Alternative Economics Summer Schools, Part II

*Featured image: Our group presenting our project idea of creating a land-sharing platform. Vienna, 2018

As I mentioned in my last post, this past summer I participated in two summer schools and one workshop concerning alternative and environmental economic theories. With this post, I will be sharing my experiences at these summer schools in hopes that it inspires other GLOCALs to try them next year!

The first summer school is called Degrowth and Environmental Justice. You can find the full program here.

  • When?: End of June/July
  • Duration: 2 weeks
  • Where?: The first week in Barcelona (Catalunya), the second week in Cerbere (France), 2,5 hours by train from Barcelona.
  • How much? EUR 200 or EUR 300, if you want to contribute for two scholarships for people that cannot pay – I’d recommend doing that if you receive a scholarship from GLOCAL.
  • Admission link:
his edition was called “making sense by democracy, non-violence, and conviviality”. And lots of delicious food. Cerbère, France. 2018
The city centre of Cerbère, a great spot to enjoy the beauties of Costa Brava without massive tourism. France, 2018.

Brief description 

Degrowth is a provocative slogan that aims to question the myth of economic growth as necessary for improving people’s lives, also qualified by some as growth fetishism. In contrast to our beloved Milanovic beliefs (hello Globalised Economy), Degrowth scholars argue that growth is an extremely inefficient and ecologically insane way of improving people’s lives. Obviously, this is a general criticism focused on the GDP obsession, not taking into account that some poor countries of the global south need to improve the life condition of its citizens and therefore it requires growth.

There are definitely better alternatives for measuring the quality of life than neoclassic models that aims to maximise exponentially consumption levels. Beyond GDP criticism, Degrowth also calls for a debate on our understanding of societies’ morals in a context in which we are about to reach planetary boundaries. In other words, there is an urgent need to reconceptualise our lifestyles, because simply it is not possible to grow infinitely on a planet with limited resources.

For some, it may sound utopic, but degrowthers believe that this is already time to start designing a post-growth society. In fact, their arguments have gotten more popular since their first conference back in 2010and now is reaching the political level. Last September there was a post-growth event in the European Parliament in Brussels, where political parties heard from academics that the EU needs a stability and wellbeing pact, not more growth.

Overview of the program 

The first week of the school was held in the ICTA Institute of UAB, where the Research and Degrowth organisation is based (I strongly suggest to follow their content on social media). There was a great critical urban tour in Barcelona, from a very different perspective from the one GLOCAL I did in the Creative Cities course. Also, there was a very useful workshop on how to write relevant academic papers and journalistic articles and get it published.

The second week in Cerbère was perfect for enjoying beautiful sunny days in the out-of-the-beaten-track small village in Costa Brava, alternating sea bathing with very engaging classes of practical perspectives on degrowth. In this week, all meals are included, and the homemade food with local ingredients was delicious! Research and Degrowth is part of the Creative Commons, so all the material is shared freely on the internet, without costs. Video streams of the first week’s classes can also be found online on their Facebook page.

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One of the great hidden beaches near the city centre of Cerbère, France, 2018.
Some of the main topics: 
  • Environmental Justice Atlas (very useful for writing papers about environmental impacts)
  • Ecological macroeconomics
  • Transition to renewable energies
  • Feminist Economics
  • Degrowth and Technology
  • Degrowth and the Global South

Why choose this course?

  • It offers a broader understanding of possible changes. However, this edition was actually more focused on bottom-up solutions, rather institutional changes. Some could have expectations for learning concrete strategies on how to stimulate broad-scale changes, however, the strategies for such changes are still being discussed by the community. Given the difficulty of creating a new paradigm scenario without precedents, there is not a ready formula that could be easily replicated elsewhere.
  • It does not provide concrete strategies on how to stimulate broad-scale changes, which is partially understandable given the difficulty of creating a new paradigm scenario without precedents. Regardless, it was very eye-opening to take part in building new imaginaries and narratives with a very diversified and experienced group of students.
  • Getting in touch with many academics and many activists from all continents and establishing groups for future research.

