Chapter 1: Sustainable consumption as a systemic challenge: inter- and transdisciplinary research and research questions
Present consumption patterns in developed countries are unsustainable. We consume too many raw materials and use too much energy, create too much hazardous waste and even consume renewables at an unsustainable rate. In addition research has shown that more material consumption does not make us happier; it appears that above a certain level individual well-being is ‘decoupled’ from material throughput and energy use (Abdallah et al. 2009; Jackson 2009). Moreover there are strong indications that unsustainable consumption patterns contribute to greater inequity; and conversely, that inequities contribute to unsustainable consumption patterns (Vergragt 2013; Wilkinson and Picket 2009). Developing countries are quickly following the same path of material over consumption and greater inequality. One quarter of humanity – 1.7 billion people worldwide – now belongs to the ‘global consumer class’, having adopting the diets, transportation systems and lifestyles that were once mostly limited to the ‘global North’. Today, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and other developing countries are home to growing numbers of these consumers.