How can sustainable consumption become attractive? How can it become a new normality in which a good life in a limited world is possible for everybody?
These and other questions on sustainable consumption and social justice were discussed on the 5th International Degrowth Conference that took place in autumn 2016 in Budapest. Thirty scientists and experts gathered and presented their thoughts on aforementioned issues, among them ZIN-spokeswoman Prof.’in Doris Fuchs who co-developed the concept of Consumption Corridors as an answer to the challenge of practically implementing sustainable consumption.
Associated with the conference, SCORAI Europe organized a Degrowth workshop. Prof.’in Fuchs participated in this workshop and, together with Dr. Antonietta Di Giulio, contributed to Issue 6 of the Sustainable Consumption Transition Series, based on the workshop proceedings. Their article “Consumption Corridors and Social Justice: Exploring the Limits” focusses on Consumption Corridors and shows, that fixing minimal and maximal standards for individual consumption can help to guarantee the access to necessary resources for today’s and tomorrow’s individuals and therefore also the possibility of a good life. In between those corridors limited by said standards, individual planning and preferences for consumption are possible. As a result it is guaranteed that the overconsumption of some does neither endanger others’ access to resources nor their possibility of a good life. The concept of Consumption Corridors thus provides an answer to the ethical challenges of sustainable development consisting in granting rights to individuals and states on the one hand, but also attributing duties on the other hand. The Consumption Corridors show a way to link consumption, sustainability, justice and individual freedom.
Further explanations concerning the path leading from ideas on the good life and justice to the concept of Consumption Corridors can be found in the article „Consumption Corridors: integrating the good life and justice in sustainable development“ (available online). It also provides a comparison with similar ideas as well as a summary and discussion of contemporary societal and political challenges of sustainable consumption.
How can sustainable consumption become attractive? How can it become a new normality in which a good life in a limited world is possible for everybody?
According to the widespread three-pillar-model of sustainability, sustainability encompasses an ecological, an economic and a social dimension. In a new article, ZIN-member Prof. Matthias Grundmann criticizes that the way the term “social sustainability” is often filled with content often leads to a reduction of the sustainability discourse since the social dimension is shortened to political regulation. The author concludes that there is a necessity of clarifying how social responsibility is established in societal discourse as well as in concrete structures of actions and relations.
A new definition of the term “social responsibility” should, according to Prof. Grundmann, permit a differentiated approach to several societal connections that determine the discourse about social sustainability. On the one hand, this redefinition would abolish the narrowness of the current discourse. On the other hand, it would open up arguments for a sustainability discourse built on social theory.
In the end, the author shows that a new sociological determination of social sustainability renders the moral demands raised regarding individual life-planning and sociality more visible and provides normative ideas for the fulfillment of these claims at the same time.
[Source: Grundmann, Matthias (2016): Gemeinsam - nachhaltig. Argumente für eine sozialisationstheoretische Bestimmung sozialer Nachhaltigkeit. Soziologie und Nachhaltigkeit, Jg. 2, Nr. 5. Münster.(in German only)]
On the 7th of December, ZIN-spokeswoman Prof. Doris Fuchs takes part in the first forum on climate protection (1. Forum Klimaschutz 2050) in Münster, aiming at developing a vision of a climate neutral city of Münster.
Münster has dedicated itself to the objective of becoming climate neutral until 2050 and thus strengthen its position as a role model in local climate protection. It pursues this objective as official member of the project "Masterplan-Kommunen 100 % Klimaschutz", being one amongst many participating cities that have been honored for their commitment by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. Said cities develop a so-called “Masterplan” serving as a roadmap on their way to CO2-neutrality, which is to be finished until the end of June 2017. Its content is focused on the idea of sufficiency, combining a decrease in consumption of resources and energy with life satisfaction on a constantly high level.
After this first forum, designed as an expert dialogue, local citizens are supposed to be included in the process in spring. Their participation through ideas and initiatives is considered to be vital for the success of the climate protection goals.
[Sources: Climate-Initiative Münster (ed.): Klima info Münster kompakt, November 2016 (in German only), accessed at the 6th of December 2016 and Homepage of the City of Münster (ed.): Klimaschutz 2050 (in German only), accessed at the 6th of December 2016 and Homepage of the City of Münster (ed.): Klimaschutz 2050 - Vision (in German only), accessed at the 6th of December 2016]
ZIN-spokeswoman Prof. Doris Fuchs participates in the expert dialogue of a project on the right measure of sustainable consumption, supported by the Mercator Foundation Switzerland, on the 28th and 29th of November in Basel.
The project addresses the excessive use of natural resources due to consumption by asking for the right measure in consumer behavior. Scientists of the University of Basel discuss, whether agreeing on maximum and minimum levels of consumption can help limiting it, thus placing the idea of consumption corridors at the center of their research. Consumption corridors are aiming at enabling every individual to lead a fulfilled life, while not endangering others’ opportunity to do so by our consumption patterns. (Quelle: Homepage of the Mercator Foundation)
Prof. Doris Fuchs has been working on the concept of consumption corridors for a long time, ranking among its founders herself, and further developed the concept e.g. in course of this year’s March Münster Meeting and several publications (see, for example, Di Giulio, Antonietta; Fuchs, Doris. 2014. ‘Sustainable Consumption Corridors: Concept, Objections, and Responses.’ GAIA 23: 184-192).
The visibility of sustainability issues in practice increases constantly, e.g. in the form of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. In course of the model project “Global nachhaltige Kommune NRW” (Global sustainable municipality North Rhine-Westphalia) strategies for the implementation of the SDGs on a local level are to be developed. 16 cities and municipalities are taking part in the project, the city of Münster being one of them. During a two-year process, local actors from politics, science, economy and civil society will work out an action program on sustainable development, including participation and management structures.
ZIN-spokeswoman Prof. Doris Fuchs and ZIN-members Prof. Tillmann Buttschardt and Prof. Matthias Grundmann are three of the scientific actors contributing to the project. After having evaluated local accomplishments and needs with regard to sustainable development in June, guiding principles of a sustainability strategy including thematic guidelines are to be compiled today (23rd of November 2016).
[Source: Hompage of the citizen movement "Münster nachhaltig"]
Last week, Prof. Andreas Löschel focused on efficiency and distributive justice of the energy transition, arguing from an economist’s point of view. How would a philosopher approach the same topic? To find out, come and listen to Prof. Michael Quante’s lecture on Monday, 21th of November, at 18:15 (JO1, Johannisstraße 4). Prof. Quante will focus on social questions and issues raised by the energy transition.
Can a transformation of our energy systems be reconciled with freely available and affordable energy for everyone? Does energy count among the basic goods a social and solidary society should provide its members with? How far is a legal and governmental paternalism allowed to go, if decisions on power supply affect the individual way of living?
Guided by these questions, Prof. Quante will deliver a lecture on the energy transition’s normative aspects as seen from the perspective of philosophical ethics, asking for appropriate normative principles which can help shape and justify changes of our energy systems.
A way of living based something else than property and consumption and a life creating „zero waste“ appear to be a trend right now. But is it justified to speak of a broad social change in thinking resulting in a more sustainable way of living? Of a scientifically verifiable shift in our understanding of quality of life? Or is it just a wealthy elite who constantly keeps an eye on its biological footprint and engages in upcycling rather than throwing seemingly “broken” objects away?
These are questions ZIN-spokeswoman professor Doris Fuchs answered on Thursday, 17th of November 2016, within the German radio broadcast “WDR 3 – Kultur am Mittag”.
You can listen to a recording of said interview here (in German only).
ZIN-members have presented “their” disciplines’ views on sustainability issues during the ZIN’s lecture series in summer term 2016. Now, lectures by external scientists (with the first lecture as only exception) mainly from the natural sciences will be given in winter term 2016/17, promising interesting insights into new topics.
The new course of lectures “Risiken und Potenziale technologischer Innovationen und Transformationen für ökologische und soziale Nachhaltigkeit” (Risks and potentials of technological innovations and transformations with regard to ecological and social sustainability) starts on Wednesday, 9th of November at 18 pm c.t. in room S2 (Schloss) with a presentation by Prof. Dr. Andreas Löschel. From the perspective of an energy and resource economist, he is going to talk about the Energy Transition under the title: “Effizienz und Verteilungswirkungen der Energiewende” (Efficiency and distribution effects of the energy transition).
The same issue will be examined from a philosophical perspective by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Quante by taking a closer look at the challenges and ethical questions the Energy Transition poses for today’s society. His lecture “Nachhaltig, gerecht und sozial verträglich? Überlegungen zu den normativen Aspekten der Energiewende”(Sustainable, just and socially acceptable? Thoughts on normative aspects of the energy transition) is going to take place on Monday, the 21st of November at 18 pm c.t. in room JO1 (Johannisstraße 4).
In order to stick to the ZIN’s central principle of interdisciplinarity, the following lectures will be held by scientists working in the domain of Natural Sciences, such as Prof.’in Dr. Nathalie Sick (Junior Professor for Innovation and Technology Management for Energy Storage Technologies). All of them will present their own and therefore very different areas of research with regard to sustainability issues.
Information on further lectures will be available soon.
How can we reach a transformation of the energy system that is environmentally compatible and socially acceptable? In order to answer this question, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has been supporting 33 research projects with a budget of 30 million euros since 2013. The projects carry out research on topics such as acceptance, governance or participation and aim at testing solutions in practice together with partners. (Link to the homepage of the funding measure, most contents available in German only)
Results and potential applications of all projects will be presented on the final conference under the title “Strategien für eine nachhaltige Energiewende” (Strategies for a sustainable energy transition) on the 4th and 5th of October in Berlin. The ZIN is represented there both by Prof. Dr. Andreas Löschel, who is holding a lecture on the current status of the German energy transition (4th of October), and by Prof.’in Doris Fuchs. The ZIN-spokeswoman co-developed the project “KomMa-P - Akzeptanz der Energiewende stärken” (KomMA-P – Strengthening acceptance of the energy transition) which provides insights on potentials and barriers for participation in German Energy Governance .
On the 26th and 27th of September, the International Conference on Consumer Research (ICCR) was organized by the competence center for consumer research NRW for the second time. Under the title “The 21st Century Consumer: Vulnerable, Transparent, Responsible?” discussions on different facets of consumption reaching from Nudging over “Political” Consumption to new phenomena such as the Sharing Economy took place in 12 sessions.
An own session was dedicated to the “sustainable consumer” and opened by ZIN-Speaker Prof.’in Doris Fuchs with a rather sober lecture. Where did we really make progress regarding sustainable consumption in the last few years? Nowhere, shows an honest look according to Doris Fuchs, an evaluation illustrated by statistics on the rapidly growing numbers of air passengers and SUV-sales in Germany. The research on sustainable development therefore still faces the so far unanswered question of how to achieve sustainable consumption patterns. However, Prof.’in Fuchs didn’t leave the audience alone with this question, but proposed an answer to it by introducing the concept of “sustainable consumption corridors”, developed in cooperation with other fellow researchers. These corridors comprise on the one hand minimal standards that should enable each individual to live a good life and maximal standards limiting the individual consumption in order to secure the access to resources for today’s and future generations on the other hand.
Prof.’in Doris Fuchs also was present at the 5th “Nachhaltigkeitstagung” (Sustainability Conference) of North Rhine-Westphalia organized by the State Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Conservation and Consumer protection on the 29th of September, giving a lecture about sustainable consumption. Apart from that, she spoke to Svenja Schulze, Minister of Innovation, Science and Research of North Rhine-Westphalia in an interview about the importance of the Sustainability Strategy of the state government as well as about the role of civil society in Sustainability Research.
For more information about the idea of “sustainable consumption corridors”, have a look at the article ”Sustainable Consumption Corridors: Concept, Objection and Responses” (di Giulio & Fuchs 2014). A more detailed report concerning the 5th “Nachhaltigkeitstagung” of North Rhine-Westphalia can be found in the local newspaper Westfälische Nachrichten under the title: “Wege aus der Wachstums-Krise” (German only).
With regard to the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), a key role is assigned to teacher training. However, current research findings show an insufficient anchoring of the concept of ESD in academic teacher training.
ZIN-member Prof.’in Dr. Gabriele Schrüfer and PD Dr. Gesine Hellberg-Rode recently published an explorative study related to this shortcoming. The study aims at researching the abilities and knowledge teachers need to have for ESD-specific lessons and does so based on the model of professional knowledge.
Methodologically, the study starts by carrying out a two-step Delphi study. Based on this study, the researchers develop a questionnaire designed to quantitatively examine the extracted competences. With regard to future constructions of multidisciplinary curricula, ESD-specific abilities and knowledge are then classified as either “content knowledge”, “pedagogical content knowledge” or “pedagogical knowledge”, again using the model of professional knowledge as a basis.
The study is availabe online via this link: http://zdb.uni-bielefeld.de/index.php/zdb/article/view/330/PDF (in German only)
Germany is planning its phase-out of coal use. This idea seems fruitful at first sight, but might actually just move problems to its neighbouring countries. After setting ambitious global level goals at the UN climate summit in Paris, these goals must now be implemented at the European and the national level. In doing so, Germany is risking to miss its aims, partly due to discrepancies between European and national ambitions. At this point, it would make sense to demand more effort (at least) on the European level. Since this is not politically enforceable, only national policies - such as the much debated exit from coal use- remain, at least when taking one's own goals seriously. These national policies, however, carry the danger of moving emissions to neighbouring countries. Prof. Dr. Andreas Löschel, holder of the Chair of Microeconomics, especially Energy and Ressource Economics at the University of Münster, comments on the limits of the energy transition in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and discusses options of actions regarding climate policies.
[Source: Homepage of the Chair of Microeconomics, especially Energy and Ressource Economics at the University of Münster, own translation]
The draft law on digitalizing the energy transition provides for a nationwide roll-out of smart meters with regard to consumers of more than 6.000 kWh. In the future, electricity consumers are to participate increasingly in shaping the power supply system. And yet- how strong are the actual potentials for flexibilisation of the power demand? Scientific responses to this question differ remarkably, and few studies are generalizable or allowing for conclusions on provable causal links between specific measures and observable changes in power consumption. Field experiments containing appropriate control groups could ensure the quality of research results. At this point the research group "SmartEnergy.NRW" - recently founded on the initiative of the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Economy, Energy, Industry, mid-sized sector and craft - will make a contribution. Prof. Dr. Andreas Löschel, professor at the University of Münster and director of the Center of Applied Economic Research, manages the research group along with Prof. Thorsten Schneiders (Technical University of Cologne). Both professors' comment on potentials for flexibilisation regarding the energy demand can be read in the new issue of the HandelsblattJournal, focussing on the main topic energy transition.
[Source: Chair of Microeconomics, especially Energy and Ressource Economics at the University of Münster, own translation]