Innovations in Sustainable Consumption
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Innovations in Sustainable Consumption

New Economics, Socio-technical Transitions and Social Practices

Edited by Maurie J. Cohen, Halina Szejnwald Brown and Philip J. Vergragt

This timely volume recognizes that traditional policy approaches to reduce human impacts on the environment through technological change – for example, emphasizing resource efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources – are insufficient to meet the most pressing sustainability challenges of the twenty-first century. Instead, the editors and contributors argue that we must fundamentally reconfigure our lifestyles and social institutions if we are to make the transition toward a truly sustainable future.
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Chapter 1: Societal innovation in a constrained world: theoretical and empirical perspectives

Halina Szejnwald Brown, Philip J. Vergragt and Maurie J. Cohen


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.

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