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Social‐Ecological Transformation

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Abstract

Social-ecological transformation” is an umbrella term which describes recent political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the social-ecological crisis. On the one hand, think tanks and international organizations have issued reports which provide for an interpretation of the crisis and propose ways out of it. Their common denominator is that economic growth can be reconciled with social and environmental objectives. On the other hand, there is an academic debate in progress which at least in part addresses the crisis in more fundamental ways, challenging not only existing technologies and market structures, but also the underlying patterns of production and consumption. It is informed by social ecology, practice theory and political ecology. This entry presents these two strands of the debate and suggests a combination of political ecology and critical political economy as a means for better understanding the crisis and for informing the emancipatory strategies designed to address it.
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Social-ecological
transformation
Ulrich Brand
University of Vienna, Austria
Markus Wissen
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany
Social-ecological transformation is an umbrella
term which describes political, socioeconomic,
and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to
address the socioecological crisis. Under this
conceptual and epistemic heading, such terms as
green, great or social-ecological transition, great
or societal transformation, green economy, and
sociotechnical transition have increasingly come
into use. Their goal is to provide a comprehensive
understanding of current global environmental
change and to contribute to a social and political
strategy for dealing with the crisis. Research pro-
grams for the social sciences have been oriented
accordingly (Hackmann and St Clair 2012).
The concepts and related debates have gained
specic importance, rst, due to the increasing
acknowledgment that existing sectoralized and
top-down forms of global or regional environ-
mental management have failed and, second, in
view of the “multiple crises” of the nancial
system, the economy, nature, energy provision,
and food. There is a strong consensus in the
literature that profound societal changes will be
required in order to get a grip on these multiple
crises. In the context of this consensus, however,
the socioecological crisis is approached from the
positions of divergent normative interests and
dierent theoretical perspectives, with the result
The International Encyclopedia of Geography.
Edited by Douglas Richardson, Noel Castree, Michael F. Goodchild, Audrey Kobayashi, Weidong Liu, and Richard A. Marston.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg0690
that a variety of dierent and even contrasting
analyses and proposals concerning the ways out
of the crisis have emerged (Brand et al. 2013).
The following noncomprehensive overview
rst addresses important agship reports issued
mainly by political organizations and think
tanks. These are seen as indicators of a shift of
perception within state apparatuses on various
spatial scales and as an attempt to shape the
corridor of social-ecological transformation.
Second, key aspects are presented of the aca-
demic debate which have to some extent
inuenced these political agship reports, but
have also raised more fundamental theoretical
and political questions. In the outlook, conclu-
sions are drawn regarding a critical perspective
on social-ecological transformation.
Social-ecological transformation
in agship reports
1. The concept of a green economy, which puts
forward the claim of being able to overcome
the economic and ecological crisis, was
promoted before and around the Rio +20
Conference in June 2012. The United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
started its Green Economy Initiative in 2008.
In 2011, it issued a comprehensive report
in which it identied a “widespread disil-
lusionment with our prevailing economic
paradigm, a sense of fatigue emanating from
the many concurrent crises and market
failures experienced during the very rst
decade of the new millennium, including
especially the nancial and economic crisis
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SOCIAL-ECOLOGICAL TRANSFORMATION
of 2008. But at the same time, we have
seen increasing evidence of a way forward,
a new economic paradigm – one in which
material wealth is not delivered perforce at
the expense of growing environmental risks,
ecological scarcities and social disparities”
(UNEP 2011a, 1).
2. In line with the United Nations Devel-
opment Programme (UNDP), the United
Nations Department of Economic and
Social Aairs (UN DESA) argues for a
great green technological transformation,with
a scaling up of clean technologies, waste
reduction, and sustainable agriculture. In
its report with the same title, it states that
a green economy “embodies the promise
of a new development paradigm, whose
application has the potential to ensure the
preservation of the earth’s ecosystem along
new economic growth pathways while
contributing at the same time to poverty
reduction” (UN DESA 2011, v).
3. The European Commission has developed
a plan for sustainable growth: the promotion
of a resource-light, ecological, and com-
petitive economy. In a communication of
September 2011, the commission stated the
necessity to fundamentally transform the
European economy within the time span
of one generation. It saw reducing resource
use and increasing resource eciency as key
mechanisms for coping with environmental
problems and resource shortages and, at the
same time, strengthening European com-
petitiveness (European Commission 2011;
for a similar approach see the green growth
strategy of the OECD 2011).
4. An example for an initiative at the national
level is a report by the German Federal
Government’s Advisory Council on Global
Change (WBGU) entitled “Social Con-
tract for Sustainability.” Its plea for a great
transformation (WBGU 2011) specically
refers to Karl Polanyi’s concept in which he
explains the passage to industrial capitalism
during the nineteenth century, in order to
emphasize the magnitude of the socioeco-
logical challenge. One point of departure
is the assumed global transformation of
values toward a sensitization for ecological
questions (WBGU 2011). In order to pro-
mote and strengthen this transformation,
the report states that a new “global social
contract” (WBGU 2011, 8, 276) is needed.
Central to realizing the great transformation,
along with the transformation of values, are
“pioneers of change” (such as innovative
individuals, NGOs, and companies in all
sectors of society and the economy), and a
“proactive state” (WBGU 2011, 203). The
latter is to create an adequate framework
for change agents and to promote required
innovations.
The common denominator of these reports
and strategy papers is that they consider eco-
nomic growth desirable, necessary, and capable
of reconciliation with the environment. They
express, rst, a belief, akin to that which pre-
vailed at the beginning of the sustainable devel-
opment discourse in the early 1990s, that com-
prehensive win–win situations can be created;
and second, rm trust in the existing political
and economic institutions and elites, which they
see as both able and willing to guide this process.
