Community Forums Hosted by Future Earth Knowledge-Action Network on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production

Image: Future Earth
A series of three virtual community forums will take place on January 23, February 13, and February 27, to present key elements of the KAN's emergent Research and Engagement Plan.

The Future Earth Knowledge-Action Network (KAN) on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SSCP), supported by the Regional Centre for Future Earth in Asia, will host a series of three community forums (via webinar) to present key elements of its emergent Research and Engagement Plan. These sessions will highlight the ongoing work of the KAN's five Working Groups and consider next steps and future plans. Ample time will be allocated during each community forum for feedback and general discussion.

The timing of the 90-minute webinars in a selection of global time zones will be 23.00 (Japan), 15.00 (Europe), 14.00 (UK/Ireland), 9.00 (East Coast of US), and 6.00 (West Coast of US). Participants should confirm the hour that corresponds to their respective part of the world and are asked to register for the community forums by completing the form.  All interested individuals are invited to join in this event.

Notes:

  • Registration deadline for the second Forum is COB Tuesday 13 February,  Japan time.
  • The order of the two presentations for the second forum has been reversed.

Details on each of the webinars appears below:

January 23: Community Forum 1-Sustainable Consumption and Production in Cities | Communicating for Sustainable Consumption and Production

Part A: Sustainable Consumption and Production in Cities-Cities and their surrounding regions are critical nodes for, and sites of, consumption and production. It is at the municipal scale that many of the societal and physical infrastructural conditions of daily living are produced, giving local governments (along with civil society organizations and social entrepreneurs) unique leverage to shape proximate consumption and production processes, with consequences extending far beyond city boundaries. Yet, municipal governments have limited understanding of the "footprints" of their populations-the material flows associated with consumption and production processes, their social and environmental ramifications, and how city-level actions can help in addressing such issues. While the governance challenges of transboundary problems are not themselves new or uncommon, the scale and complexity of contemporary global value chains-and their socioeconomic and ecological implications- requires new conceptual approaches and methodological tools.

Part B: Communicating for Sustainable Consumption and Production-System theorist Niklas Luhmann once wrote that even the most threatening environmental problems will have no social effects unless they are addressed in communication. Communicating for sustainable consumption and production however is notoriously complex. In particular, the concept "sustainable consumption" itself is contested, addressing material provisioning on all levels from individual lifestyles and aspirations as well as the notion of consumerism as embedded in the dominant culture of many countries. This presentation will address how framings of sustainable consumption and production can be explored, evaluated, and modified in and through communication in ways that contribute to processes of systemic change.

February 13: Community Forum 2- Global Value Chain | Social Change Beyond Consumerism

Part A: Global Value Chains-The scale and complexity of contemporary global value chains-and their socioeconomic and ecological implications-require new conceptual approaches and methodological tools. Business organizations, from small-scale farmers to large multinational enterprises, play key roles in addressing this challenge. Over the past few decades, a number of perspectives have been put forward to frame this responsibility. Notions such as the circular economy, the sharing economy, and corporate social responsibility are all important socioeconomic perspectives. The academic debate has different disciplinary camps trying to understand the causalities underlying sustainable value chains. While rational choice-based scholars have focused on the importance of creating micro-level incentives and individual benefits, field-level and more structurally focused debates have centered on power structures, overarching norms, and wider societal pressures. As a result, we not only have a variety of terms and tools but also contesting academic explanations and vantage points to understand the challenge of a transition toward sustainable global value chains.

Part B: Social Change Beyond Consumerism-The dominant system of social organization in most countries of the global North has evolved over the past several hundred years from agrarianism to industrialism to consumerism. Several factors are now contributing to erosion of the key underpinnings of consumerist lifestyles in several of these nations, most notably increasing income inequality, contracting size of the middle class, declining participation in wage labor, aging and shrinking populations, and technological shifts occurring with respect to digitalization, automation, and robotization. This presentation will focus on how these conditions can be addressed by research from the standpoint of sustainable consumption and production.

February 27: Community Forum 3-Ecological Macroeconomics and Political Economy of a Transition to Sustainable Lifestyles |  Next Steps and Future Plans

Part A: Ecological Macroeconomics and Political Economy of a Transition to Sustainable Lifestyles-There are widespread indications that the macroeconomic conditions that facilitated development and subsequent entrenchment of consumerist lifestyles are evolving in the face of declining capacity for economic growth (secular stagnation), demographic aging, growing inequality, shifts in the organization of labor, changing government priorities, increasing volatility regarding resource availability, climate change, and other factors. The resultant situation is still mostly affecting wealthy countries but will have both immediate and longer-term consequences for low- and middle-income countries as well. Some scholars have characterized these developments as constituting a shift toward a post-consumerist system of social organization. If this is the case, what kinds of alternative provisioning practices might we envision that are consistent with such circumstances? Under these conditions, what are the prospects for more sustainable and secure lifestyles?

Part B: Next Steps and Future Plans