Bringing together research and practice for a transition to postgrowth cities.

We bridge theoretical and practical knowledge on different aspects of urban degrowth. We collaboratively produce knowledge, tools, and skills for researchers, advocates, and practitioners. In so doing, we work on three broad themes.

Reduce, downscale, and close the urban metabolism

Cities are the result of multiple material flows, whether of concrete, sand, water, food, biomass, energy, electricity, fuel, heat, or waste. As cities perpetually grow, these flows’ overall footprint is also enlarging. This puts more pressure on the natural areas from which these materials are extracted, endangering and exploiting their communities and ecosystems.

To halt this process, we can reduce the size of these flows. We can slow down the rate at which we produce waste. We can maximize the reuse of materials in cities. To do so, we need to question the institutions and politics that drive and accelerate material consumption and urban production.

This theme develops a degrowth critique of the urban metabolism. It studies if and how practices of reduction, reuse, and repurposing succeed in lessening cities’ impact on the planet. Moreover, it explores whether and how these practices foster social justice; whether and how they redistribute access to urban resources and materials; and the extent to which they question profiteering around essential urban resources.

As part of this theme, we attend to examples including regenerative agroecology; organic waste reuse; circular and low-impact architecture; integrated and democratized energy-water-waste networks; repair practices; and forms of resource commoning.

Prefiguring degrowth urban living

Prefiguration is the practice of realizing the future in the present. This research theme investigates the politics of existing practices of degrowth living. It looks at collectives and communities that actively and intentionally pursue degrowth principles. These initiatives are the seeds of change, sites where a new vision of urban prosperity is blossoming.

This theme asks whether and how degrowth living translates into a new urban politics and can solidify into new institutions. It explores whether and how degrowth living might be developed into pathways of broader social and political transformation.

Examples of degrowth living include low-impact living; circular designs; biophilic architectures; food sovereignty; slow mobility; urban gardening; regional agroecology; decentred and democratic energy systems; and cultural and housing commons.

Envisioning a circular degrowth economy

Urban metabolisms are organized by regulations. These regulations establish who is allowed to use, reuse, process, collect, and dispose of materials in the city, and how. These regulations are political because they organize how profits and costs are distributed. They are key to explaining why urban growth is still a linear process that exploits nature and labor in areas far from cities.

This theme focuses on three material streams: construction, food, and heat. These are the largest such streams circulating in cities today, both as raw materials and as waste. They are also the most essential resources for the survival of urban inhabitants. They are necessary for housing, eating, and heating homes. Currently, only a small fraction of these materials are reused.

As part of this theme, we study how regulations are contested, defended, and negotiated by practices that downscale the urban metabolism. We look at movements, collectives, public, private, and civic actors that wish to devise more circular and just ways of using urban materials and the built environment.

This project is funded by a European Commission (ERC) starting grant with the acronym DECYCLE.