The SCORAI network has kept busy since our brief newsletter hiatus! Read on to catch up with all the exciting news from the world of sustainability.
Darcy and Halina
Report from two Degrowth conferences
In the last 2 weeks I visited not one, but two degrowth conferences. The first was in Mexico-city, the first North-South DeGrowth conference https://degrowth.descrecimiento.org/. De second was the Post-growth conference organized by members of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, https://www.postgrowth2018.eu/. I have mixed feelings about both conferences.
The Mexico City conference September 4-6 was largely in Spanish and heavily dominated by Latin-American perspectives like Buen Vivir and critique on the western development model. Before the actual conference about 10 participants from the US and Canada convened and talked about Degrowth in the US, the upcoming Chicago meeting 28-30 September 2018, and a possible larger conference in the US in 2020 (to be coordinated with the SCORAI conference); which was very encouraging. As part of this Mexico City conference, SCORAI organized a session on Sustainable Consumption with four speakers, which was well-attended and created a good discussion (see Joachim’s report in this Newsletter). Consumption and lifestyles were often mentioned during the conference, but mostly in passing and without becoming concrete. The theme was “Decolonizing the social imaginary” which could be about changing consumption ambitions, but offering indigenous ways of life was a rather limited alternative. There was little attention, as far as I could see, for the challenge that millions of consumers from the global South are about to enter the middle class and will become high resource consumers in the coming years. Another issue that was contested was the role of technology and technological innovations. Most people are highly critical of technology and its connection to economic growth, but I have seen few concrete strategies how to deal with that.
The Brussels conference September 18-19 was preceded by a seminar organized by the Universite Libre de Bruxelles https://www.postgrowth2018.eu/the-prep-day-ulb/ which was very interesting. About 70 participants discussed in break-out sessions about 25 position papers which were written beforehand as inputs for the discussion. I think this seminar was very useful to inform and mobilize the participants for the upcoming conference with stakeholders. The Post-Growth conference itself showed the enormous gap between the degrowth community and researchers, and the mainstream policymakers from the EU. Sustainable consumption and necessary reductions in consumption and changes in lifestyles were often mentioned especially by the degrowth researchers, but the policymakers had limited affinity for this theme. For instance, in the break-out session on energy, the emphasis was on renewable energy and energy conservation and peak shaving, but very little on the need and possibilities to change to low-energy lifestyles. Technology and individual behavioral change were the most mentioned solutions. In a session on Financial Regulation there was an interesting intervention with the question of, from a sustainable consumption perspective, the amount of money should be diminished. Also on day two during the session on energy sufficiency, there was a deep gap visible between researchers and NGOs and policymakers.
The good news is that Post-growth and degrowth have now reached the mainstream discussion. Often the Guardian letter by 238 researchers was mentioned https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/16/the-eu-needs-a-stability-and-wellbeing-pact-not-more-growth that was published at the beginning of the conference, and that got a lot of press coverage in Europe. Apparently in the press growth proponents felt compelled to defend economic growth, which is itself remarkable. The challenge for SCORAI and its allies is to much better articulate and communicate what sustainable consumption is, what it means, how to attain it, and which changes in economy, infrastructures, and culture are needed to move in that direction. The Degrowth movement needs Sustainable Consumption as an important and better-elaborated component, in order to create a meaningful dialogue with politicians and policymakers on all levels.
SCORAI at the First North-South Degrowth/Descrecimiento Conference
In early September several SCORAI members convened at the First North-South Degrowth/Descrecimiento Conference in Mexico City to present as part of a session entitled “Sustainable Consumption, Equity, and Degrowth.” The panel, organized by Philip Vergragt, was an effort to identify some of the overlaps between sustainable consumption and degrowth. While consumption was humming in the background of the entire conference, this session brought it to the forefront. With a full audience in attendance, the presenters, who included Joachim Spangenberg (SERI), Janis Brizga (University of Latvia), Brieanne Berry (University of Maine), and Manu V. Mathai (Azim Premji University), addressed the potential linkages and disjunctures between sustainable consumption and degrowth from a variety of perspectives.
