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Why is the world — including degrowthers — crying for innovation?

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By Jef Teugels

· 8 min read

Confused about why the world needs new ideas? Compare it to a beautiful opera theater where audiences are tired of watching the same performance for months and can no longer enjoy the artists.

Our global community is at a crossroads. Accepting the present quo is like navigating modern civilization with a typewriter and carrier pigeon—charming but impractical.

Earth, an amazing environment threatened by pollution, overuse, and neglect, comes first. Like an overgrown garden with fading blooms and decaying soil, innovation is the green-thumbed gardener eager to restore harmony, conserve biodiversity, and add magic for rejuvenation.

Another striking example of billions of people with different goals, desires, and peculiarities is humanity. Traditional approaches to healthcare, education, social justice, and entertainment no longer work in this society. Solutions must be customized.

Change is finally accelerating like neural networks or voice assistants. Exponential technologies are changing our society faster than "obsolete"; if we don't adapt, we'll become obsolete like rotary phones in an age of speech recognition AI.

The world needs new ideas like food. Innovation should fulfill bodily hunger, thrill the senses, nurture the mind, and help us achieve our innermost goals. There will always be dangers, but they can lead to amazing opportunities—often more lovely than a nighttime symphony!

Do we need new ideas urgently? It echoes through every corner of hope, promise, and the desire for something greater.

Are we also seeking innovation in the degrowth movement?

The degrowth movement addresses the massive paradigm shift away from perpetual economic progress in recent years. Their campaign advocates for redefining growth to prioritize sustainability, social fairness, and quality of life above decline or retreat.

Degrowth innovation goes beyond recalibrated production and consumption systems; solutions are needed to match economic activities with ecological limits and human well-being. It encourages teamwork and revitalizes life beyond material possessions.

Degrowth (I prefer the term Flourish & Prosper) calls for new ideas like chefs reworking their preparation skills, not by eating more but by learning what we need to thrive: a rallying call for an event valuing quality over quantity—fine dining with spirit!

Call for innovation vs. the siren song of GDP growth

Innovation's dissonant melody may sound musical, but let's compare it to gourmet and fast cuisine.

Our desire to rejuvenate and find answers for people and nature should drive our quest for fresh ideas. Finding that sweet spot where flavor, aesthetics, and health work together is crucial; quality, longevity, and the "it" factor are also important.

GDP expansion addiction is like fast food—convenient, gratifying, and quantifiable in huge quantities. A devotee of GDP expansion often piles on without tasting what they're eating! Like an all-you-can-eat buffet, GDP expansion supporters rush toward this tempting feast without tasting it!

Economic growth typically trumps environmental degradation, social problems, and wealth disparity. Competitors race without an end in sight, forgetting the gorgeous environment they are burning through.

Innovation requires growth; a blossoming vine that doesn't oversaturate its environment speaks to our key values. Growth realizes that quality, not scale, determines success and that innovation must be integrated into all aspects of life's orchestra, not just the economic orchestra.

Innovation contradicts GDP growth at its core. Innovation weaves quantitative and qualitative aspects into a future where they can survive, unlike GDP, which counts statistics as integers.

Finally, innovation contrasts GDP growth as a preoccupation. Both satiate hunger, but only one enriches the spirit, senses, and desires, making you seek more for different reasons.

Dear reader, your eating style will determine its success. One seeks to fulfill an insatiable appetite, while the other promotes luxury. Which dining table would you pick?

Businesses change frequently, therefore innovation and change are needed to stay relevant, please customers, and use new technologies. Are we progressing by adapting and innovating?

Two definitions of innovation

Let me show two very different ideas on food industry innovation as an interesting platter of food and humor.

The gourmet definition (cry for innovation)

Originality is creating a tasty dish with all the right ingredients, like an elaborate meal with each ingredient playing its part. Gourmet innovators must balance familiar and original works, conformity and rebellion, and flavor vs. health while thinking ethically and socially. They must know their land, respect elements, and create something that improves lives and keeps the Earth habitable, like a magnificent symphony where technology, nature, and humans work together!

As defined by fast-food fans (addicted to GDP growth)

Now consider our fast food lover, who likes speed, size, and convenience. Like a factory, constant improvement drives innovation here, and consumer surveys show they keep coming back for more beefy burgers with lightning-fast service. Innovation here is employed to boost GDP regardless of its impact on society or individuals.

