Produce less. Distribute it fairly. Create a greener world for all.

System Change Not Climate Change

SYSTEM CHANGE NOT CLIMATE CHANGE! The Crucial Demand of Our Time! Degrowing from Chaos to a Steady-State Economy ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM, CHANGE THE MONEY! PARITY ECONOMY JUST TRANSITION MAKE CARBON OUR FRIEND NOT OUR FOE     People get it. The realization that we are in the midst of a climate emergency…

Written by

Steve Showen


Originally Published in


The Crucial Demand of Our Time!

Degrowing from Chaos to a Steady-State Economy





People get it. The realization that we are in the midst of a climate emergency has galvanized youth, keenly aware their futures are at risk. The largest public demonstration since covid was held in the streets at Climate Week NYC, displaying signs demanding “System Change, Not Climate Change.” Having made virtually no progress in climate goals since the first Earth Day fifty plus years ago, the system is the obvious culprit, devouring Earth’s resources to feed an avaricious profit-making machine that’s never satisfied with enough, wreaking havoc and spewing carbon in its wake. Our growth-driven economic system has pushed us to the limits of our finite planet’s ability to sustain us, to the brink of environmental collapse and climate catastrophe. It is imperative that humans transform the way we live upon the Earth and relate to the web of life on which we depend, lest we cross a catastrophic tipping point.


Rachel Jetel of World Resources Institute lays out our challenge:


“And yet to limit global temperature rise, conserve nature, and build a fairer economy that benefits everyone, we will need deep change across every aspect of our economies at a pace and scale we have not yet seen.


“The latest science tells us that we must limit warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) to prevent increasingly dangerous and irreversible climate change impacts. It also tells us that we must protect, sustainably manage, and restore ecosystems, among other actions, to halt biodiversity loss as soon as possible. To achieve all this, we need fundamental change across nearly all major systems by 2030 — power, buildings, industry, transport, forests and land, and food and agriculture. Cross-cutting transformations of political, social, and economic systems must also occur to enable this and ensure the change is socially inclusive with equitable outcomes for all.”





In accord with these criteria, the imperative for fundamental change necessitates stopping the runaway growth train and downsizing and reconfiguring our economy and its subsystems to operate within the carrying capacity of the Earth. This entails progressing through a phase of “degrowth” until a “steady-state economy” has been achieved, so that we and the planet may thrive with a stable economy, justly and sustainably, into the foreseeable future.


Degrowth and steady-state economy are related fields within ecological economics, pioneered by the late Herman Daly. Unlike mainstream neoclassical economics and environmental economics, ecological economics recognizes that our economy is an open subsystem within Earth’s finite ecosystem. For example, to mitigate the climate emergency directly, we clearly want to phase out fossil fuels and adopt some form of truly renewable energy. However, the immediate priority is to massively draw down atmospheric carbon and sequester it wisely in the soil, avoiding the costly farce of corporate carbon capture schemes. The expense of effective and realistic mitigation measures in relation to economic restructuring must be prefigured to prevent a continuation of the growth-based system, greenwashed in the guise of “green growth” or even “green degrowth,” to ensure we’re not still headed for disaster, and Sustainable Climate Goals (SCG’s) can actually be met.


In a steady-state economy, for example, a stable size of population and material wealth are sustained by a stable flow of natural resources, with low resource throughput and low emissions, not overshooting the ability of the earth to replenish human consumption and absorb waste.


In this report of the Steady State Economy Conference, a steady-state economy is defined as:


“an economy where the goal is enough instead of more. … It is an economy where energy and resource use are reduced to levels that are within ecological limits, and where the goal of maximising economic output is replaced by the goal of maximising quality of life…And an emphasis on high quality of life means that economic growth takes a backseat to things that really matter to people, like health, well-being, secure employment, leisure time, strong communities, and economic stability.”


The introduction to the Green Party U.S. platform Article IV. Economic Justice and Sustainability begins with: “Green economics is rooted in ecological economics.” Here follow selected excerpts from Article IV, which extends from Sections A. through N., comprising numerous policy proposals. 


Our economy should serve us and our planet. Our economy should reflect and respect the diverse, delicate ecosystems of our planet.


Green economic policy places value not just on material wealth, but on the things which truly make life worth living — our health, our relationships, our communities, our environment, and building peace and justice throughout our nation and the world. We aim to maximize our quality of life with a minimum of consumption. We aspire to less “stuff” but more happiness. We propose a shift away from materialism to help people live more meaningful lives as we save the planet from climate change and ever-larger mountains of waste. We need to acquire the ability to distinguish between need and greed.


