From 19-23 September a number of WCN activists gathered at the 3rd International Conference on Degrowth, Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in the carfree city of Venice to explore the synergies between the carfree and degrowth agendas and see how the movements could best complement one another.
The first thing that was clear is that the degrowth movement has not concentrated much on questions of personal mobility beyond a general assumption that there will have to be less of it in the future. How much less, which forms of transport are truly in line with the level of degrowth needed, and on which principles they should be run are entirely open questions at the moment. So there is a clear potential to look together in more detail at these issues.
Where the movement, like other related movements (transition towns etc) is much stronger is on the question of localising food supply in order to reduce ‘food miles’ – an urgent imperative given the unsustainability of the current system. Not only does it contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions (transport, although not only of food, makes up around 30% of emissions in the so- called ‘developed’ countries), it is heavily dependent on oil, and has been largely taken over by vast corporations who have neither nutrition nor environmental sustainability as their main motivations.
As well as being a great opportunity to meet new carfree people and hold several meetings on WCN’s activities, new areas for activity presented themselves at the conference. One of the main issues that is raising concern in the network at the moment is the reduction in cross-border rail services that seems to be taking place across Europe. All of Greece’s international services have been cut, drastic cuts are taking place in Serbia and Croatia, and even Venice itself has been totally cut off to train access from Slovenia as there are now no cross-border train services from Slovenia to Italy, leaving visitors coming from that direction to either walk across the border or go via Austria. Not exactly the kind of ‘degrowth’ we had in mind: expect more from WCN on this issue soon.