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Department of Informatics Informatics and Sustainability Research

Panel discussion with Katja Gentinetta and Niko Paech

Panel discussion with Katja Gentinetta and Niko Paech

Digital Reset Book Cover
© Foto: Flurin Bertschinger

The research project "Pathways to Sufficiency" invited Dr. Katja Gentinetta and Prof. Niko Paech for a controversial panel discussion, moderated by Leonard Creutzburg. The core issue discussed was whether economic growth can be a strategy for a sustainable society or not. 

In their opening statements, the guests presented their views on environmental problems and the related issue of economic growth, commonly measured as the increase in gross domestic product (GDP). The role of growth for the human psyche, the question of decoupling economic growth and environmental consumption and the political feasibility of their different proposals were controversially discussed.

Like Paech, Gentinetta also recognises the ecological crises, from the climate to the biodiversity crisis. However, she does not see growth as a problem in this context, on the contrary: growth in economic output makes new innovations possible, develops sustainable technologies and generally stimulates the human spirit of invention. This would help to overcome the crises – but none of this would be possible without growth. 

Growth critic and economist Niko Paech strongly disagreed. Relative decoupling is a "catastrophe" because it would further increase environmental consumption. What is needed is absolute decoupling, the possibility of which, however, has not been empirically proven. Although Paech does not see himself as an enemy of technology, he emphasises that, in addition to efficiency and consistency, sufficiency is also necessary, i.e. the reduction of the demand for resources to a tolerable level, both on an individual and on a societal level. 

The discussions in and with the audience were also engaged - and continued until late at the subsequent apéro riche.