From Section A. Ecological Economics: Recognition of limits is central to this system. The drive to accumulate power and wealth is a pernicious characteristic of a civilization headed in a pathological direction.


From Section B. Measuring Economic Health: From 1: The steady-state economy has become a more appropriate goal than economic growth in the United States and other large, wealthy economies. From 3: Ultimately, however, the global ecosystem will not be able to support further economic growth. Therefore, an equitable distribution of wealth among nations is required to maintain a global steady-state economy.  


A circular economy (CE) is a separate field with a similar sounding name that’s a source of confusion. CE aims “to tackle global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution”…by “sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.” CE is lauded by proponents “as a facilitator of long-term growth.” While Herman Daly agrees such circular or closed loop processes are all good policies, he observes they are “destined to fall short of their goal of ‘sustainable growth’.” Recycling is limited, costing energy, material and equipment, and passing through a limited number of cycles before metals become more dispersed and inaccessible, according to the law of entropy. Sustainable growth is an oxymoron. “There is always a scale limit to a sustainable economic subsystem, beyond which growth, even in a ‘circular’ economy, breaks down, and sustainability requires a steady state economy.” Daly emphasizes: “The basic issue of limits to growth that the Club of Rome did so much to emphasize in the early 1970’s needs to remain front and center.”





To initiate the transition, we must derail the engine that drives the growth train: our privatized monetary system. Contrary to popular belief, commercial banks create our money from nothing when they make loans, at interest. Our money is a form of interest-bearing debt, driving economic growth, inflation, inequality, environmental plunder, political corruption, endless war profiteering, and generating a debt-based economy that funnels wealth and power to the top. Banks own our money system, which grants them immense power, determining who gets money and who doesn’t. They own controlling interest in the major corporations, back fossil fuel companies, and manipulate our political process. Our economy is overburdened by speculative finance. “On an average we pay about 50% capital costs [interest] in the prices of our goods and services.”  


Opening the political space to create and fund public policy for overhauling our economic system begins with ending the banks’ money creation privilege. We can then proceed to enact recovery and restructuring programs, as the growth oriented Green New Deal purported to do, which “is really about the transition to a steady state economy. At least, that’s what it must be about, to be truly green and new,” asserts Brian Czech, executive director of the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy (CASSE). Daly and CASSE hold that money creation and allocation as a public utility is an essential feature of a steady-state economy. Thus a True Degrowth / Steady-State Green New Deal will be funded by a democratic sovereign public money system, established by a true peoples’ Congress that has recovered its money creation power to spend on the general welfare, debt free, as granted in the American Constitution, Article I, Section 8. Previously, a bought-and-paid-for Congress had surrendered its money power to the banking cartel with the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.


The U.S. Green Party’s Banking and Monetary Reform Committee (BMRC) educates about Greening the Dollar, a critical initiative found in the party’s platform Article IV., Section N., outlining a program to democratize the money and restore Congress’s constitutional authority over currency creation, based on the NEED Act, introduced into Congress by Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers in 2011. Its core principles are:


  1. End bank creation of money.
  2. Restore to Congress the exclusive authority to create money, free from debt, and spend it for public purpose.
  3. Nationalize the Federal Reserve System, now owned by private member banks, making all its remaining operations accountable to the public.


This makes our money system a public utility, able to fund a Truly Green New Deal debt free, and reshape our economy to run in balance with the Earth’s ability to sustain us.


An historic example of the success of public money was when President Lincoln issued debt-free government Greenbacks during the civil war, which were a major factor spurring the economy and retaining the union. There was also a diminution of debt and interest rates during that period, before the banking cartel overcame the Greenbacks.


The BMRC collaborates with other monetary reform organizations. In the U.S. this includes the Alliance for Just Money (AFJM), and the American Monetary Institute (AMI). AMI issued this urgent statement to COP28 regarding “The Monetary Dimension of Environmental Degradation,” inviting signatures from individuals and groups:


“We, the undersigned, believe there exists a significant correlation between the current, dysfunctional debt-based monetary system and environmental degradation, and we strongly believe that sovereign monetary reform will allow a substantial contribution to climate [solution] finance.”


AFJM is organizing a Mayday for Money rally and march in front of the Chicago Fed in 2024, reminiscent of Occupy Wall Street, but with a more informed, focused and transformative objective, to take back our money creation power from the banking cartel, via the NEED Act.





The IPCC defines just transition … as a set of principles, processes and practices that aim to ensure that no people, workers, places, sectors, countries or regions are left behind in the transition from a high-carbon to a low carbon economy.” 