Although the papers were independently developed, a red thread emerged: sustainable consumption is the other side of the socially sustainable degrowth coin, and both require each other. However, to achieve this, sustainable consumption must not be understood as an individual obligation but as a political task, to be supported by structural change, redistribution, economic incentives and the political will of decision-makers, i.e. by change agents on all levels. Enabling structures for a different way of living together can emerge in this way, revitalizing old habits and developing new ones of not spoiling goods and respecting old ones instead of replacing them as new fashions arise. This way a good quality of life, instead of the permanent accumulation of things, can be achieved without transgressing the planetary boundaries.
The titles of the papers are listed below. Please contact the speakers if their papers spark your interest.
1.Joachim Spangenberg (Germany): Change agents needed for reducing consumption.
2.Manu V. Mathai (India): Sustainable Structures of Living Together: Towards Degrowth in Energy Policy.
3.Janis Brizga (Latvia): A tax on luxury goods: analyzing the distributional effects and addressing overconsumption.
4.Brieanne Berry (USA): Reuse and Resilience in Maine's 'Depleted' Rural Communities.
If Trash Could Talk: Poems.
Stories and Musings (CreateSpace, 2018)
The purpose is to use poetry and stories to change people’s perceptions of trash, waste and wastefulness. If artists can use sculpture made from trash, why not see if poetry works!
Explores two core terms in the study of sustainable development – wellbeing and sustainability
Breaks from current technocratic understandings, and calls for an alternative vision of social development
Affirms the need to rethink wellbeing and sustainability in the light of a recent turn towards New Materialism and posthumanism
Calling Book Reviewers for the Journal of Consumer Ethics
The Journal of Consumer Ethics is an open access, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal, founded last year and published by the Ethical Consumer Research Association https://journal.ethicalconsumer.org/journal-issues/issue-1. JCE includes contributions from academics, activists and practitioners addressing issues of sustainable, ethical, political and responsible consumption and related areas.
JCE invites colleagues interested in writing book reviews (c. 1000 words) and book review essays (of 2 or more related books, c.3000 words), as well as authors and editors of new books seeking review, to contact Dan Welch (Book Reviews Editor) firstname.lastname@example.org
SCORAI-ers invited to join the SwitchMed Connect
SwitchMed Connect is a gathering of Mediterranean stakeholders to build synergies, exchange knowledge, and scale up eco and social innovations. The 3rd edition of SwitchMed Connect is taking place on 13-15 November 2018 in Barcelona, at the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site.
The Circular Economy in Action in the Mediterranean is the focus of this year’s event. More than 300 green entrepreneurs, industry leaders, investors, practitioners and policy makers will come together to discuss ways of accelerating the transition to a Circular Economy in the Mediterranean region.
Participation is FREE but there are limited seats available, so we encourage you to register as soon as possible at www.switchmedconnect.com
We look forward to seeing you in Barcelona!
ENOUGH Network on Sufficiency Now Active on ResearchGate
We will post important announcements there. You can also use the list of followers to start networking and meeting new colleagues. If you have updates to share on your own work on sufficiency, please contact me or one of the other project collaborators so we can share it to everyone.
And if you are not on ResearchGate, we are working on developing other networking tools. Thanks for your patience!
SCORAI-er Finds Position with Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute
Former SCORAI newsletter editor, Catie Carter, has recently secured an Assistant Professor position at Minerva Schools at KGI. It is an innovative institution that was founded in partnership between the Minerva Project (an educational tech company) and the Keck Graduate Institute (part of the Claremont Consortium).
"Minerva offers an unprecedented undergraduate program that combines an interdisciplinary curriculum and rigorous academic standards, an accomplished faculty versed in the science of learning, an advanced interactive learning platform that leverages cutting-edge technology, and four years of immersive global experience. The Minerva Schools at KGI were established in 2013 in partnership with the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) — a Western Senior College and University Commission-accredited institution, in partnership with Minerva Project. Learn more about our alliance with KGI." https://www.minerva.kgi.edu/frequently-asked-questions/
Boucher, Jean Léon, Kathleen Araújo, and Elizabeth Hewitt. 2018. “Do education and income drive energy audits? A socio-spatial analysis of New York State.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling 136:355–66.
To inform energy policy on energy efficiency for buildings, we examine socio-spatial tendencies and temporal trends for home energy audits in the State of New York. In doing so, we provide an interdisciplinary perspective of energy research by drawing upon the social sciences and geography. Using demographic data and proxies for green behavior from a sample of 1670 zip codes, we test for spatial clustering of the per capita incidence of the home energy audit. Consistent with 35 years of research, and attempts at correction, we find that the social distribution of the energy audit is skewed toward zip codes with higher levels of education. We also find that when controlling for other demographic and spatial factors, affluence (as characterized by median home income and home value) is either inconsequential or negatively associated with the aggregate incidence of the home energy audit, indicating that higher-income household owners are likely less interested in a home energy audit. Finally, we find a significant positive association for zip codes that have more registered Undeclared and Green-affiliated voters and a negative association for “other” political affiliation.
