The ‘futurity paradox’ and the future-oriented nature of sustainability-related action

Recently scholars of political economy and in economic sociology have paid renewed attention to the question of how economic actors cope with the problem of a fundamentally uncertain future. There have been increasing calls to put – as stated by Braun (2015) – “the future-oriented nature of economic discourses and practices at the centre of …

Read More

Review of The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis

The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis (subtitled ‘A biography of an ingenious species’) is a popular science book authored by Ruth DeFries (Columbia University), which takes a “long lens” view of humanity’s journey from the perspective of food production and consumption. The inside book cover notes that “for much of …

Read More

On the need for a genuinely sociological view of low-carbon transitions (and further moves in this direction by transition theorists)

Many sustainability activists frequently quote R. Buckminster Fuller, especially his well-known assertion that: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Frank Geels’ latest paper on low carbon transitions argues that Fuller is wrong and suggests an important change in direction …

Read More

Reconsidering the theoretical foundations of prospective practices (PART 2) – a field theory perspective

In this post I consider the theory of “social fields” developed by two influential American sociologists, Neil Fligstein and Doug McAdam, drawing principally on their book A Theory of Fields (Oxford University Press, 2012). A Theory of Fields offers “a general theory of social change and stability rooted in a view of social life as …

Read More

Climate change and the pursuit of sustainable futures: are we using the best strategies and approaches (and what are they? Do we know?)

This is a huge topic, and one that I plan to return to often on this blog. This post has been prompted by my recent reading of the book The Dynamics of Sustainable Innovation Journeys (Geels et al., 2011) and attendance at the 2013 Sustainable Living Festival. The editors of this book describe three strategies which …

Read More

Priorities for developing sustainability-oriented foresight

A number of priorities – and associated opportunities – for sustainability-oriented foresight need to be better understood and addressed. Each also requires successfully addressing related barriers and challenges. The following are four areas where ‘foresight methods’ can assist: 1) Enabling greater ‘anticipatory learning’. The opposite of anticipatory learning is ‘learning-by-shock’ (see this paper which defines …

Read More

Towards a more pluralistic, ‘third-wave’ of environmentalism?

The last couple of days I’ve been pondering the divergent, competing and – to a limited extent – evolving visions expressed in sustainability discourses and debates. A striking example is found in a recent paper by UTS physicist Prof Geoff Smith called “Green Nanophotonics” which highlights the potential for new technologies to reduce energy use …

Read More

Dialogue on nanotechnology and energy futures

In early June I attended an innovative dialogue in Brisbane that brought together the public, scientists and other ‘informants’ (of which I was one) that was organised by the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRT). The dialogue is one of many being conducted for a new community engagement project that …

Read More