While the transition to a steady-state economy must be socially just, that does not necessarily mean transitioning to a “low carbon economy”as defined by the IPCC, permitting carbon credits and such. True, we want to get to low or net-zero carbon emissions. But what we really want is net negative carbon emitting industries that remove or capture more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit, and cycle it eventually to the soil. This would be an instrumental feature of a steady-state economy, which can be done by utilizing carbon to our benefit, by reversing its role from nemesis to benefactor, as we shall see in a moment.  


To achieve a just transition to a steady-state economy, a Report of the Steady State Economy Conference calls for global co-operation to be improved: 


“Many nations need to increase their consumption of resources to alleviate poverty and allow people to meet their basic needs. These nations stand in stark contrast to wealthy countries like the UK where the benefits of growth have already been realised. The UK and other wealthy countries must stabilise, if not degrow, their economies in order to provide the ecological space needed for poorer nations to grow.”


The fact is “we would need 5.1 Earths if everyone lived like Americans,” and roughly three Earth’s if everyone lived like Europeans. Quality of life is not determined by GDP, which is criticized for being more of an indicator of “illth” than wealth or health. Indices more suited to measuring development and social well-being include the Human Development Index (HDI) and the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). Notably, growth is not the same as development. It follows that there is both a necessity and potential for every nation to creatively develop comfortable novel lifestyles and innovative means of production that require far fewer resources to avoid overshooting the one Earthship we have. For example, here is an inspiring proposal:





Facilitated by monetary reform and applicable within a steady-state economy is a parity (pricing) economy, which is founded on economic research begun during the first decades of the 20th century, establishing raw materials production to be the foundation of the national  (income) economy, thus confirming the maxim of natural law that “All wealth comes from the Earth.” It was discovered that raw materials production had to be priced fairly (parity pricing) or the national income (which includes all sectors of the economy) would be impaired. The Raw Materials National Council educated all the State Commissioners of Agriculture about how our NATIONAL INCOME (our economy) depends on the production of raw materials. Its successor in the study of the economic record, the National Organization for Raw Materials (NORM), explains:


“When raw materials enter trade channels at prices in balance with the prices of labor and capital in the rest of the economy, THE ENTIRE COUNTRY can operate on an earned-income basis with no buildup of public and private debt. Conversely, when raw materials enter trade channels at less than parity prices with labor and capital, the economy lacks sufficient dollars to operate on a debt-free basis, therefore, public and private debt accumulates.”


Prompted by the necessity of providing for the nation during WWII, and educated by the Raw Materials Council, Congress passed a parity bill in April 1942, allowing the entire economy to function without debt. However, after 1952 federal farm policy was controlled by international traders and corporations aligned with the banking power, who slowly eroded prices placed to support our major raw material producer, the farmer. Since then we’ve lost a million and a half family farms to agribusiness. Rural communities have been impoverished.


Getting more farmers back on the land to grow healthy fertile soil while they produce food and fiber is the best way to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and rebuild rural communities, potentially becoming part of relatively self-sustaining bioregions. 


Today, with the control of federal economic policy in the hands of the financial sector, money flows to financial elites. They understand that a parity economy feeds the real economy with goods and services for the population, and that the same parity economy would cut them off.  They serve only their own interests and not those of our country.


Parity policy is not strictly for agriculture. It is for the ENTIRE ECONOMY — an economy where farmers can keep their farms without losing it to debt, where industrial businesses can pay solid wages and run a profitable business, where retailers can have customers that have money in their pockets to buy what they need for a decent life. A Parity Economy allows all citizens to stay out of debt to the private commercial banks, earn enough money to get their needs met, and support the local communities in our nation.




In their book Burn: Using Fire to Cool the Earth, Albert Bates and Kathleen Draper introduce a revolutionary approach to mitigating our climate crisis that would profoundly change our relationship to carbon by “transitioning carbon from a wasted resource to a (CO2) drawdown super hero.” Building upon ancient methods of “transforming impoverished soils into fertile black earth by converting organic materials into long lasting carbon, or biochar,… we can go from spending carbon to banking it.”


“This stable form of carbon can pass through many useful stages as food, filter, fodder, or building materials before returning to the part of the (carbon) cycle where the story began, the soil. During its transformation, useful services like heating, cooling, and power can also be generated. It can restore degraded lands and rebuild biodiversity. It can mitigate the effect of changing climate and ease or enable adaptation.”


“It contains the seeds of a new, circular economy in which energy, natural resources, and human ingenuity enter a virtuous cycle of improvement with bold new solutions that can begin right now.”




An overarching structural change of system is immediately imperative to enable the “deep change across every aspect of our economies at a pace and scale we have not yet seen, …that ensures the change is socially inclusive with equitable outcomes for all.”


This is the existential challenge of our lives. We know what must be done. Let’s do it!