New Economics, Socio-technical Transitions and Social Practices
Advances in Ecological Economics series
Edited by Maurie J. Cohen, Halina Szejnwald Brown and Philip J. Vergragt
Chapter 1: Societal innovation in a constrained world: theoretical and empirical perspectives
Several recent scientific assessments have offered persuasive evidence that the physical demands of contemporary patterns of energy and material consumption have begun to exceed critical biogeochemical thresholds and to jeopardize planetary systems (IPCC, 2007; Rockström et al., 2009; Aaronson, 2010). Current debates on appropriate policy responses evince skepticism about whether improvement in technological efficiency, including enhanced reliance on renewable energy sources, will alone be adequate to meet the demands of a global population projected to exceed nine billion by 2050. Although not impossible, in the words of Paul Raskin and his colleagues (2010, p. 2648) ‘the sustainability challenge presents, as well, the prospect of transcending technological solutions with a transformation in human values and restructuring of economic and governance institutions.’ Under these circumstances, a new conception of the future is gaining traction in the scientific community, one in which far-reaching innovations in both industrial production and societal consumption patterns are likely to be required.