On sustainability interventions

The central focus of my thinking is shifting from futures work to sustainability interventions. What seems to matter is the efficacy of different tools and forms of future-orientation in sustainability interventions. This slight shift in focus is leading me to further consider:

  • The field of ‘sustainability transitions’, which has a strong focus on guiding, shared visions
  • The rapidly expanding field and practices of climate adaptation
  • Research in the Science & Technologies Studies (STS) field examining the phenomenon of future-orientation and its impacts (albeit often with a focus on technological change). STS scholars are also doing important research on the importance of future expectations to innovation trajectories
  • Planning literature which critically examines the use of futures tools such as visioning, scenario planning, etc (e.g. scholars such as Robert Shipley [such as this paper])

I’ve also observed critiques of the dominant forms of future-orientation emerge. For example, Mike Hulme argue future-orientation in climate adaptation is too reductionist, pointing to the hegemony of predictive sciences (natural/physical). Hulme also points to the reemergence of environmental determinism. Similarly, other critical scholars contend that “neo-Malthusianism” is reemerging in the ‘planetary boundaries’ discourse, which is centred on ‘hard’ environmental limits, and argue that quantitative modelling is too dominant in environmental policy (c.f. Useless Arithmetic).

If any other researchers and practitioners have any suggestions (e.g. papers, research to review) please let me know – stephen.mcgrail@gmail.com

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