Dubuisson-Quellier, Sophie (2018) “From moral concerns to market values: how political consumerism shapes markets” Boström M., Micheletti M. and Oosterveer P. (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Political Consumerism, Oxford, Oxford University Press
Godin, L. and M. Sahakian (2018) “Cutting through conflicting prescriptions: How guidelines inform “healthy and sustainable” diets in Switzerland”Appetite (open access)
This paper takes as a starting point “food consumption prescriptions”, or guidelines on what and how one should eat when it comes to “healthy and sustainable diets”. Through qualitative research in Switzerland, involving discourse analysis, observations, in-depth interviews, and focus groups, we set out to uncover the more dominant prescriptions put forward by a variety of actors, how consumers represent these prescriptions, as well as overlaps and tensions between them. The notion of a “balanced meal” is the more prominent prescription, along with the idea that food and eating should be “pleasurable”. Guidelines towards eating local and seasonal products overlap with organic and natural food consumption, while prescriptions to eat less meat of higher quality are in tension with prescriptions around vegetarian and vegan diets. We then consider how prescriptions play out in daily life, as both a resource and obstacle towards the establishment of eating habits, and what dimensions of everyday life have the most influence on how certain prescriptions are enacted – contributing to conceptual deliberations on food in relation to social practices. Time, mobility, and the relationships built around food and eating are forces to be reckoned with when considering possible transitions towards the normative goal of “healthier and more sustainable diets”.
Hansen, A.R. (2018) “Sticky’ energy practices: The impact of childhood and early adulthood experience on later energy consumption practices.” Energy Research and Social Science 46: 125-139.
This article found that personal history, formed by the accumulated experience of practitioners, affected the present level of energy consumption for space heating and hot water. Moreover, the paper demonstrates how quantitative analyses may provide new insights into studies of energy consumption practices.
Hansen, A.R. (2018) “Heating homes: Understanding the impact of prices.” Energy Policy 121: 138-151.
Studies show that energy prices have an impact on household energy consumption. However, these studies pay little attention to interpreting the findings, and therefore, little is known about how and why households respond to energy prices. This paper provides an example of an interpretation of the impact of energy prices on consumption from a social practice theoretical perspective.
Horne, Christine and Emily Huddart Kennedy (2018) “Explaining support for renewable energy: commitments to self-sufficiency and communion.” Environmental Politics
Across the political spectrum, peoplefavour renewable energy. For political liberals, this support has been attributed to concern for the environment; in contrast, the bases of conservatives’ support are less clear. Derived from interviews with a diverse sample of households in Washington State, USA, and a vignette experiment with a representative sample of American households, results show that Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) have different moral intuitions, with Democrats emphasizing communion and both Democrats and Republicans valuing self-sufficiency. These findings explain how politically polarized environmental attitudes can exist alongside a shared support for renewable energy. The studytherefore contributes to the literature on environmental concern andbehaviour, and has implications for policies aimed at increasing adoption of renewable energy as well as pro-environmental behaviour more broadly.
Mainstream sustainability discourses are firmly built on the mantra that more technology leads to more economic growth, which in turn leads to more welfare and sustainability. With economic growth becoming ever more difficult and undesirable, and sustainability challenges ever more pressing, alternative post-growth and Degrowth discourses have gained momentum in the last decade. However, the role of technology on the path towards a ‘Degrowth Society’ is far from clear and subject to intense debate between enthusiasts andsceptics of technology. This editorial to the special issue on ‘Degrowth and Technology’ represents the first in-depth analysis of the multiple perspectives on technology present in the Degrowth community. Using an artistic analogy, we illustrate four main areas of exploration for a future Degrowth and Technology research agenda: 1) theoretical and conceptual approaches, 2) case studies of innovative socio-technical arrangements, 3) evaluation of technologies according to their feasibility, viability, appropriateness and conviviality and 4) governance approaches. Moreover, we identify and discuss reoccurring themes in the texts such as energy, agency anddemocratisation of technology and introduce new concepts such as ‘Degrowth Technology’ and 'Degrowth Society’. Finally, we offer guidance for future research and for the development of a shared socio-technological imaginary of the Degrowth community.
