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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred new interest in a movement that wants to reverse the pace of economic growth.

The big picture: Degrowth advocates believe that the only way to save the Earth is to stop focusing on growth at all costs in favor of a more equitable redistribution of resources. The pandemic is providing a crash test of those principles — for better and for worse.

What's happening: On May 13, more than 1,100 experts from around the world released a manifesto calling for a degrowth strategy to tackle the economic and human crisis caused by COVID-19.

  • The open letter urged the adoption of a "democratically planned yet adaptive, sustainable, and equitable downscaling of the economy, leading to a future where we can live better with less."

How it works: The degrowth movement is a radical response to the challenges of climate change and inequality. While economic growth of some kind is the stated goal of virtually every policymaker and economist, degrowthers believe that the obsession with economic growth is ruining the planet and leading to human unhappiness on a global scale.

  • This position puts them to the left of even most environmentalists, who push for "green growth" — the idea that economic growth can be made more sustainable by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and other pollutants.
  • To degrowthers, simply decarbonizing the economy isn't enough. Humanity has to shrink its overall footprint, while sharing what remains in a more equitable fashion.

Context: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a period of enforced degrowth, as economies around the world have been thrown into reverse.

  • A new forecast by the Asian Development Bank predicts that the global economy could suffer losses as high as $8.8 trillion because of the pandemic — equivalent to nearly 10% of global GDP.
  • The reversal of economic growth has led to a reduction in carbon emissions, which could fall 5.5% or more this year. But that's a lot of economic and human pain to endure for a carbon footprint that would still be almost 95% as large as it was before the pandemic.

The bottom line: Degrowthers are arguing for the equivalent of a managed retreat from economic growth, not the helter-skelter measures we've seen with COVID-19. But it's difficult to see their ideas gaining mainstream traction at a moment when much of the world seems more interested in regaining normalcy than igniting revolution.

Go deeper: The changes that will outlast the crisis

Go deeper

Trump says he plans to launch new social media network in 2022

Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Wednesday announced plans to launch a social media network called "Truth Social," and that it would go public via a SPAC.

Why it matters: Most ex-presidents are focused on their legacies, by creating presidential libraries or engaging in philanthropic endeavors. Trump, however, remains consumed by social media.

Beauty giant Coty Cosmetics looking to sell its own branded products

Coty Cosmetics CEO Sue Nabi. Photo: Axios on HBO

Coty Cosmetics CEO Sue Nabi tells Axios the beauty giant will “probably” introduce Coty-branded products one day.

Why it matters: Coty produces some of the world’s most popular fragrances, skin care products and color cosmetics on behalf of other well-known brands, but has shied away from producing its own branded products.

2 hours ago - Sports

NFL to end race-based testing in concussion settlements

Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The National Football League on Wednesday reached an agreement with former players to end the controversial practice of race-based adjustments in dementia testing, AP reports.

Why it matters: The deal, which must still be approved by a judge, comes amid a broader discussion of racial inequities in health care.