Handbook of Ecological Economics
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Handbook of Ecological Economics

Edited by Joan Martínez-Alier and Roldan Muradian

This Handbook provides an overview of major current debates, trends and perspectives in ecological economics. It covers a wide range of issues, such as the foundations of ecological economics, deliberative methods, the de-growth movement, ecological macroeconomics, social metabolism, environmental governance, consumer studies, knowledge systems and new experimental approaches. Written by leading authors in their respective areas of specialisation, the contributions systematize the “state of the art” in the selected topics, and draw insights about new knowledge frontiers.
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Chapter 14: Sustainable consumption: transitions, systems and practices

Inge Røpke


Ecological economics has a long tradition within consumption studies. The field of ecological economics was formally established in the late 1980s, but already in the 1970s consumption issues were addressed within energy studies, which later became a key building block of ecological economics. Starting in the same period, the general discussions revolving around the IPAT equation highlighted the need to move beyond relying on technical innovation to meet environmental goals. With a growing population and increasing affluence per capita, the demands on increased technological efficiency were considered to be impossible to meet. Because increased affluence is necessary for the poor, in part to curb population growth, the consumption of the rich cannot continue to increase. The Brundtland Report made the same point by stating that ‘Sustainable development requires that those who are more affluent adopt lifestyles within the planet’s ecological means’ (WCED, 1987: 9). A commitment to sustainable consumption was confirmed at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, and a number of government programmes were initiated in subsequent years. Simultaneously, the research efforts related to consumption and the environment increased, including within the newly organized field of ecological economics.

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