This definition of innovation is as different as caviar and ketchup. Through this lens, invention becomes an artistic pursuit that considers nature, society, and human experience. Innovation can also be considered as a resource with an insatiable appetite for expansion that prioritizes profit.

Dinner at home versus takeout or drive-thrus shows more about who we are than our favorite eating style; our ideals often show in kitchen and boardroom decisions.

Which do the most vulnerable need?

Gourmet culinary innovation may appeal to economically strapped communities more than fast-food obsession in terms of speed. Please disentangle this riddle as carefully as a sushi chef filleting fish.

Think about our gourmet innovation.

First, consider our attentive gourmet's creativity. Through creativity, he or she cares for the Earth, its people, and their way of life. Feeding people is no longer enough; they need nurturing, educating, and empowering. Instead of forcing a fast food chain, this could be like a community garden. This new strategy seeks long-term solutions, local autonomy, and growth that benefits rather than exploits. This innovation may lead to clean energy, cheap healthcare and education, and opportunities to recognize underprivileged populations' traditions and environments. Helping someone is more like giving than giving anything physical.

Now, critically assess the ingenuity of economic growth addicts. Offering $1 menus may provide starving people with temporary, cheap respite. Can long-term mass-produced sameness harm people's health, the environment, or social cohesion? Innovations designed solely to boost GDP may address inequality between income distributions among different groups while leaving others behind, but they fail to address disparate income, healthcare, and education levels, which contribute to poverty and marginalize those struggling in such competition, neglecting long-term interests that matter most.

Gourmet innovation for underprivileged people is the only way to fulfill their tastes, nutritional needs, and cultural and culinary traditions. They need creativity that acknowledges that intellectual curiosity, reinvigorating spirits, and enriching communities are true nourishment.

Was subsistence poverty present before industrialisation and empire? Imagine discovering that some of the best wines ever were preserved in unusual places! People had diets that would make modern nutritionists jealous before processed foods!

Their diets relied on local, seasonal vegetables. It was gourmet-like since this produce was not chemically changed like stored food! They enjoyed nature without modern technology, not eating at the world's best restaurant but likely high in nutrients and without processed garbage that dominates grocery shelves today.

Celebrate pre-industrial communities' unintended culinary prowess! In the age of fast food and microwaveable meals, let us emulate their unintended epicurean elegance.

Fast food innovations frequently gratify the stomach but not the soul. They temporarily relieve hunger and anguish, but permanent answers should be found.

Both satisfying and delightful dishes are equally valid inventions for decision-makers. Gourmet's ingenuity helps poor people move beyond survival to a spiritual feast where no one should feel left out!

Does the rich Global North's poor diet increase antidepressant use?

A new culinary comparison! Have you observed more rich Northerners taking antidepressants? Why not use this mystery component in our meals like sommelier-selected wines?

In our fast food lover's frantic, GDP-driven existence, more is better and growth is god. The incessant yearning for expansion leaves him or her empty and spiritually starved.

Due to its abundant resources and relentless growth, the rich North often clashes with itself. If innovation that boosts its economy leaves stores and roads busy but some empty, consumerism and overtime may not fill the void.

Antidepressant use has skyrocketed. Is this a coincidence or a response to our culture's focus on expansion over quality of life? Like drinking sweet drinks instead of water to alleviate thirst, this practice may be an attempt to reduce dissatisfaction and numb sensations of misery.

Our restaurant's food cares about Earth and its inhabitants. This innovation acknowledges that growth for growth's sake may cause societal discord and seeks mind-emotion balance.

Gourmets' culinary ingenuity may feed destitute North people and fulfill wealthy North residents' spiritual needs. Those with few finances and the wealthy could improve their health by giving up fast food.

Food choices convey values, ambitions, and life flavor.

Antidepressant prescriptions in the rich Northern Hemisphere may reflect dissatisfaction with growth plans that don't value life's diversity, please heart and wallet, and provide enduring satisfaction. Try making lunch instead of eating fast food. Home-cooked meals served with care and respect would please even fast-food fans, improving our world!

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Jef Teugels designs planet- and people-first solutions and is a post-graduate researcher. He explores the energy created by the friction between customer behavior, organizational readiness, and exponential technologies. Born at 319.62 ppm, he’s a father and a grandfather trying to develop some intergenerational value.

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