Nordlund, A., Jansson, J., & Westin, K. (2018). “Acceptability of electric vehicle aimed measures: Effects of norm activation, perceived justiceand effectiveness.” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 117: 205–213
In this study a model was applied on consumer acceptance of commonly implemented EV focused measures. The model is based on a norm-activation process as defined in the Value-Belief-Norm theory and the Norm-Activation Model. The study was based on a questionnaire survey study on three groups of car owners; conventional fossil fuel vehicle owners (CV, n = 312, owners of vehicles run on alternative fuels except electricity (AFVnon-electric, n = 386), and owners of some form of electric vehicle (EV, n = 494). The results indicate that activating a personal normative reasoning in people can have a positive influence on the level of acceptance of EV aimed policy measures. It is important that policy makers develop policies that are perceived as just and effective, which as a consequence are then more acceptable to citizens.
DOI: 10.1016/j.tra.2018.08.033. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096585641731426X?via%3Dihub
Wahlen Stefan and Dubuisson-Quellier Sophie (2018) “Consumption governance toward more sustainable consumption.” Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 10(1):7-12
This article deliberates on strategies of consumption governance toward more sustainable consumption. We discuss theoretical concepts stemming from various social science perspectives to (1) promote more sustainable consumption, (2) compare strategies stemming from individualist understanding of consumer behavior, and (3) call for a mix of strategies acknowledging collective dimensions of consumption to change consumer behavior in order to advance sustainable consumption. We thereby criticize overtly individualistic approaches and plea for acknowledging the collective dimensions of consumption that should be recognized in order to promote more sustainable consumption. We outline possible contributions of the collective dimensions in lifestyle movements and a mix of stakeholders that assist in achieving more sustainable consumption.
Westin, K., Jansson, J., & Nordlund, A. (2018) The importance of socio-demographic characteristics, geographic setting, and attitudes for adoption of electric vehicles in Sweden. Travel Behaviour and Society 13: 118–127.
Although the number of different types of EVs is increasing, they still constitute only a small share of the total vehicle market. There are a number of barriers to car owners’ adoption of an EV: travel needs, charging infrastructure, the individual car owner’s socio-economic characteristics, attitudinal factors, and environmental concern. In this study, the characteristics and geographic location of all private car owners in Sweden (N = 4,447,118) are charted. Throughanalysis of survey data (N = 1192), the importance of socio-demographic attributes, geographic conditions, car interest, personal and social norms, and environmental concern is estimated. Mapping EV ownership shows that, so far, EV adoption has mainly occurred in metropolitan areas and also to some extent in hotspots outside the metropolitan areas, and that these hotspots are tourist regions that may be exposed to EVs via, for example, Norwegian tourists in the Swedish case. Logistic regression analyses show that age and education level have positive impacts on EV ownership.Residential area also has an influence to some extent, pointing to a slight neighborhood effect in EV adoption. However, the most important factor influencing EV ownership is the individual’s personal norms. In addition to showcasing EV adoption patterns in Sweden, the contribution of this study is to point to the importance of the attitudinal factor of personal norm even when geographical conditions and socio-demographic characteristics are controlled for. Implications of the findings are discussed.
Makov, T., T. Fishman, M. Chertow, and V. Blass. (2018) “What Affects the Secondhand Value of Smartphones: Evidence from Ebay.” Journal of Industrial Ecology
Reuse via secondhand markets can extend the use phase of products, thereby reducing environmental impacts. Analyzing 500,000 listings of used Apple and Samsung smartphones sold in 2015 and 2016 via eBay, we examine which product properties affect how long smartphones retain market value and facilitate market-based reuse. Our results suggest that although repairability and large memory size are typically thought to be “life extending,” in practice they have limited impact on the current economic life span of smartphones and their market-based reuse. In contrast, we show that brand, an intangible product property, can extend smartphones’ economic life span by 12.5 months. Because longer economic life spans imply extended use phases and longer life spans overall, these results illustrate the potential of harnessing the intangible properties of products to promote sustainable consumption.
Humanity sits at a crossroad between tragedy and transformation, with seemingly little idea of where we wish to go, or how we intend to get there. Similarly, now is a crucial time for sustainability research. Is it to be a passive chronicler of the challenges of our times? Or an active facilitator of transformative change towards sustainability?
