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by Giorgos Kallis

How did we come to think of limits as something to overcome? Political ecologist, ecological economist, and degrowth advocate Giorgos Kallis traces environmentalism’s scarcity mentality back to Malthus and explains why we need understand limits as a choice.

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Limits: Why Malthus Was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care
Giorgos Kallis
Stanford University Press
August 2019

Giorgos Kallis is an ecological economist and political ecologist working on environmental justice and limits to growth. He has a Bachelors degree in chemistry and a Masters in environmental engineering from Imperial College, a PhD in environmental policy from the University of the Aegean, and a second Masters in economics from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. He is an ICREA professor since 2010. Before coming to Barcelona, Kallis was a Marie Curie International Fellow’ at the Energy and Resources group at the University of California-Berkeley.

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Giorgos Kallis recommends

The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dispossessed really helped me think through all these issues because I think Le Guin was was thinking about very similar issues. She wrote at some point that her aim was to put a pig on the tracks of a one-way future consisting only of growth. A lot of us who write about degrowth, that’s what we are trying to do. She wasn’t a theorist, so she managed to express that through a novel, and the fantastic world. Seeing it illustrated is really helpful.

The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure

Michel Foucault

As with all the work of Foucault, it completely throws you off, showing you how a different civilization was thinking about something in a completely different way than we do. The part of the book that’s most relevant to my argument is about how the whole culture of Ancient Greece was obsessed with the conduct of conduct, and with moderation. You see a different civilization and how they understood self-limitation.

Development Betrayed: The End of Progress and a Co-Evolutionary Revisioning of the Future

Richard Norgaard

This is the book that most influenced my academic thinking. When I was a PhD student, the view was that economists have it wrong, they think of the economy as something that has no limit, has no nature in it, whereas ecological economists saw the economy as being bounded by ecosystem that puts limits on it. Norgaard’s book really helped me move beyond this, thinking of limits as something that we have to put upon ourselves, rather than as a ceiling. He argues that society changes with the environment; it’s like species coevolve with one another. We adapt to the changes we make to our environments.