The shortcomings to particularly focus on are:
rst, the concepts argue for strong regulatory
frameworks and thus neglect the prevailing
power relations. In the current crisis, regulatory
frameworks tend to develop in an authoritarian
direction in order to secure access to resources
for particular countries or regions (Lander
2011). Moreover, the economy which is to be
politically regulated is mainly understood as the
formal capitalist market economy. Accordingly,
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gender perspectives and their focus on social
reproduction and reproductive work are largely
absent in the debate about a green economy
(Deutscher Frauenrat 2011).
Second, whereas a relative decoupling of eco-
nomic growth from resource use and environ-
mental impact can be observed in many advanced
capitalist economies, it is far from clear how the
necessary absolute reduction might be achieved
within the paradigm of economic growth. Since
2008, strategies for coping with the multiple
crises have not gone hand in hand with the
reorientation of production and consumption
patterns designed to promote sustainability.
They thus face the danger that improvements in
resource eciency may be overcompensated by
the quantity of resources consumed in a growing
economy (UNEP 2011b).
Third, neoliberal open-market policies and
erce competition have led to deindustrialization
in many countries of the Global South. What is
reasonable from a neoclassical perspective is that
production that takes place where it is econom-
ically most ecient has pushed many countries
into the new/old strategy of resource extrac-
tivism (Lang and Mokrani 2013). In most coun-
tries in Latin America, even in Brazil and Mex-
ico, this seems to be the only viable development
strategy capable of alleviating poverty. And it is
the ip side of the green economy, since the rare
earth metals needed for green high-tech products
mostly come from the countries of the south.
Finally, in addition to the universalization of
the Western model of production, globalization
implies what can be called an “imperial mode
of living” (Brand and Wissen 2013). The logic
of globalized liberal markets is reected in the
everyday practices in which access to cheap
and often unsustainably produced commodities
and labor power are normalized. Currently, this
logic is being universalized among the upper and
middle classes of newly industrialized countries.
The social relations underlying the imperial
mode of living, and possible ways for overcom-
ing them, have hardly been challenged at all
during this crisis and have been insuciently
reected in the reports cited above.
The academic debate about
social-ecological transformation
Aside from the political-strategic debate, there
is also an academic debate over social-ecological
transformation. Most of the approaches here have
a longer history. Nevertheless, like the political
debate, the academic one has gained momentum
in the context of the current multiple crises.
The various contributions emphasize, rst, that
socioeconomic, political, and cultural changes
have to go beyond incremental steps and toward
particular policy elds, such as climate change
or biodiversity policies. Second, transformation
is understood as a manifold nonlinear process,
since it deals with dynamic, multidimensional,
and complex systems as well as potential tipping
points. Third, it is acknowledged that technical
innovation is necessary, but not sucient, while
social innovation is central to social-ecological
transformation (Brand et al. 2013).
Within this framework, several approaches can
be distinguished, as follows.
1. The concept of social metabolism/socioecological
transition developed in the interdisciplinary
context of the Vienna Institute of Social
Ecology. It conceptualizes social-ecological
transformation from the perspective of the
use of energy and material. The history of
humankind is understood as a succession of
“sociometabolic regimes” that dier in their
energy sources and in the “colonization”
of nature. Hunters and gatherers, the rst
sociometabolic regime, relied on the solar
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energy stored in the plants and animals
available on their territory, but did not
systematically inuence the reproduction
of these resources. By contrast, agrarian
societies, while still relying mainly on solar
energy, started to systematically intervene
in nature – to “colonize” it – in order to
enhance its productivity.
Industrial societies, the thus far last stage of
human development, invented increasingly
sophisticated and, at the same time, destruc-
tive forms of the colonization of nature.
Even more important, they replaced repro-
ducing biomass as the main source of energy
with fossil biomass, which now, given the
prevailing patterns of production and con-
sumption in the Global North and the fact
that two thirds of the world’s population
are currently in transition from the agrarian
to the industrial regime, is imminently
threatened with exhaustion. Given further
that the remaining fossil resources cannot
be burned without exacerbating global
warming, the social metabolism of industrial
society today faces a fundamental crisis
(Haberl et al. 2011). The current pattern can
thus be understood as a “structural exhaus-
tion of opportunities” (Fischer-Kowalski
2011) of the existing sociometabolic regime.
It has given rise to a social-ecological trans-
formation which may either take on the
form of a catastrophic break with industrial
metabolism or, if the patterns of energy
generation and consumption are radically
changed, may result in a new, sustainable
sociometabolic regime.
2. Whereas the concept of social metabolism
is mainly concerned with the physical basis
of the social-ecological transformation,
transition research and management focus on
societal and institutional aspects as well as
on technological and social innovation.
Furthermore, their temporal and thematic
scope is signicantly narrower than that
of the social metabolism/socioecological
transition approach. Starting from the anal-
ysis of concrete transition processes in such
sectors as energy and agriculture, transi-
tion research has developed a “multilevel
concept” of major societal shifts toward
sustainability (Verbong and Geels 2010),
according to which transitions often origi-
nate in societal “niches,” then spread to the
level of “regimes” (institutional structures),
and nally contribute to transforming
“landscapes” (the overall social, political,
economic, and cultural setting). Radical
innovation is considered to take place pri-
marily in niches, while at the mesolevel of
regimes, changes occur more incremen-
tally because of path dependencies and
lock-in processes. The interplay of the
three levels is key to sustainability transi-
tions which are understood as “long-term,
multidimensional, and fundamental transfor-
mation processes through which established
sociotechnical systems shift to more sustain-
able modes of production and consumption”
(Markard, Raven, and Truer 2012, 956).
Transitions can be the results of evolutions
and/or of clear-cut goals.