This conference is inspired by the seminal essay by Donnella Meadows “Leverage Points Places to intervene in a system”. In this work, born of frustration and a deep desire for a more effective change, Meadows highlighted a series of leverage points—places in complex systems where a small shift may lead to fundamental changes in the system as a whole— for sustainability transformations. In particular, she noted the tendency to focus on highly tangible, but essentially weak leverage points (i.e., interventions that are easy to make, but have limited potential for transformative change).
Instead, she urged a focus on perhaps less obvious, but potentially far more powerful areas of intervention. Donnella Meadows’ notion of leverage points can be seen as a boundary object, a model, a metaphor and a fundamental challenge to the status quo, dominate mindsets and paradigms. We firmly believe that such radical approaches are needed in sustainability research and praxis if they are to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Inspired by Meadows’ work we seek to explore (in theory, methods and praxis) the deep leverage points that can lead to sustainability transformations. This conference will ask: how do we transform ourselves, our science, our institutions, our interventions and our societies for a better future? The conference is premised on three principles:
The importance of searching for places where interventions can lead to transformative change.
Open inquiry, exchange and co-learning across multiple theoretical, methodological and empirical research approaches focused on sustainability science and transformative change.
The need to reflection on modes of research and processes of change in leverage point and sustainability transformation related research.
More information here: https://leveragepoints.org/conference/
The theme for the 2019 EUGEO Congress is ‘Re-Imagining Europe’s Future Society and Landscapes’ and we invite sessions on this theme (and beyond) from all areas of the Discipline.
The conference will take place at the National University of Ireland Galway from May 15th – 18th (inclusive) and will include a series of keynotes, networking and social events throughout the four-day period. Some highlights include a Welcome Reception on May 15th and conference dinner on May 17th. Galway is an ideal location for the Congress; a vibrant city, full of rich cultural heritage and a gateway to many sites of geographical significance (e.g. Connemara and the Burren). Further details are available on the conference website: https://www.eugeo2019.eu/
The conference will be chaired by Dr Frances Fahy and Dr Kathy Reilly (Geography, NUI Galway) and the theme reflects on the centrality of the concepts of society and landscape within the Discipline of Geography. EUGEO 2019 in conjunction with the 51st Conference of Irish Geographers will offer participants the opportunity to reflect on and re-imagine futures within the geographical boundary of Europe and beyond. We invite session proposals reflective of the over-arching theme with a view to attracting a wide variety of geographers with a range of interest and expertise representative of Geography’s diversity.
The year 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Club of Rome’s foundation. The Club’s million-fold bestselling first report “The Limits to Growth” has been followed by more than 40 subsequent reports, which have had deep impact on the emerging environmental movement and raised global awareness of the urgent need to rethink human activity on our planet in a more sustainable, climate neutral and eco-friendly way. The latest report “Come On! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet” has been launched to coincide with the 50th Anniversary. This report suggests a positive and realistic agenda for the future and states that we have sufficient knowledge to achieve the necessary sustainability transformation and preserve our natural environment, resources and living conditions. The anniversary events will culminate in a two-day conference in Rome.
I have some very exciting news to share that I trust will be of interest to many SCORAIers. I am leading the convening of the next Ecocity World Summit to be held in Vancouver, October 7-11, 2019 (www.ecocity2019.com). This is a biennial event that happens on a different continent and represents one of the world’s longest running and most influential conferences on building sustainable cities. The theme of the upcoming Summit is “Socially Just and Ecologically Sustainable Cities” based on the International Ecocity Standards (www.ecocitystandards.org) that address many issues pertinent to sustainable modes of production and consumption. Specifically, the program committee would like to ensure that the conference provides a forum for conversations on sustainable lifestyles and behaviours.
This conference represents an opportunity to bring together a dynamic group of stakeholders, beyond the usual subjects. It links city building professionals (architects, planners, engineering) with ecologists and social scientists who are interested in tracking and managing the urban metabolism of cities to enable people to live within global ecological carrying capacity.
The call for papers and proposals opens in September (a year in advance of the conference) to provide groups plenty of time to put together thoughtful papers, workshops, fieldtrips, training activities, posters or presentations. The call closes in April. All accepted proposals will be confirmed by June. The Ecocity World Summit appeals to a mix of academics and practitioners.