background image

Documentary Review- The FairyTale of Growth

author image

By Roli Rajpali

· 7 min read

FairyTale of Growth is a featured documentary film focusing on a compelling yet catastrophic issue of climate change and the capitalism fueling it. The documentary focuses on the 3 key points which are CLIMATE CHANGE, DEGROWTH, AND SYSTEM CHANGE. With integrated valor, it portrays the voices of the young & concerned generation to call upon radical system change to calm the catastrophic future it beholds. It highlights and gives detailed explanation of the model created by capitalist stakeholders that have resulted in the role of economic growth in climatic disasters. It further proposes recommended alternatives by the leading global activists and shares a ray of hope to undo the damage to the well-being of human society and our planet. It has portrayed a myriad of individual groups and organizations that have contributed to expressing their thoughts and vision to fight together and against this globally defined system of economic growth initiated by the rise of capitalism. It included people from teen climate activists to top academics, indigenous leaders, and advocacy groups pioneering new forms of solidarity economics and social movements to instigate the movement for a more equitable distribution of wealth to cycle the upcoming generations.

The documentary, in the beginning, explains the purpose of its existence which is to advance the understanding of issues of environmental and humanitarian significance. The United Nations Secretary-General- Antonio Guterres’ speech is clipped to highlight the fact that nature is striking back after its excess usage and this time, with fury. The documentary further showcases news clips of the Australian forest fire & Venice flood to reflect that our warming Earth is issuing a chilling cry and if we don’t change our way of life, we jeopardize life ourselves and bring misery. As the documentary takes pace to bring forward the issue, it brings into the limelight the most iconic and social media hyped clip of Greta Thunberg at UN Climate Action Summit, in September 2019. In the clip, she informs the audience of a collapsing ecosystem, the beginning of mass extinction, and makes the most notable sarcastic remark- The world only talks about money & fairytales of eternal economic growth, which leads to the wave of introspection.

As the documentary unfolds, it strikes to clarify the definitions created by the capitalist world for growth and its relative terminologies. Professor Giorgos Kallis explains that this problem is divided into periods before and after the industrial process giving rise to capitalism, growth of production & consumption, a cornucopia of the new goods, consumer goods & technologies. He further explains how England in the 17th century became the hub of the world and led to the colonialization of non-European territories for creating new markets around the world, which henceforth were exhausted but still continued through financial products. It included bonds, hedge funds, etc. that made a way to increase profit in the alternative economy and since it's volatile and depended on the real economy, it compelled the real economy to work. Also, the clips of Prof Wendy showcase the importance of the high level of consumerist lifestyle in the world, and of President Truman speaking about the bold new program to use the benefits if scientific advances & industrial progress to improve the growth of underdeveloped areas. But little did they care it was at the expense of the environment, unfortunately. The activist argued that the system was the embodiment of a set of values from colonialism, genocide, slavery, and extraction which has been manifested in the system and is described as the best articulation if old values exported from Western Europe.

The documentary also questions the progress to produce a world that is on the edge of destroying itself & increasingly radically insecure about the future & further bringing the 6th mass extinction on our planet. It also questions the conceptualized progress, even within the dominant progress framework and its meaning. The debate showcases that economic development has reached the level of prosperity carrying the seeds for disruption. Hence, it is suggested that it needs a re-look at social, political, climatic, and other issues of the world. It also debates the pathways of production and consumption in wealthy countries and suggests bridging the gap between poor and rich for an unpolluted world. Moreover, Professor Stafford Beer also tells how the classic assumption of economic growth of society has been proven wrong as it has been justified that the instabilities in the world are caused by the endless attempt to increase output. In order to control this, reorganization of society and the monetary distribution system has to take place. It also showcases the difference of opinions of world leaders on consuming and producing less in rich countries in the 70s shifted to the opinion to force poor countries to increase their consumption, with their own ulterior motive of money-making and power generation.

The Cartoon representation of the earth, venting that it ran out of energy conveys one of the core topics of the documentary and has been wonderfully presented. The documentary’s next par talks about the energy generated by fossil fuels and how it is economically profitable but alas negatively impactful for the climate. Additionally, this feature film also questions the definition and implication of green growth which has been further explained. Dr. Jason Hickel defines it as a problematic approach as he tells that the GDP economic growth & CO2 emission has a positive co-relation in statistics terms which created a loop of increase in burning fuel for more economic growth and to keep that going it requires more energy, again leading to burning fuel. Thus, it is argued that they cant be decoupled from one another but pacified through recycling and reusing. It is also argued that with the energy we are saving today, we are investing for more consumption tomorrow, nullifying the objective of less consumption. Hence the argument for improvement of efficiency is arguable as it shows no absolute effects on reduction in consumption of fossil fuels.

As per the Paris Agreement, there is a limited time frame to work with a carbon budget of 1.5 or 2 degrees which is questionable as the energy system that we must transition over to renewables grows at the same time that we are trying to make the transition which is again causing detrimental effects to the environment. It is also argued in the documentary that renewable energy is just adding up to the fossil fuels that are being consumed and hence, there are no signs that energy produced with renewable energies is actually substituting fossil fuels. The latter is said to be a fallacy as it is a much more difficult transition as it will involve an ever-increasing amount of materials that have to be extracted in order to produce these solar panels & wind turbines.

It is suggested in the film that lowering our energy & material consumption to avoid climate catastrophe is a risky proposal both politically & commercially. Hence, to dodge the situation they rely on (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) BECCS as a proposed solution to store CO2 underground but it is unreliable and untested but used as an alluring gamble to shut the mouths of climatic concerns.

It also mocks how everyone is talking about alternatives but now reducing and appealing for De-growth in the system. Therefore, it appeals to the mob to go for De-growth strategies and take actions on a personal level. De-growth argues 2 things. First, it is the critique of the hegemony of growth as the world is centered around growth & we need growth to survive. Second, that is the proposal o reduce production & consumption in wealthy countries for well-being, ecological sustainability social equity. It further reflects on how to build a new economy centered around human well-being and climate consciousness. First, Shift away from GDP as a measure of economic progress as it is fundamentally destructive. Second, control money circulation & production by regulations on bank lending. Third, Shifting towards an equitable & shorter working week with meaningful employment. Fourth, by limiting the publicity of products to eradicate capitalism. At last, it shares that equality can be an antidote to the growth imperative.


I believe it was an informative film that made some notable remarks and incited some thoughtful concerns in me. My favorite part was the quote- “You may be able to fool the voters but not the atmosphere”- The quote by Donella Meadows humorously mocks the politicians involved in the money-making process & earning votes in the name of economic development, sidelining the failing climate. I even liked the death bed example which asked us to find happiness in emotions than materialistic stuff as our life journey ends. It also helped me to understand that we have to Walk the Talk to change systems & have to start by ourselves. But I am doubtful about the figures portrayed and should have given reliable sources. It also helped to develop the idea that we have to fight not against climate change but against inaction.

Future Thought Leaders is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of rising Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

Did you enjoy this illuminem voice? Support us by sharing this article!
author photo

About the author

Roli Rajpali, an alumnus of Gargi College, University of Delhi is working as a GSD Trainee in SEO-Digital Marketing with Boston Consulting Group in their Global Services Office, India. She is an ardent reader and a keen observer, with a handful of experience in Content Writing.

Other illuminem Voices

Related Posts

You cannot miss it!

Weekly. Free. Your Top 10 Sustainability & Energy Posts.

You can unsubscribe at any time (read our privacy policy)