Transition management aims to utilize the
ndings of transition research in order to
inform and shape the governance of con-
crete reform processes (Kemp, Loorbach,
and Rotmans 2007). Collaboration between
actors and learning processes are funda-
mental. Governance can inuence cultures
and discourses, actors and structures, as
well as innovations in order to accelerate
and trigger transitions. However, com-
mand and control strategies are not possible
owing to the complexity and uncertainty
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of transition processes. The transition man-
agement approach sees its role in the debate
on social-ecological transformation as pro-
viding methodologies which are of practical
and policy relevance (Wesely et al. 2014).
3. Transition research and management has
been criticized by proponents of approaches
in the tradition of practice theories (see Røpke
2009 for an overview). According to these
theories, there is a producer and manager
bias in transition management. Consumers
and complex congurations of everyday life
are treated more or less as external to the
system of innovation. However, according
to Shove and Walker, they are a constitutive
part of it. Neglecting them conceptually
is like an “act of writing to an audience
that might not be listening” (Shove and
Walker 2008). The crucial concept for a
better understanding of the causes of the
socioecological crisis, and for discerning
possible ways out of it, is that of social practice.
It refers to shared behavioral routines con-
stituted by sets of interconnected elements:
the social and political institutions that
facilitate them, the sociotechnical congu-
rations, such as the physical infrastructures,
that enable them, the available knowledge
and prevailing symbolic orientations that,
consciously or not, guide them, and the
forms of power that are inscribed in all these
elements (Spaargaren 2011).
Because of its habitualized character, an
environmentally detrimental social practice,
such as driving a car, is only to a very limited
extent accessible to intentional steering and
management or to consciousness-raising
campaigns. This makes social-ecological
transformation a far more complicated
process than it is assumed to be in transition
research and management. It is a process
which cannot be inuenced from any
preferential entry point, but which has to
address the various elements which con-
stitute social practices (Shove and Walker
2010). Overcoming automobility, to take
this example, would require an under-
standing of driving, not only as a form
of movement with the intent of relatively
rapidly overcoming a distance, but rather,
too, as an issue which has to be addressed
in terms of the prevailing and power-laden
conceptions of progress, freedom, and
masculinity and their institutional and
infrastructural manifestations.
4. The central motives and arguments in the
context of the degrowth debate maintain that
the orientation toward economic growth as
the crucial point of reference of economic
policy and as an indicator of prosperity and
quality of life no longer holds (Kallis 2011).
The issue of the suitability, or lack thereof,
of markets as a mechanism for dealing with
ecological and social problems is another
core point of commonality. Some authors
argue for an internalization of ecological and
social costs, others go further and add that
more structural changes as well as a decol-
onization of economics and of our minds
from the domination of economism, and a
move toward a dierent collective imagery,
are the preconditions for meaningful change.
Degrowth is “a multifaceted political project
that aspires to mobilize support for a change
of direction, at the macro-level of eco-
nomic and political institutions, and at the
micro-level of personal values and aspira-
tions. Income and material comfort is to
be reduced for many along the way, but
the goal is that this is not experienced as
welfare loss” (Kallis 2011, 878). Normative
principles, such as cooperation and social
justice, are being reintroduced, while social
movements are seen as the major subjects of
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change. Many contributions to the debate
do not focus so much on crises or secular
trends of diminishing growth rates in highly
industrialized countries. Rather, they pro-
pose a “voluntary, smooth and equitable
transition to a regime of lower production
and consumption” (Schneider, Kallis, and
Martinez-Alier 2010, 511). Degrowth is
thought of as a conscious societal process
based on a change of values.
5. Contributions from a critical geography/
political ecology perspective (Robbins 2004;
Perreault, McCarthy, and Bridge 2015)
dier from the approaches described above
in focusing more explicitly on issues of
power and domination. Where the social
metabolism approach addresses mainly
physical materiality, political ecology also
takes into account the materiality of social
structures. In political ecology, the terrains
and processes of governance, which tran-
sition management tries to shape in order
to facilitate sustainability transitions, are
less understood as solutions than as part of
the problem. Like practice theories, polit-
ical ecology focuses on the reproduction
of social relations, but also addresses the
contradictions inherent in them and, unlike
the degrowth debate, the political ecology
perspective sees economic growth as a
social relation intrinsically linked to societal
domination that reproduces social structures.
From a political ecology perspective, nature is
societally – that is, socioeconomically, culturally,
and politically/institutionally – produced and
appropriated. The focus is not on “the envi-
ronment,” but rather on the social forms of
the appropriation of nature: that is, the forms
in which such basic social needs as food and
housing, mobility, communications, and health
and reproduction are satised. This is not to deny
the material peculiarities of biophysical processes
for they are, under certain circumstances, no
longer reproducible, however, they are shaped
by society. And conversely, the materiality of
nature shapes societal processes. Importantly,
the production of scale is considered crucial in
transforming the conditions of access to natural
resources and reshaping societal nature relations.
Political ecology argues that the metabolism of
human society with nature, which is essentially
mediated by labor, assumes a particular form in
capitalist society: the production of use values for
the sake of exchange value and/or prot; a hier-
archy between capital and wage labor as well as
other forms of labor; and, moreover, the develop-
ment of a modern state separated from the cap-
italist economy and the class relationships. The
dynamics of the capitalist economy consists of the
valorization of human labor power and of nature.
Therefore, a crucial assumption regarding
social-ecological transformation is that in mod-
ern capitalist societies, change takes place
continually. “The bourgeoisie cannot exist with-
out constantly revolutionizing the instruments
of production, and thereby the relations of pro-
duction, and with them the whole relations of
society. Conservation of the old modes of pro-
duction in unaltered form, was, on the contrary,
the rst condition of existence for all earlier
industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of
production, uninterrupted disturbance of all
social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and
agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from
all earlier ones” (Marx and Engels 1998/1848,
243). The decisive question is what kind of logic
of transformation is to predominate.