This is an incredible opportunity to learn content from the main authors of the topic for an unbelievable symbolic price.

The second summer school that I attended was called Alternative Economic and Monetary Systems (AEMS), Organised by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU). You can find the program description here.

  • When?: End of July/August
  • Duration: 2,5 weeks
  • Where?: Vienna
  • How much?: 1490 EUR for full tuition fee. EUR 490 for scholarship (most of the students had scholarships, whereas professionals paid full tuition).
  • Admission Link
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A class about Ecological Economics: learning how the Newtonian Physics was wrongly incorporated by neoclassical economics´authors. Vienna, 2018.

Brief description

“Between 1970 and 2007 alone, the world saw 425 systemic economic crises, among them 145 sector-wide banking crises. In the light of current political and social events, one might start to wonder whether this apparently inherent instability might ever be reduced, even if there is sufficient public intent. Yet, at the same time, the global effects of population growth, resource exploitation and environmental degradation force us to think about long-term change.”

“The program offers an evaluation of economic alternatives that consider natural boundaries and the human factor to be equal parts of the equation. The goal of the program is to help solve some of the societies’ problems by presenting viable alternatives to processes and developments that are putting enormous strains on economic, ecologic and social boundaries. In addition to various new and classical concepts from the field of economic sciences, students are also provided with up-to-date scientific data from natural and social sciences.”

-AEMS website


Unlike the Degrowth summer school that covers other aspects of life, this course focuses on the economic perspective. The first two modules provide a good background understanding the problem of money creation (usually out of debt), and the vicious cycle in which nations are pressured to grow in order to pay debts. In the final module, it focuses on possible solutions and for a shift towards a social-ecological economy. As a whole it is a very well organised summer school, several classes are given by well-known specialists that are a reference in their topics.

UN Climate Change negotiation simulation. Struggling to reach an agreement in order to keep the temperature rise under 1,5 degrees (before the industrial revolution). 📍 IIASA, Vienna, 2018.
Christian Felber presenting The Economy for the Common Good, an alternative for the traditional and predatory banking system. Vienna, 2018.

Some of the main topics

  • Bubbles, Busts and Crashes – Why Our Economic System is Financially Unsustainable and what we can do about it
  • Ecological Economics: the environment of the economy
  • Theory of Change
  • Key issues for sustainable monetary reform
  • Flourishing within Limits: Using ecological systems’ principles for regenerative economics
  • Sustainable Finance: Policies for a Smooth Low-Carbon Transition
  • Complementary and alternative currencies
  • Economy for the Common Good (my favourite)

Full program here

Why choose this course?

The scholarship price of 490EUR really pays off: it includes accommodation with private rooms in an energy-passive student accommodation. Apart from that, Vienna is a great city to be during the summer: excellent bike cycleways connexions, the Danube river is very clean and many people go to the “island” to have baths or to enjoy relaxing under the pines during the sunsets. Also, during the summer there are many outdoor movie sessions (check out this movie about street art during Argentinian dictatorship), not to mention the many historical buildings and great art expositions. No surprise that Vienna was elected as the best city to live this year.

The warm and green Vienna: one of the many sunsets after swimming in the Danube. Vienna, 2018

Climate Tracker Workshop

For an extra cost of EUR 150 participants of AEMS could participate in the journalism workshop held by Climate Trackers.

In this experience we learned skills of independent journalism, focusing on pitching a climate change story to medias’ editors. We also learned a bunch of useful online tools for journalist researches that could also be useful in the academy, such as Canva, Piktochart, Juxtapose, Storymap, Google Trends, Infogram etc.

I reckon that these are excellent opportunities to complement our studies in GLOCAL from a different perspective. Hope it was useful and you can consider these options as possibilities for your next summer! 😉

Written by Daniel

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