference in wealth between the global north and south. But within societies in countries like ours there are also very large differences. Both can be tackled by degrowth. 

  • 6. What is the biggest challenge for degrowth?

    The biggest challenge for degrowth is communicating the message effectively. Because radical changes often face misunderstanding and resistance. Hence, we need tangible and appealing examples and experiments in everyday life that show us what a different, better, world could look like. By showcasing alternative lifestyles focused on well-being, creativity, education, health and sustainability, we can navigate towards a more balanced future. That’s why I’m very enthusiastic about the art experiment of Siobhan and Vasilisa.

Q&A Students (artwork)

  • 1. What where the most memorable interactions?

    The performance was rich in unique encounters, curious moments, and both deep and simple dialogues and interactions. Initially, the project was conceived as a social experiment to observe and analyse people’s reactions and responsiveness. We were interested in how individuals would react to active invitations, engaging activities, and colourful appearances, as well as conversely, a more passive behaviour, and installation that required personal interpretation and self-involvement. 

    Many people engaged with our performance, leaving written thoughts, drawings, playing instruments, or simply conversing with us. Throughout the three hours we spent on Kalverstraat, people were constantly approaching us. 

    Some of the most memorable interactions were: 

    • Older men engaging in philosophical conversations about life, discussing topics like God and the meaning of life at length. 
    • Young girls who were initially shy but opened up when given the chance to try a new instrument. 
    • Babies who were mesmerized by the sound of the handpan. 
    • A man who showed interest in the performance but expressed concern about radiation from our phones, stating he avoids such things 🙂 
    • Several individuals who, inspired by our art, shared their own works and invited us to their exhibitions. 
    • Tourists who, despite not speaking English, communicated their appreciation for the artwork.
  • 2. What did you learn most from the performance?

    All these people, willing to share a piece of themselves, greatly enriched our experience. This performance had a profoundly beneficial impact on us. It taught us to be more open to the world and to people, even in the most unfamiliar circumstances. We realised how easy it is to engage people in action by showing ingenuity and taking the first step. People need a point of connection, a glance, or attention. If you present them with an idea for a positive action, create the right conditions, and provoke reflection, they will happily participate and contribute in their own way. 

    Our objective was never to push an agenda or impose opinions. We simply enjoyed ourselves, sincerely delighted in what we were doing, and people felt that and responded in kind.

Continue to watch and read


  • Federico Savini answers the most asked questions about degrowth >> LINK
  • Lecture by Federico about urban planning and degrowth >> LINK


  • Federico is a guest on the Postgrow City Podcast, part 1 >> LINK & Part 2 >> LINK


The UvA profile of Federico Savini and his scientific publications >> LINK

Vasilisa Ananeva’s website >> LINK

Siobhan Bell’s website >> LINK

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