Outlook
For a theoretically adequate understanding
of transformation, it is useful to link political
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ecology with critical political economy and social
theory, especially critical state and hegemony
theory. In so doing it can be shown that capi-
talist societies, with their tendencies to destroy
their own material foundations, can in certain
ways develop stabilizing forms of the societal
appropriation of nature. The societal regulation
of interaction with nature is possible and does
in fact occur; herein lies a central dynamic of
politics (Görg 2011). The regulation of societal
nature relations does not imply abolition of the
largely destructive forms of appropriation of
nature. However, the destruction of nature will
not necessarily become an urgent problem for
overall capitalist development, since dangerous
negative impacts can be spatially externalized
and temporarily postponed. This can be seen in
climate change, many eects of which will occur
in the future; those that are indeed manifested
in the present usually occur in more vulnerable,
peripheral places. Crises will particularly occur
at the local and regional levels – or are already
occurring there today. However, that fact does
not necessarily call the fundamental structures
and developmental dynamics of capitalism into
question. With regard to a possible scarcity of
resources, we can also see that in the interplay
of fears of global scarcity and local valoriza-
tion strategies, the regulation of societal nature
relations today means new exploration for tar
sands, fracking for natural gas in slate forma-
tions, energy crops which involve the control
and utilization of land, or a partial switch to
solar energy. Insights into the changing forms
of capitalist regulation help to understand the
direction of capitalist development, for example,
toward a selective greening of capitalism.
The thus enhanced critical concept of trans-
formation focuses on complex societal and
social-ecological relations and, in particular,
on their dominant development dynamics.
Moreover, it focuses on structures and processes
by means of which society organizes its mate-
rial foundations, including its metabolism with
nature – socioeconomically, politically, culturally,
and subjectively.
Such an analysis would consider the struc-
ture and power of sustainability discourses
(Brand 2010) and the tendencies toward the
“neo-liberalization of nature” (Castree 2008),
that is, the shifting politico-economic and
sociocultural dynamics of the appropriation of
elements of nature. And it would acknowledge
the still powerful structures, interests, and instru-
ments of nancial market capitalism. It would
ascertain that in spite of all tendencies pointing
toward greater sustainability, the state and the
international political institutional system have
tended to reinforce the dominant conditions
and developments. The term “imperial way of
living” (Brand and Wissen 2013) identies a
determining factor why very little is happening
politically, along with such other factors as power
strategies, including repression of criticism and
alternatives, and political co-optation.
Again, this has political-strategic implications.
First, research into social-ecological transforma-
tion needs to consider and evaluate the various
strategies and possibilities for dealing with the
multiple crises, that is, business-as-usual or more
authoritarian alternatives, an imperial deepen-
ing of global fragmentation, social-democratic
steering at various spatial levels, or more
radical-democratic alternatives.
Second, analyzing hegemony, capitalist regula-
tion, and its social forms means considering how
the corridor of both top-down and bottom-up
alternatives tends to be systematically narrowed
down to a form of capitalist ecological modern-
ization. It remains to be seen whether projects
like the greening of the economy or green cap-
italism will be potentially capable of ushering in
a new accumulation dynamic by changing the
energy and resource base.
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The question of a democratic shaping of soci-
ety and of societal nature relations would appear
crucial. That implies the democratic control of
resource use, but also of the manifold processes
of production and consumption. This is an
important research perspective to determine
what the already existing democratic forms
of resource control is, which struggles will be
necessary in order to generalize them, and how
they are to be stabilized institutionally. It must
also be determined which demands can be made
in a comprehensive sense for the democratic
structuring of society’s interaction with nature
and to what extent the concrete strategies for
a green economy or a green new deal have a
supportive eect or not. Taking the perspectives
presented into account, it would be necessary to
evaluate whether, and to what extent, a “passive
revolution” in the form of an eco-capitalist
modernization might take place in response to
the multiple crises and how it could be addressed
from an emancipatory perspective.
Acknowledgment
The authors wish to thank Phil Hill for his excel-
lent language editing.
SEE ALSO: Commodication of nature;
Wbieg0332
Consumption; Democracy; Political ecology;
Wbieg0234
Wbieg0837
Wbieg1099 Sustainable development
Wbieg0856
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Please note that the abstract and keywords will not be included in the printed book, but
are required for the online presentation of this book which will be published on Wiley
Online Library (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/). If the abstract and keywords are not
present below, please take this opportunity to add them now.
The abstract should be a short paragraph of between 150– 200 words in length and there
should be 5 to 10 keywords
Abstract: “Social-ecological transformation” is an umbrella term which describes recent political,
socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the social-ecological crisis. On
the one hand, think tanks and international organizations have issued reports which provide for an
interpretation of the crisis and propose ways out of it. Their common denominator is that economic
growth can be reconciled with social and environmental objectives. On the other hand, there is an
academic debate in progress which at least in part addresses the crisis in more fundamental ways,
challenging not only existing technologies and market structures, but also the underlying patterns of
production and consumption. It is informed by social ecology, practice theory and political ecology.
This entry presents these two strands of the debate and suggests a combination of political ecology
and critical political economy as a means for better understanding the crisis and for informing the
emancipatory strategies designed to address it.
Keywords: environmental crisis; environmental politics; political ecology; sustainability
... In recent decades, terms such as social-economic transition, societal transformation, ecological transformation, green economy and sociotechnical transition have increasingly been discussed (McDowell 2012;Brand and Wissen 2017). Socialecological transformation is an umbrella term which describes political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the socioecological crisis (Brand and Wissen 2017). ...
... In recent decades, terms such as social-economic transition, societal transformation, ecological transformation, green economy and sociotechnical transition have increasingly been discussed (McDowell 2012;Brand and Wissen 2017). Socialecological transformation is an umbrella term which describes political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the socioecological crisis (Brand and Wissen 2017). Social-ecological transformation is a systemic approach applied to broad-based change in social-ecological systems that catalyses rapid shifts in the mental constructs inhibiting solutions to complex problems of the socio-ecological landscape that prevent it from realising its full potential (Walker et al. 2004;Brand and Wissen 2017). ...
