Sunday began early, going to meet around 25 members of Transition Italia and of different Italian groups on the harbourside on the outskirts of Venice. There we got on a boat that they had booked to take us all to Ferrara. The boat was called ‘Nena’, an original Venezian ‘vaporetto’, the boats particular to Venice that are used to ferry passengers and goods around the smaller waterways. It was owned by a family who had lovingly restored it and it was a beautiful boat, and they were our hosts for the day. It was to turn out to be one of the most beautiful Transition-related days I have ever had the fortune to experience.
The theme of Saturday, my last day at Degrowth2012 (although it is continuing tomorrow also) was ‘democracy’. I arrived late for the opening session, due to having been woken several times in the night by a very persistent mosquito, and after I had lovingly posted my write-up of yesterday, for you dear reader, I was running a little bit late. So I missed Marco Deriu, and arrived half way through the talk by Salvor Nordal, Chair of the Iceland Constitutional Council and the University of Iceland. She had been speaking about how the financial crash of 4 years ago in Iceland has led to a very creative process of reimagining democracy in Iceland.
The theme for today was work. The first plenary session featured four speakers. The first, Gilbert Rist from Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes in Geneva, was a pretty forthright dismissal of economics as it is practiced today. We need, he said, to free ourselves of the dominance that economics has over peoples’ will. There are two reasons why it is fatally flawed. The first is that it is based upon a mechanistic model which makes it impossible for economists to understand present ecological and environmental problems, especially in the biosphere.
The theme of the first full day of ‘The Third International Conference on Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity’ in Venice was ‘Commons’. For me there were a couple of key highlights of the day, so I will give a thumbnail of all the talks today, but more detail on the highlights. As with my notes from yesterday, the following is compiled from my notes, and so are entirely fallible. Apologies to any of the speakers if I have got their message wrong. The first speaker was Gianni Tamino of the University of Padova who argued that in the context of depleting resources, the commons are essential for living, we can’t postpone the end of growth.
I’m in Venice at the 2012 Degrowth conference. I’ve never been to Venice before, it is really quite an extraordinary place. Even in the rain. It took me 17 bleary hours on various trains, but that was time well spent. This is the third Degrowth conference, and it has brought together people from far and wide, with its theme of ‘The Great Transition: degrowth as a passage of civilisation’. The conference started this afternoon, in the Teatro Malibran, a beautiful old theatre.