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Lorek S.,Sustainable Europe Research Institute | Fuchs D.,University of Munster
Journal of Cleaner Production | Year: 2013

This paper aims to link two debates and literatures at the cutting edge of sustainable development research and governance: sustainable consumption and degrowth. Interestingly, these literatures have only recently started to exchange and integrate insights, despite their similar interest in the fundamental systemic challenges to sustainable development. The paper argues that this lack of connection is due to a predominance of perspectives in sustainable consumption governance that focus almost exclusively on questions of efficiency gains. This "weak sustainable consumption" governance, however, is not able to address the challenges to sustainable development arising from overconsumption in general or the rebound effect and distributive issues in particular. In contrast, a "strong sustainable consumption" perspective provides a basis for a promising inquiry into the linkages between consumption and sustainable development as well as a fruitful exchange with degrowth. Specifically, it allows the delineation of relevant insights on the role of values in governance, obstacles to political reform, and promising political strategies for the degrowth debate and literature. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Reisch L.,Copenhagen Business School | Eberle U.,CORSUS | Lorek S.,Sustainable Europe Research Institute
Sustainability: Science, Practice, and Policy | Year: 2013

Contemporary food production and consumption cannot be regarded as sustainable and raises problems with its wide scope involving diverse actors. Moreover, in the face of demographic change and a growing global population, sus-tainability problems arising from food systems will likely become more serious in the future. For example, agricultural production must deal with the impacts of climate change, increasingly challenging land-use conflicts, and rising health and social costs on both individual and societal levels. The unsustainability of current arrangements arises from the industrialization and globalization of agriculture and food processing, the shift of consumption patterns toward more dietary animal protein, the emergence of modern food styles that entail heavily processed products, the growing gap on a global scale between rich and poor, and the paradoxical lack of food security amid an abundance of food. These factors are attributable to national and international policies and regulations, as well as to prevalent business prac-tices and, in particular, consumers' values and habits. The most effective ways for affluent societies to reduce the environmental impact of their diets are to reduce consumption of meat and dairy products (especially beef), to favor organic fruits and vegetables, and to avoid goods that have been transported by air on both individual and institutional levels (e.g., public procurement, public catering). In examining the unsustainability of the current food system this article reviews the pertinent literature to derive a working definition of sustainable food consumption, outlines the major issues and impacts of current food-consumption practices, and discusses various policy interventions, including information-based instruments, market-based initiatives, direct regulations, and "nudges." It concludes with a call for integrative, cross-sectoral, and population-wide policies that address the full range of drivers of unsustainable food production and consumption. © 2013 Reisch et al.

Birkmann J.,University of Bonn | Buckle P.,Coventry University | Jaeger J.,Sustainable Europe Research Institute | Pelling M.,Kings College London | And 4 more authors.
Natural Hazards | Year: 2010

Disaster associated with natural hazards can lead to important changes-positive or negative-in socio-ecological systems. When disasters occur, much attention is given to the direct disaster impacts as well as relief and recovery operations. Although this focus is important, it is noteworthy that there has been little research on the characteristics and progress of change induced by disasters. Change, as distinct from impacts, encompasses formal and informal responses to disaster events and their direct and indirect impacts. While smaller disasters do not often lead to significant changes in societies and organizational structures, major disasters have the potential to change dominant ways of thinking and acting. Against this background, the article presents an analytical framework for distinguishing change from disaster impacts. Drawing from research in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, formal and informal changes after the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 are examined and discussed against the background of the conceptual framework. The changes examined range from the commencement of the peace process in Aceh, Indonesia, to organizational and legal reforms in Sri Lanka. The article concludes that change-making processes after disasters need to be understood more in depth in order to derive important strategic policy and methodological lessons learned for the future, particularly in view of the increasing complexity and uncertainty in decision making due to climate change. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Lorek S.,Sustainable Europe Research Institute | Spangenberg J.H.,Sustainable Europe Research Institute
Journal of Cleaner Production | Year: 2014

In 1992, one unambiguous result of the UNCED conference was the need for changing consumption and production patterns, with affluent countries taking the lead. 20 years later, at the 2012 UNCSD, little is left over and instead the "green economy" has been the theme pursued by the OECD, the EU and other countries. So the question needs to be answered if this is finally an attempt to put into practice what was promised 20 years ago, or another diversion from what needs to be accomplished. Sustainable development is still a convincing concept, if the original definition is taken, avoiding the confusion caused by partisan interests reinterpreting the concept. Focussing on human needs fulfilment and respecting environmental limits, it can still guide strong sustainable consumption. Green economy/green growth, on the other hand, is a new terminology for what is known since 40 years as ecological modernisation. It is indeed overdue, but with its focus on efficiency and innovation it cannot guarantee to fulfil the Brundtland sustainability criteria. A factor analysis based on the I = P*A*T formula demonstrates how optimistic the assumptions regarding future technologies must be to support the green growth concept. Consequently, the authors pledge for a pragmatic, risk avoiding approach by slimming the physical size of the economy. This requires 'strong sustainable consumption' (including production as resource consumption), which in turn requires a change of the societies' institutional settings (formal and informal, mechanisms and orientations). Finally some elements of a strategy towards this end are pointed out, with special emphasis on the role of non-governmental organisations NGOs. Through networking and advocacy they can both stimulate bottom-up action and mobilise the pressure necessary for the institutional changes which are needed to mainstream strong sustainable consumption. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Fischer-Kowalski M.,University of Vienna | Krausmann F.,University of Vienna | Giljum S.,Sustainable Europe Research Institute | Lutter S.,Sustainable Europe Research Institute | And 6 more authors.
Journal of Industrial Ecology | Year: 2011

This contribution presents the state of the art of economy-wide material flow accounting. Starting from a brief recollection of the intellectual and policy history of this approach, we outline system definition, key methodological assumptions, and derived indicators. The next section makes an effort to establish data reliability and uncertainty for a number of existing multinational (European and global) material flow accounting (MFA) data compilations and discusses sources of inconsistencies and variations for some indicators and trends. The results show that the methodology has reached a certain maturity: Coefficients of variation between databases lie in the range of 10% to 20%, and correlations between databases across countries amount to an averageR 2 of 0.95. After discussing some of the research frontiers for further methodological development, we conclude that the material flow accounting framework and the data generated have reached a maturity that warrants material flow indicators to complement traditional economic and demographic information in providing a sound basis for discussing national and international policies for sustainable resource use. © 2011 by Yale University.

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