... Socialecological transformation is an umbrella term which describes political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the socioecological crisis (Brand and Wissen 2017). Social-ecological transformation is a systemic approach applied to broad-based change in social-ecological systems that catalyses rapid shifts in the mental constructs inhibiting solutions to complex problems of the socio-ecological landscape that prevent it from realising its full potential (Walker et al. 2004;Brand and Wissen 2017). There is an urgent need to change our society, particularly because of impending and potentially catastrophic climate disruption and degradation of ecological life-support systems (Butzer 2012;Pearson and Pearson 2012). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
A project entitled, “Building village economies through climate farming & forest gardening” (BeChange) was implemented in four municipality areas of the Tanahun and Lamjung districts of Nepal from May 2015. In order to assess changes in the social-ecological system that result from this project targeting abandoned agricultural lands, this case study was conducted using various methods: triad grouping, GPS point surveys, household surveys, focus group discussions (FGDs), field observation and reports. A participatory approach in reforestation on abandoned agricultural land with introduction of carbon credits has become a new livelihood strategy for local communities. It has not only attracted domestic and international tourists, but also helped to conserve biodiversity and local ecology. This activity also united village women and indigenous communities as triad groups for collaborative outcomes. A total of 42,138 seedlings of mixed tree species such as Michelia champaca, Elaeocarpus ganitrus, Bassia butyraceae, Bauhinia purpurea, and Cinnamon tamala were planted by 276 families on abandoned agricultural land between May 2015 and July 2018. However, as of 2020, this range has expanded to include 635 families with plantations of more than 65,000 seedlings. The set-up and maintenance of these forest gardens were financed with advanced payments for the carbon sink services of the planted trees. Farmers who succeeded with tree survival rates above 80% received an additional yearly carbon sink payment. The outcomes of the project show significant improvements in food security and tree biodiversity in the project villages. Of the total sampled households, almost half (45%) were under extreme poverty and had food sufficiency for only 3 months/year before the project. With the project, this percentage dropped to 22%, signals the emergence of seeds for transformative change.
... In recent decades, terms such as social-economic transition, societal transformation, ecological transformation, green economy and sociotechnical transition have increasingly been discussed (McDowell 2012; Brand and Wissen 2017). Socialecological transformation is an umbrella term which describes political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the socioecological crisis (Brand and Wissen 2017). Social-ecological transformation is a systemic approach applied to broad-based change in social-ecological systems that catalyses rapid shifts in the mental constructs inhibiting solutions to complex problems of the socio-ecological landscape that prevent it from realising its full potential (Walker et al. 2004;Brand and Wissen 2017). ...
... Socialecological transformation is an umbrella term which describes political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the socioecological crisis (Brand and Wissen 2017). Social-ecological transformation is a systemic approach applied to broad-based change in social-ecological systems that catalyses rapid shifts in the mental constructs inhibiting solutions to complex problems of the socio-ecological landscape that prevent it from realising its full potential (Walker et al. 2004;Brand and Wissen 2017). There is an urgent need to change our society, particularly because of impending and potentially catastrophic climate disruption and degradation of ecological life-support systems (Butzer 2012;Pearson and Pearson 2012). ...
Book
Full-text available
This open access book is a compilation of case studies that provide useful knowledge and lessons that derive from on-the-ground activities and contribute to policy recommendations, focusing on the relevance of social-ecological production landscapes and seascapes (SEPLS) to “transformative change.” The concept of “transformative change” has been gaining more attention to deal with today’s environmental and development problems, whereas both policy and scientific communities have been increasingly calling for transformative change toward sustainable society. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has planned to start the so-called “assessment on transformative change” if approved by the IPBES plenary to be held in 2021. At present, the idea of transformative change, including its scope, methodologies, approaches and strategies, are yet to be clarified. By bringing together all of the different concerns and interests in the land/seascape, SEPLS approaches could provide practical and experience-based insights for understanding and gauging transformative change and identifying determinants of such change. This book explores how SEPLS management relates to the idea of transformative change to further the discussion of sustainable transitions in advancing sustainability science. The introductory chapter is followed by case study chapters offering real-world examples of transformative change as well as a synthesis chapter clarifying the relevance of the case study findings to policy and academic discussions. It will be of interest to scholars, policymakers and professionals in the fields related to sustainable development.
... In recent decades, terms such as social-economic transition, societal transformation, ecological transformation, green economy and sociotechnical transition have increasingly been discussed (McDowell 2012; Brand and Wissen 2017). Socialecological transformation is an umbrella term which describes political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the socioecological crisis (Brand and Wissen 2017). Social-ecological transformation is a systemic approach applied to broad-based change in social-ecological systems that catalyses rapid shifts in the mental constructs inhibiting solutions to complex problems of the socio-ecological landscape that prevent it from realising its full potential (Walker et al. 2004;Brand and Wissen 2017). ...
... Socialecological transformation is an umbrella term which describes political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the socioecological crisis (Brand and Wissen 2017). Social-ecological transformation is a systemic approach applied to broad-based change in social-ecological systems that catalyses rapid shifts in the mental constructs inhibiting solutions to complex problems of the socio-ecological landscape that prevent it from realising its full potential (Walker et al. 2004;Brand and Wissen 2017). There is an urgent need to change our society, particularly because of impending and potentially catastrophic climate disruption and degradation of ecological life-support systems (Butzer 2012;Pearson and Pearson 2012). ...
Book
Full-text available
This open access book is a compilation of case studies that provide useful knowledge and lessons that derive from on-the-ground activities and contribute to policy recommendations, focusing on the relevance of social-ecological production landscapes and seascapes (SEPLS) to “transformative change.” The concept of “transformative change” has been gaining more attention to deal with today’s environmental and development problems, whereas both policy and scientific communities have been increasingly calling for transformative change toward sustainable society. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has planned to start the so-called “assessment on transformative change” if approved by the IPBES plenary to be held in 2021. At present, the idea of transformative change, including its scope, methodologies, approaches and strategies, are yet to be clarified. By bringing together all of the different concerns and interests in the land/seascape, SEPLS approaches could provide practical and experience-based insights for understanding and gauging transformative change and identifying determinants of such change. This book explores how SEPLS management relates to the idea of transformative change to further the discussion of sustainable transitions in advancing sustainability science. The introductory chapter is followed by case study chapters offering real-world examples of transformative change as well as a synthesis chapter clarifying the relevance of the case study findings to policy and academic discussions. It will be of interest to scholars, policymakers and professionals in the fields related to sustainable development.
... In recent decades, terms such as social-economic transition, societal transformation, ecological transformation, green economy and sociotechnical transition have increasingly been discussed (McDowell 2012; Brand and Wissen 2017). Socialecological transformation is an umbrella term which describes political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the socioecological crisis (Brand and Wissen 2017). Social-ecological transformation is a systemic approach applied to broad-based change in social-ecological systems that catalyses rapid shifts in the mental constructs inhibiting solutions to complex problems of the socio-ecological landscape that prevent it from realising its full potential (Walker et al. 2004;Brand and Wissen 2017). ...
... Socialecological transformation is an umbrella term which describes political, socioeconomic, and cultural shifts resulting from attempts to address the socioecological crisis (Brand and Wissen 2017). Social-ecological transformation is a systemic approach applied to broad-based change in social-ecological systems that catalyses rapid shifts in the mental constructs inhibiting solutions to complex problems of the socio-ecological landscape that prevent it from realising its full potential (Walker et al. 2004;Brand and Wissen 2017). There is an urgent need to change our society, particularly because of impending and potentially catastrophic climate disruption and degradation of ecological life-support systems (Butzer 2012;Pearson and Pearson 2012). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter synthesises major findings from the eleven case studies from different countries across the world (i.e. Kenya and Madagascar from Africa; Chinese Taipei, India, Nepal and the Philippines from Asia; Italy, Spain and UK from Europe; Antigua and Barbuda and Colombia from Latin America) concerning SEPLS management in relation to transformative change. It distils key messages in regard to how to understand, assess and take action on transformative change. Implications for science, policy and practice, as well as interfaces between them, are drawn out to address the following questions: (1) what is transformative change? (2) how do we know if we are moving towards a sustainable society? and (3) what are challenges, opportunities and “seeds of change” in the SEPLS context to bring about transformative change? The chapter concludes with five common principles identified across the case studies, while revising the notion of transformative change to reconceptualise it as a radical change that is built on niche innovations of local initiatives and can be fostered through adaptive co-management in the SEPLS context.
... Over 70 years after Karl Polanyi first published his seminal work on "the great transformation" (Polanyi, 1944), the term is widely used by diverse actors ranging from the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) to business consultancies, covering anything from digitalization to large scale changes in the very structure of industrial economies. My thesis contributes to the growing field of research on the social-ecological transformation of industrial and post-industrial societies striving to combat the multiple social and ecological crises presently witnessed in an integrated manner (Brand & Wissen, 2017). Consequently, the term transformation is used to denote structural changes to the functioning of the economic system and society as a whole based on the understanding that "the natural and social foundations of planetary cohabitation cannot be protected by processes of a continued economization of sustainability (Adloff & Neckel, 2019, p. 173 ff., own translation). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
The future of work is of crucial importance in the social-ecological transformation of economies, as many jobs can be found in ecologically unsustainable industries. One such industry is the automotive industry. As the industry is undergoing a transition towards manufacturing cars with other powertrains than the internal combustion engine, many jobs in the sector are endangered. Therefore, it is important to enquire into the expected changes. Understanding which employees are in danger of losing their job aids in the design of policies that shape the sectoral changes in a socially acceptable way, so called Just Transition strategies. This research provides a review of the expected changes in employment in Austrian and German automotive industry. Second, based on the demographic profiles of employees in the sector, it is examined who will be affected by those changes in employment. Subsequently, the suitability of an early retirement programme to cushion reductions in employment is analysed. It is found that retirement at 58 could fully cushion a 25% reduction in employment by 2030 in both countries.
Chapter
Full-text available
El objetivo de este trabajo es identificar y analizar las fases evolutivas de dos sistemas sedimentarios costeros durante los últimos 120 años en términos de coberturas del suelo y su relación con la dinámica antrópica, así como la percepción social que de estos se ha tenido durante el periodo de estudio. Los sistemas estudiados son (1) la franja costera del delta del Llobregat (Barcelona) y (2) el antiguo sistema de dunas de Guanarteme (Gran Canaria). Desde hace 120 años, e incluso desde mucho antes, los cambios ecológicos y sociales han ido cogidos de la mano, resultando en una evolución que puede llegar a ser compleja de entender actualmente sin una perspectiva histórica. Específicamente, se intentarán conocer los cambios socio-ecológicos y el rol que han desempeñado dichos sistemas a nivel social en cada etapa estudiada. Por su parte, el uso de documentos históricos tanto escritos como cartográficos, fotografías aéreas y literatura científica, han hecho posible la caracterización histórica de los sistemas objetos de estudio y su análisis en términos de coberturas del suelo y dinámica antrópica. --- The aim of this work is to identify and to analyze the evolutionary phases of two coastal sedimentary systems during the last 120 years in terms of land covers and their relationship with the human dynamics as well as the social perception people had of them during the study period. The systems studied are (1) the coastal fringe of the delta del Llobregat (Barcelona, Spain) and (2) the former dune system of Guanarteme (Gran Canaria, Spain). 120 years ago, and even from much earlier, the ecological and social changes have gone together, resulting in an evolution that can be difficult to understand currently without a historic perspective. Specifically, an attempt will be made to know the socio-ecological changes and the role that these systems have played at the social level in each stage studied. Furthermore, the use of historical written documents as well as cartography, aerial photographs and scientific literature, have made possible the historical characterization of the studied systems and their analysis in terms of land covers and human dynamics.
Article
Full-text available
The issue of fracking highlights the variability of trade union approaches to the environment in the UK energy sector, as reflected in their narratives and strategic organising orientations. Stories alone cannot change the material interests underlying complex societal conflicts, yet transformative policies on the climate crisis cannot emerge without a coherent story about the environmental crises and possible solutions. This article uses unions’ positions on fracking as a proxy for opposing/supporting/hedging against climate action to see how divergent positions amongst the UK’s three biggest unions in the energy sector (UNISON, Unite and GMB) and the TUC are reinforced or challenged by internal union narratives and strategic foci. Drawing on four in-depth expert interviews and 148 union documents, the main union narratives and strategies are analysed and clustered. The article’s key insight is that unions’ specific narratives differ depending on a union’s orientation. Pro-fracking unions address the short-term immediate financial and material concerns of members and hence promote business partnerships, while anti-fracking unions develop broad-based grass-roots alliances to address the climate crisis. The key entry point for transformative coalitions lies in promoting a coherent and positive narrative about transformative change, in line with scientific evidence.
Article
In the emergent literature, food ‘on-the-go’ (OTG) tends to be addressed as a consumption trend. However, considering that it entails significant amounts of packaging and food waste and has seen enormous growth in the UK since the 1990s, it is not sufficiently understood how OTG emerged as a sector. Conceptualising OTG as a provisioning practice and adopting a ‘Learning History’ approach, we aggregate journalistic columns and expert interviews into lineages that explain sectoral developments over time, and we ask how stakeholders frame OTG’s emergence and linked waste issues. We first show how OTG derives from an interplay of actors and shifts in socio-spatial organisation within the four areas of domestic economy and convenience, health and environment, urban space and policy, and corporate economy and technology. Subsequently, we outline typical understandings of packaging and food waste and shortcomings therein. Extending debates on consumer responsibilisation, we identify narratives that sideline producers’ focus on growth and their role in shaping OTG provision. Stakeholders often frame (1) OTG as demand-driven by reference to an ostensible ‘convenience culture’, (2) material waste as an issue of the ‘consumer-facing’ end of the supply chain, i.e. concerning food wrappers rather than materials used ‘back-of-store’ for logistics, processing, and hygiene and (3) food waste as a matter of avoiding leftovers while taking for granted resource-intensive, “wasteful” foods as part of businesses’ portfolios. We conclude that addressing waste higher up the supply chain may allow for a more nuanced account of causes of, and solutions to, unsustainable provisioning practices.
Article
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Impact investors often know their financial return on investments, but are less certain about their impact. This article frames impact as their contribution to sustainable market transformation. A sustainable market transformation consists of inception, first movers, critical mass, and institutionalization phases. Given the nature of such transformations, the impact is effectuated at different moments and toward various market actors. Based on an exploratory research design with semi‐structured expert interviews, this article aims to create an overview of the roles of impact venture capital funds in sustainable market transformations. The results suggest that the view that the capitalization of start‐ups is the only impact of impact investors is a misconception. The needs of companies with sustainability value propositions change over time and consequently impact investors perform various roles. For example, exiting an investment while upholding social and environmental objectives communicates to mainstream business that the start‐up is ready to create a greater impact. Further, impact investors fulfill external roles that change the perspectives of institutional actors toward sustainable investments. Based on an overview of the different roles that impact investors fill, this article proposes a future research agenda to strengthen our knowledge about the impact return of investments.
Preprint
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This cumulative dissertation (status: submitted) analyzes the transformative potential of Commons approaches in plant breeding, seed production or conservation (so-called Seed Commons) as alternative Governance approaches to tendencies of privatization and enclosure in the seed sector and the wider agri-food system. For this purpose, on the basis of a literature review, first a conceptualization of a social-ecological transformation (SET) is developed that allows to assess the contribution of small initiatives to a wider transformation. The proposed conceptual SET framework also contributes to connecting the strengths of diverse transformation literatures. In a comprehensive transdisciplinary process, a concept for 'Seed Commons' is developed that highlights shared characteristics of diverse Seed Commons initiatives. Seed Commons can be characterized by four criteria: by recognizing a collective responsibility for the conservation and further development of cultivated plants and genetic diversity, by protecting seeds and varieties from legal or (bio-)technological enclosure, through collective, polycentric management and by sharing formal and practical knowledge within and/or beyond the initiative. These criteria are suitable for a stringent analysis of the shared challenges and opportunities of Seed Commons initiatives. In the next step, I apply these Seed Commons criteria in a systematic document analysis to examine how the complexity of the multi-level governance regime around seeds, biodiversity and intellectual property rights impacts Seed Commons initiatives in Germany and the Philippines. The results show that especially the patent and variety protection regime as well as strict requirements for marketing of seeds can threaten central practices such as the sharing of seeds or their on-field adaptation and further development. Yet the impact of norms such as the conservation of biodiversity and farmers' rights of the biodiversity convention and the international Seed Treaty also contribute to exceptions that widen the scope of action of Seed Commons. Finally, this thesis highlights the very creative, differentiated and conscious ways in which Seed Commons initiatives deal with these incumbent institutional frame conditions, i.e. by resisting them or using gray areas. Through their alternative, everyday practices, they contribute to institutional and political change. Hence Seed Commons initiatives challenge dominant structures by disputing incumbent practices, rules and norms and creating a real and viable alternative on the ground. Overall this thesis shows, taking the example of Seed Commons initiatives, that even small initiatives can contribute to a social-ecological transformation, when they confront incumbent structures, institutions and paradigms, and create just and resilient alternatives. If you are interested in reading the introductory chapter to my cumulative dissertation, feel free to get in touch! (problem statement, main results and contributions, discussion of transdisciplinary methodology, future research avenues etc.) Three of the four papers of the cumulative thesis have (so far) been published, all open access. See below (also on my RG profile): - Tschersich, J. (2021). Norm conflicts as governance challenges for Seed Commons: Comparing cases from Germany and the Philippines. Earth System Governance, 7, 100097. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esg.2021.100097 - Sievers-Glotzbach, S., Tschersich, J., Gmeiner, N., Kliem, L., & Ficiciyan, A. (2020). Diverse Seeds – Shared Practices: Conceptualizing Seed Commons. International Journal of the Commons, 14(1), 418–438. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/ijc.1043 - Sievers-Glotzbach, S. and J. Tschersich (2019): Overcoming the process-structure divide in conceptions of social-ecological transformation: Assessing the transformative character and impact of change processes. Ecological Economics 164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.106361
Article
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Over the last two million years, humans have colonized almost the entire biosphere on Earth, thereby creating socio-ecological systems in which fundamental patterns and processes are co-regulated by socio-economic and ecological processes. We postulate that the evolution of coupled socio-ecological systems can be characterized by a sequence of relatively stable configurations, here denoted as ‘socio-metabolic regimes’, and comparatively rapid transitions between such regimes. We discern three fundamentally different socio-metabolic regimes: hunter-gatherers, agrarian societies and industrial society. Transitions between these regimes fundamentally change socio-ecological interactions, whereas changes and variations within each regime are gradual. Two-thirds of the world population are currently within a rapid transition from the agrarian to the industrial regime. Many current global sustainability problems are a direct consequence of this transition. The central hypothesis discussed in this article is that industrial society is at least as different from a future sustainable society as it is from the agrarian regime. The challenge of sustainability is, therefore, a fundamental re-orientation of society and the economy, not the implementation of some technical fixes. Based on empirical data for global resource use (material and energy flows, land use), this essay questions the notion that the promotion of eco-efficiency is sufficient for achieving sustainability, and outlines the reasons why a transition to a new socio-metabolic regime is now required. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.
Article
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Sustainable development requires changes in socio-technical systems and wider societal change - in beliefs, values and governance that co-evolve with technology changes. In this article we present a practical model for managing processes of co-evolution: transition management. Transition management is a multilevel model of governance which shapes processes of co-evolution using visions, transition experiments and cycles of learning and adaptation. Transition management helps societies to transform themselves in a gradual, reflexive way through guided processes of variation and selection, the outcomes of which are stepping stones for further change. It shows that societies can break free from existing practices and technologies, by engaging in co-evolutionary steering. This is illustrated by the Dutch waste management transition. Perhaps transition management constitutes the third way that policy scientists have been looking for all the time, combining the advantages of incrementalism (based on mutual adaptation) with the advantages of planning (based on long-term objectives).
Book
The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology presents a comprehensive and authoritative examination of the rapidly growing field of political ecology. Located at the intersection of geography, anthropology, sociology, and environmental history, political ecology is one of the most vibrant and conceptually diverse fields of inquiry into nature-society relations within the social sciences. The Handbook serves as an essential guide to this rapidly evolving intellectual landscape. With contributions from over 50 leading authors, the Handbook presents a systematic overview of political ecology's origins, practices and core concerns, and aims to advance both ongoing and emerging debates. While there are numerous edited volumes, textbooks, and monographs under the heading 'political ecology,' these have tended to be relatively narrow in scope, either as collections of empirically based (mostly case study) research on a given theme, or broad overviews of the field aimed at undergraduate audiences. The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology is the first systematic, comprehensive overview of the field. With authors from North and South America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere, the Handbook of Political Ecology provides a state of the art examination of political ecology; addresses ongoing and emerging debates in this rapidly evolving field; and charts new agendas for research, policy, and activism. The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology introduces political ecology as an interdisciplinary academic field. By presenting a 'state of the art' examination of the field, it will serve as an invaluable resource for students and scholars. It not only critically reviews the key debates in the field, but develops them. The Handbook will serve as an excellent resource for graduate and advanced undergraduate teaching, and is a key reference text for geographers, anthropologists, sociologists, environmental historians, and others working in and around political ecology. © 2015 Tom Perreault, Gavin Bridge, and James McCarthy. All rights reserved.
Article
Aim: Adenocarcinoma is one of the most common malignant tumors of the small intestine complicating Crohn disease. However, the coexistence of both neoplasms with diverticulosis of small bowel in young age makes this coincidence rare and clinical diagnosis very difficult. Case presentation: We report a case of a woman admitted to our department with acute abdominal pain and fever. The surgical and histological investigation, revealed a rare coexistence that has never been mentioned in the published medical literature. Conclusions: Ileal diverticulosis is not frequent and often asymptomatic as well as adenocarcinoma of small bowel. In this case, those diseases along with Crohn disease leaded the patient to acute symptoms.
Article
Within the environmental social sciences, theories of practices are used by an increasing number of authors to analyze the greening of consumption in the new, global order of reflexive modernity. The use of practices as key methodological units for research and governance is suggested as a way to avoid the pitfalls of the individualist and systemic paradigms that dominated the field of sustainable consumption studies for some decades. With the help of practice theory, environmental governance can be renewed in three particular ways: First, the role and responsibilities (not) to be assigned to individual citizen-consumers in environmental change can be specified. Secondly, objects, technologies and infrastructures can be recognized for their crucial contribution to climate governance without lapsing into technological determinism. Third, the cultural framing of sustainability can be enriched by looking into the forms of excitement generated in shared practices of sustainable consumption. We conclude by discussing the need to investigate the globalization of practices from a post-national perspective in both science and policy.