Traditions of sustainability research and practice

When I first started considering the sustainability literature I engaged with commonly discussed frameworks like so-called ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ sustainability – the former commonly described as being technocentric and anthropocentric, whereas the latter is more ecocentric, communalist and preservationist – and environmental discourse frameworks. Such discourse frameworks include John Dryzek’s model of four ecodiscourses (the …

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On ‘intelligent muddling’ and anticipatory practices

The concept of intelligent muddling is proposed in a provocative little book called The Techno-Human Condition by two American scholars – Braden Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz from Arizona State University. The book is ostensibly a critique of transhumanism movements; however, it addresses much broader themes as per their notion of the ‘techno-human condition’, and critical …

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To collapse or not to collapse: is it just a stupid question, or should it be discussed?

Last night I went to the Sustainable Living Festival’s annual great debate, this time on the somewhat convoluted topic (perhaps written by a committee?) of “To collapse or not to collapse: Pushing for economic ruin or building a great transition”, juxtaposing: At one end of the spectrum, [are] some environmentalists [who] are fueled by a …

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Emerging technologies that may “change the game” on climate change

In a brief talk entitled “Futures of Climate Change“, Brad Allenby – Distinguished Sustainability Scientist at Arizona State University (ASU) – outlines three areas of emerging technologies and argues that we are unhelpfully trapped in outdated mental models on climate change and related sustainability problems. The three emerging technologies are: Technologies for capturing carbon dioxide from …

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Preoccupations with collapse and crisis, and the risks of such tendencies

It seems to be increasingly common to consider the prospect of collapse (or some form of major “breakdown”) in the near-future (e.g. here, here, here, here). Authors and activists like Paul Gilding assert that some form of collapse is inevitable. Gilding writes that “the time to act preventatively has past” and asserts that “the coming …

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Why futures inquiry and sustainability often don’t mix

In theory futures inquiry and sustainability are the perfect bedfellows. For starters they’re both fundamentally about the future. Additionally, areas of practice like strategic foresight and adaptation science both aim to build capacity to cope with uncertainty in decision processes, and researchers in both domains tend towards highly interdisciplinary and even trans-disciplinary research. So what’s …

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Transdisciplinarity, sustainability research, and futures practices: towards a research agenda

I’ve used some of the break over Christmas and the New Year to reflect on my research and what I’m trying to achieve (research purpose). A reoccurring thought over recent months has been that I ought to more clearly ‘locate’ what I’m doing in the emerging sustainability science field. As a consequence, I’ve been reading …

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