Well-being and happiness in the age of decline

Alvaro Bayon (various)

Since the first accurate predictions about Climate change, Rivers of ink have been spilled about what to do to stop its progress and mitigate its impact. successive conferences of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate ChangeWhich has been conducted every year and uninterrupted since 1995, with the sole exception of the 2020 pandemic, has put a lot of data on the table, but unfortunately, for the most part, good intentions have been demonstrated. Some actual actions, and even none at all.

Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida during the COP26 conference in Glasgow in 2021. – (CC) Office of the Prime Minister of Japan/Wikimedia

When most tasks are inadequate

most of proposals Have been defended by government agencies, at best, lukewarmAnd real actions have found Opposition from big companies and pressure groups Who often wears green clothes with famous people green washingThe maximum they allow is to appeal superstitious techno-optimism and inexperience and delay in implementation of action.

Facing this perspective, there are many research groups Defend the need for actions to reduce emissions green house gases and other impacts associated with the Anthropocene, so immediate, global and absolute, Unfortunately, economic growth is inextricably linked to these emissions. This cannot happen at the local level; Some countries manage to improve their economies while reducing their emissions. But when it happens, there’s a price to be paid Importing or outsourcing industrial activitiesEncouraging more emissions to be produced elsewhere.

The logos of four major fossil fuel-related companies have changed in recent years; left before; Well, after the ‘greenwashing’ – Á. Bayan

As depicted in a devastating report published in 2019 and directed by researcher timothy perrickFrom Stockholm University, Sweden, The gap between economic growth and environmental impact is an unrealistic fiction – The report graphically compares it to the Loch Ness Monster. In conclusion, it is concluded that the best way to reduce anthropogenic emissions and impacts on the environment is economic decline.

Degrowth can work

Perspective of degrowth or ‘degrowthism’defended among others by a Swazi anthropologist living in Spain jason hickelfrom the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​defined as economic and social strategy Which proposes to reduce use in a deliberate, planned and controlled manner natural resources and large-scale production of goods and services, so as to achieve greater environmental sustainability, while improving human well-being And inequality reduces.

With this approach, the decline may seem utopian, However, as scientific publications show, Degrowth can work, This perspective is focusing on re-orienting economies towards meeting basic needs and improving the quality of life Challenges the prevailing capitalist paradigm and proposes to stop measuring prosperity in terms of GDP and start doing so in terms of social and environmental well-being,

However, questions arise about the feasibility of a collective welfare approach, particularly under the assumption that low economic standards will lead to decrease in happiness and personal well-being.

inequality in greenhouse gas emissions; Average annual emissions per capita. —World Inequality Report 2022

Decline and happiness: the example of Japan

Researchers are looking for answers to these questions Jeremy Rapalle and Yukiko UchidaUnder the supervision of Professor from Kyoto University in Japan Hikari KomatsuFrom National Taiwan University, got to work with the most direct and obvious verification that can be imagined: empirical perspective,

He Japan The latter half of the 20th century was prosperous and its economic growth was relatively stable since the war ended. But since 1995Reasons for maintaining prices and increasing social security costs Decrease in both household income and expenditure, An economic stability that has lasted for almost three decades.

Thus the research conducted by Komatsu and his colleagues focuses on the case of Japan. Empirically test theoretical debates On decline as a viable option to achieve stability.

Research was conducted through survey on life satisfactionOther indicators of happiness and subjective well-being are showing improvements and improvements in the perception of personal well-being.

Degrowth, done well, shows an increase in the population’s happiness, but also a change in the concept of well-being – Jess Fommy/Pixabay

Data received and published in scientific journal futuresreveal that although subjective well-being initially experienced a decline as economic standards fell, This trend reversed with time., even in the absence of economic recovery. These results show that the relationship between economic growth and happiness and well-being More complex than before.

A finding that reinforces the premise that degrowth policies can have environmental and social benefits, e.g. reduce inequality Reduction in income and reduction in unemployment. These findings challenge the notion that decline necessarily leads to lower rates of happiness and well-being.

Changes in the concept of welfare

Another conclusion emerges from the study, which is very interesting. and it’s the same Perceptions of well-being and happiness do not remain the same over time, There is a process of change in perspective based on the way we perceive happiness. Personal and material achievementstill Evaluation of social relationships and non-material satisfaction.

It was measured during the 20th century Subjective well-being according to personal achievement and status, considering only one’s own benefit and without taking into account the collective or social. However, as a result of these special circumstances of recent decades, there has been a change Satisfaction of working for othersAnd there has been a very significant increase in the priority of helping others.

Degrowth allows us to help the environment while we help each other – Shamir PK/Pixabay

This change is in relation to what welfare provides reflected in personal preferences and is particularly evident in behavior and attitudes towards consumption and lifestyle among the younger generation, Those who do not remember the time of high economic growth rates and wealth-generating lifestyle of the 1980s or are not yet born, declare themselves as critical more satisfied Compared to previous generations.

This change in the concept of happiness and life satisfaction explains Reevaluating what is considered important for happiness, moving away from materialistic values ​​toward a greater appreciation for interpersonal relationships and collective well-being. This adjustment in the assessment of well-being Contributes to the resilience of subjective well-being Suggests alternative paths to happiness in the context of Japan’s economic challenges facing, and decline. demonstrating it Another model, which prioritizes social and environmental well-being over economic growth, is possible.


  • Hickel, J. et al. 2022. Degrowth can work – here’s how science can help. nature, 612(7940), 400-403. DOI: 10.1038/d41586-022-04412-x
  • Komatsu, H. et al. 2022. Is happiness possible in a declining society? futures, 144103056. doi: 10.1016/j.futures.2022.103056
  • Parik, T. et al. 2019. Decoupling debunked. Evidence and arguments against green growth as the only strategy for sustainability. A study edited by the European Environment Bureau EEB.

(TagstoTranslate)Experiment(T)Happiness(T)Japan(T)United Nations(T)Social Security

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