Energy, food, digital sobriety: what is the difference with degrowth?

Rarely since the beginning of the school year have we heard so much about “degrowth” and “sobriety.” But be careful with the amalgams! Because if the meaning of these two words is close, the definition of one and the other differs, however, in some aspects. We explain why.

If before it made us think more about alcohol, the term “sobriety” now refers us to the ecological transition and the need to adopt a more moderate lifestyle and review our consumption practices.

Sobriety and “rational use”

Assimilated to moderation or frugality, the notion of sobriety has its roots in ancient philosophical and religious traditions. The theme aroused renewed interest in the 20th century, in relation to questions about modern lifestyles, current production and consumption systems, and their consequences on the environment. , social bonds and well-being”, he explains in The conversation, Pierre Galio, head of the “consumption and prevention” department of the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe).

“Energetic Sobriety”, “digital sobriety” “dietary sobriety”… Whatever the item of spending, the idea remains generally the same: “againstwe consume less and in a different way”, as the Government has recalled when announcing the implementation of a sobriety plan to deal with the energy crisis, whose outline should be revealed at the end of September.

Rational use of electricity (cut your wifi and disconnect your devices when you are not at home, for example), limit food waste, I prefer the train to the plane… Here are some examples of “eco-gestures” that can be associated with the principle of sobriety.

Degrowth as an economic concept

But then, which refers us more to our individual responsibility, some associate it with the word “degrowth”. Spearheading the campaigns of environmental primary candidates Delphine Batho and Sandrine Rousseau in the fall of 2021, who presented it as a “solution to the ecological transition”, Degrowth is a philosophical, political, social and economic concept.

Specifically, the concept of degrowth advocates, broadly speaking, stop considering economic growth as an indicator of well-being and become aware of the limited resources of the planet. The term first appeared in 1972 in the Meadows report “The Limits to Growth”, published by the international think tank The Club of Rome.

What a difference ?

However, the Ecological Transition Agency was clear on this point in a report published in spring 2022 : sobriety does not necessarily rhyme with diminution.

In short, this means that if the ecological transition or the objective to achieve carbon neutrality takes place through compensation based on technological progress, the decline in economic activity of a country, a city or a company will not de facto lead to a decline in activity.

If the two notions of sobriety and degrowth come together in this common idea of ​​moderating our consumption practices taking into account the limited resources of the planet, the greatest nuance finally resides less in the meaning than in its degree of importance.

Sobrietyoften applied at the individual level or to a group of individuals, in fact it will have less impact than degrowth, which is part of a more structural and long-term approach. In other words, sobriety is therefore one of the means to achieve the larger-scale goal that the idea of ​​degrowth represents.

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