The One-Sentence Summary

Degrowth communism can save the earth.

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  • This is a provocative and quite unusual book written by a Japanese expert in both climate change and the writings of Karl Marx.
  • He kicks off controversially with the assertion that SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are the opiate of the masses. The broad point is that, in the wrong hands, such broadbrush strokes merely provide the backdrop for millions to indulge in ineffective actions that make little or no difference to saving the planet.
  • The so-called Imperial Mode of Living is based on the sacrifice of others. The societies of the Global North rely on large-scale production and consumption, the cost of which is extracted from the lands and labour of the people in the Global South. This is a prerequisite of capitalism.
  • This creates an externalization society in which all the burdens of overconsumption are passed along to an invisible ‘outside’. In other words, production, pollution and waste are all exported elsewhere so western societies can feel good about themselves and pretend everything is fine. Victims of this phenomenon are known as MAPA: Most Affected People and Areas.
  • We hear the words ‘environmental crisis’ and like a Catholic buying an indulgence we purchase a reusable shopping bag or an organic cotton t-shirt. Such actions swiftly migrate our thinking from “I don’t know” to “I don’t want to know.”
  • The Netherlands Fallacy refers to western countries placing a heavy burden on the earth whilst declaring, usually correctly, that the air and water pollution in their country is relatively low. This is partly due to better technologies in the Global North, and partly the international transfer of the burden of environmental impact to the Global South, despite their inhabitants having comparatively modest lifestyles.
  • Since capitalism seeks to exploit everything, this has led to the Exhaustion of the Periphery. There is a limit that even the power of capital cannot overcome. Despite efforts to use technology to overcome such limits, along with moving the problem elsewhere and using delaying tactics, the author claims that the world will end before capitalism does.
  • Even worse, Disaster capitalism makes even more money out of catastrophes such as Covid. The money keeps rolling in no matter how bad things are for many. Instead, accelerationism calls for the promotion of sustainable growth.


  • It’s no longer the tragedy of the commons, where everyone has taken too much of the resources that should be freely available to all, but the tragedy of the commodity. Water and energy should be free, but they have become commodities owned by capitalists. Reclaiming the commons is communism, which Marx calls the negation of negation. The first negation is the division of the commons by capitalism, and the second is reclaiming it to restore radical abundance.
  • In one extreme example, it is suggested that people should return to the lifestyle levels of the 70’s, so they would no longer be able to drink Beaujolais Nouveau flown in the same day as its release. By contrast, if global warming reaches 3 degrees Centigrade, then there would be no French wine to drink at all because it would no longer be possible to cultivate grapes in France.
  • The author outlines 4 possible futures, or choices:
  1. Climate fascism: relentlessly continue to pursue economic growth
  2. Barbarism: chaos created by collapse in food production and war
  3. Climate Maoism: sustainable rules dictated by the state, wherever that may be
  4. Degrowth communism
  • The pillars of degrowth communism are transitioning to a value-based economy, shortening work hours, abolishing the uniform division of labour, democratizing the production process, prioritizing essential work, and getting rid of bullshit jobs to concentrate on essential work.
  • We need to restore food sovereignty by stopping the incessant export of food to the Global North from countries that have a thriving agricultural sector.
  • In conclusion, the author points to the work of Harvard political scientist Erica Chenoweth, who states that it only takes 3.5% of the population to take part in protest strategies to bring about major societal change.
  • And since it is capitalism that’s destroying the planet, maybe the Anthropocene should be renamed the


  • The author’s deep understanding of Marx’s writings lead him to offer long detail on the topic that many readers will probably not be very interested in.