Julie Livingston discusses her latest book, Self Devouring Growth: A Planetary Parable as Told from Southern Africa. This talk calls into question the common assumption that economic growth is a necessary basis of well-being. It does so by tracing out the collateral environmental effects of this disposition, revealing how our current climate, pollution, and extinction crises emerge out of the ways we have organized our global, national, and local economic systems around a desire for endless growth. The lecture unfolds a series of linked examples of fundamental needs (water, food, mobility, energy) that have been reworked around growth in the southern African nation of Botswana. It discusses how the systems to provide these needs become harnessed to growth and linked in a web of consumption that are part of a system of unfolding environmental catastrophes that threaten long-term harm and deprivation. Though the lecture will use Botswana, as an example to reveal the system, it will trace commodity chains that are global in their reach, and draw parallels in the US and elsewhere, to show that this growth machine is everywhere and it is unsustainable. It will draw on older histories, repositories of the imagination to consider other ways to organize our world.
Julie Livingston is the Silver Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University.
Vanessa Agard-Jones, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
Sponsored by the Center for Science and Society and the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities.