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Leach M.,University of Sussex | Rockstrom J.,Resilience | Raskin P.,Tellus Institute | Scoones I.,University of Sussex | And 8 more authors.
Ecology and Society | Year: 2012

The urgency of charting pathways to sustainability that keep human societies within a "safe operating space" has now been clarified. Crises in climate, food, biodiversity, and energy are already playing out across local and global scales and are set to increase as we approach critical thresholds. Drawing together recent work from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Tellus Institute, and the STEPS Centre, this commentary article argues that ambitious Sustainable Development Goals are now required along with major transformation, not only in policies and technologies, but in modes of innovation themselves, to meet them. As examples of dryland agriculture in East Africa and rural energy in Latin America illustrate, such "transformative innovation" needs to give far greater recognition and power to grassroots innovation actors and processes, involving them within an inclusive, multi-scale innovation politics. The three dimensions of direction, diversity, and distribution along with new forms of "sustainability brokering" can help guide the kinds of analysis and decision making now needed to safeguard our planet for current and future generations. © 2012 by the author(s).


Vergragt P.,Tellus Institute | Akenji L.,Institute for Global Environmental Strategies | Dewick P.,University of Manchester
Journal of Cleaner Production | Year: 2014

In June 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development ("Rio + 20"), the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption (GRF-SPaC) was launched, bringing together organizations and individuals from various regions of the world engaged in research and its applications in the transition to sustainable production and consumption (SPaC) systems. Conceptualizing and researching transitions to a sustainable production and consumption system is a very challenging task; the research field is not yet very well structured, its boundaries are still fluid; it is often not clear where research ends and social practices and policies begin. This introduction to a Journal of Cleaner Production Special Volume maps the emerging field of SPaC research and illustrates the multiple perspectives on how to analyze the present production and consumption system and how to conceptualize (systemic) change. We discuss how research over the last 20 years has revealed a lot of the mechanisms and lock-ins of unsustainable consumerist lifestyles and production patterns, and the barriers to systemic change. But many questions - trans-scientific in nature - remain unanswered. What is clear is that we need not only much more research into all the details of SPaC research arena but we also need bold thinking that addresses these trans-scientific questions. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Gerst M.D.,Dartmouth College | Gerst M.D.,Tellus Institute | Raskin P.D.,Dartmouth College | Raskin P.D.,Tellus Institute | Rockstrom J.,University of Stockholm
Sustainability (Switzerland) | Year: 2014

Humanity confronts a daunting double challenge in the 21st century: meeting widely-held aspirations for equitable human development while preserving the bio-physical integrity of Earth systems. Extant scientific attempts to quantify futures that address these sustainability challenges are often not comprehensive across environmental and social drivers of global change, or rely on quantification methods that largely exclude deep social, cultural, economic, and technological shifts, leading to a constrained set of possibilities. In search of a broader set of trajectories, we combine three previously separate streams of inquiry: scenario analysis, planetary boundaries, and targets for human development. Our analysis indicates there are plausible, diverse scenarios that remain within Earth's safe bio-physical operating space and achieve a variety of development targets. However, dramatic social and technological changes are required to avert the social-ecological risks of a conventional development trajectory. One identified narrative, which is predominant in the scenario literature, envisions marginal changes to the social and cultural drivers underlying conventional growth trajectories. As a result, it requires unprecedented levels of international cooperation, alignment of powerful conflicting interests, and political willpower to bend technological change in a sustainable direction. We posit that a more viable and robust scenario might lie in the coupling of transformative social-cultural and technological changes, which set the necessary conditions for a transition to a resilient global future. While clearly a first step, our analysis points to the need for more in-depth exploration of the mechanisms and determinant forces for such unconventional futures. © 2013 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


Vergragt P.J.,Tellus Institute | Vergragt P.J.,Clark University
Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions | Year: 2013

A viewpoint is offered on the complexities of the combined economic-sustainability crisis, and a possible way forward starting with addressing inequalities. © 2013 Published by Elsevier B.V.


Brown H.S.,Clark University | Vergragt P.J.,Tellus Institute
Journal of Cleaner Production | Year: 2015

As it becomes evident that technology alone is unlikely to fully counteract the ecological impacts of consumer society, the debate increasingly focuses on a need to shift beyond the consumerist economy and culture. This paper considers how a cultural shift toward less consumerist lifestyle choices might originate, driven not by moral imperatives or environmental movements, but by the core pursuit of human wellbeing. Our goal is to jumpstart a serious conversation about plausible pathways to change, grounded theoretically and empirically. The history of consumer society is a reminder that cultural transformation of that magnitude could occur in a relatively short period of time. We hypothesize, drawing on demographic and economic trends, that technologically connected, educated, and open to change millennials might lead the way in that transition. Their diminishing interest in suburban life in favor of cities, constricted economic opportunities, and their size and interconnectedness all point in that direction. We envision a scenario in which the core understanding of wellbeing will change through the combined effects of changing lifestyles, adaptation to the economic, technological and demographic realities, and emerging new social practices. Extensive research on wellbeing suggests that such reframing can readily incorporate a shift away from consumerist lifestyles. To succeed, this shift needs government support at all levels through policies that enable young urban families to thrive.This paper is about the United States because it a global leader in the creation of the consumer society, with a per-capita ecological footprint about twice that of Europe, and with many emulators across the world. We contend that the US-grounded analysis presented in this paper has relevance for other parts of the world, and that it can inform research and debate on similar cultural transitions in other national contexts. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


Quist J.,Technical University of Delft | Thissen W.,Technical University of Delft | Vergragt P.J.,Tellus Institute
Technological Forecasting and Social Change | Year: 2011

This paper reports on a study that has systematically investigated the follow-up and spin-off of participatory backcasting experiments in the Netherlands five to ten years after completion. A methodological framework for participatory backcasting is presented, after which a conceptual framework is developed to describe and evaluate the impact of backcasting experiments. Three cases are analysed: (1) Novel Protein Foods and meat alternatives; (2) Sustainable Household Nutrition; and (3) Multiple Sustainable Land-use in rural areas. The cases show that participatory backcasting can lead to substantial follow-up and spin-off, but that is not always the case. Substantial follow-up and spin-off after five to ten years is predominantly found at the level of niches, and can be seen as potential seeds for future system innovations. The emergence of follow-up and spin-off comes along with the diffusion of the visions generated in the backcasting experiment. The visions provide orientation (where to go) and guidance (what to do). Visions also show both stability and flexibility. Factors that influence the extent of impact and spin-off of backcasting are identified, with a focus on stakeholders, learning and visions. Finally, relevance for system innovation theory, governance and policy as well as research recommendations are briefly discussed. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.


Raskin P.D.,Tellus Institute | Electris C.,Tellus Institute | Rosen R.A.,Tellus Institute
Sustainability | Year: 2010

The global future lies before us as a highly uncertain and contested landscape with numerous perils along the way. This study explores possible pathways to sustainability by considering in quantitative detail four contrasting scenarios for the twenty-first century. The analysis reveals vividly the risks of conventional development approaches and the real danger of socio-ecological descent. Nonetheless, the paper underscores that a Great Transition scenario-turning toward a civilization of enhanced human well-being and environmental resilience-remains an option, and identifies a suite of strategic and value changes for getting there. A fundamental shift in the development paradigm is found to be an urgent necessity for assuring a sustainable future and, as well, a hopeful opportunity for creating a world of enriched lives, human amity, and a healthy ecosphere. © 2010 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


Stutz J.,Tellus Institute
Sustainability: Science, Practice, and Policy | Year: 2010

This article characterizes the pursuit of sustainability as a three-front war. Success requires reductions not only in the environmental impact per unit of economic activity, but also in the economic growth to which we have become accustomed and the inequality that has accompanied it. To explain the difficulty in responding to this threefold challenge, the article reviews historical data on the evolution of the global economy. In the subsequent discussion, I argue that the explosive growth experienced since 1950 has created a world in which rapid progress toward and beyond affluence is "business as usual." The pursuit of sustainability is difficult in large part because it takes place within this world shaped by explosive growth. An income transition is suggested as part of the effort to win the three-front war. © 2010 Stutz.

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