Degrowth in the Suburbs

Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary addresses a central dilemma of the urban age: how to make suburban landscapes sustainable in the face of planetary ecological crisis.


In their new book Professor Brendan Gleeson and Dr Samuel Alexander argue that degrowth, a planned contraction of overgrown economies, is the most coherent paradigm for suburban renewal. They depart from the anti-suburban sentiment of much environmentalism to show that existing suburbia can be the centre-ground of transition to a new social dispensation based on the principle of enlightened material and energy restraint.

Read media and book reviews by Australian QuarterlyThe Fifth Estate, The Ecologist, Make Wealth History, Rachael Wallis, Sue Jackson, Arts Hub, Building Designers Association of Australia and Permaculture News. See Degrowth in the Suburbs featured for Palgrave MacMillan's World Cities Day here. Purchase a copy online or read David Holmgren's foreword to the book.

In conjunction with the publication of Degrowth in the Suburbs Alexander and Gleeson have published articles in The Conversation and The Ecologist.

Book testimonials

"There is nothing that embodies the twisted values of growth-addicted capitalism more visibly than suburban sprawl. Massive matrices of carbon-intensive consumerism, the suburbs reflect the forces that are driving our descent into ecological crisis. But as deepening crises begin to engulf us, Alexander and Gleeson see an unlikely flicker of hope. The suburbs, they argue, hold the potential for a new, more resilient way of living that could help see us through the calamities of the Anthropocene. This is a brilliant, invigorating book, poetically written and full of exciting ideas. A marvellous achievement."

Jason Hickel, author of The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions

"In a world seemingly beset by intractable challenges with potentially dire outcomes, Samuel Alexander and Brendan Gleeson offer a beacon of hope through their sketches of a tantalizing and realistic suburban future in which resource use has been downscaled and localised, and most importantly a culture of sufficiency has taken root. They elaborate a bold imaginary demonstrating how the myriad of initiatives that are already present might form the basis of a radically different suburban future. Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary sets the compass in a direction that will help steer civil society and government towards the type of world we would be proud to bequeath future generations."

J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron and Stephen Healy, authors of Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities

"This very timely intervention, by two well-known experts in their fields, proposes a degrowth suburban imaginary. Degrowth is an international movement for transformation to one planet living and regenerating degraded ecological systems. Alexander and Gleeson very ably advocate for the radical social, political and economic change necessary to reduce material and energy flows in the urban metabolism."

Anitra Nelson, author of Small is Necessary: Shared Living on a Shared Planet


Happen Films have made a short documentary that is intimately related to the themes discussed in Degrowth in the Suburbs: