An alternative New Economics approach to sustainable consumption

An alternative theoretical approach to environmental governance and sustainable consumption is proposed by a broad body of thought known collectively as the 'New Economics' (Ekins, 1986; Henderson, 1995; Daly and Cobb, 1990; Boyle, 1993). The New Economics is an environmental philosophical and political movement founded on a belief that economics cannot be divorced from its foundations in environmental and social contexts, and that sustainability requires a realigning of development priorities away from the primary goal of economic growth towards wellbeing instead (Jackson, 2004a). It also stresses the benefits of decentralised social and economic organisation and local self-reliance in order to protect local environments and economies from the negative impacts of globalisation (Jacobs, 1984; Schumacher, 1993). Although its traditions go back much further (Lutz, 1999), the UK's New Economics Foundation was founded in 1986 to promote these ideas in research and policy (Ekins, 1986). At the same time, theorists such as Jackson (2007a), Ekins (1986), Max-Neef (1992), Douthwaite (1992), and O'Riordan (2001) are pursuing these ideas within the academic world, for instance by developing new measures of wellbeing, seeking to understand consumer motivations in social context, and debating how an 'alternative' sustainable economy and society might operate. By proposing that societal systems of provision be examined, redesigned and reconfigured in line with sustainable consumption goals, the New Economics proposes nothing less than a paradigm shift for the economy, or a wholesale transition in the presiding 'regime'. This implies that rather than making incremental changes, the model entails a widespread regime change for the economy and society, altering the rules of the game and the objective of economic development.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, this eclectic body of thought rejects economic individualism, and pays particular attention to the contextual - social, psychological and structural - factors which influence consumption practices. For example, whereas the mainstream approach to sustainable consumption relies on 'green consumers' playing their part in the marketplace, the New Economics instead addresses 'Ecological Citizens' who act ethically in public and in private to reconfigure the patterns of their lives to reduce environmental and social impacts on others (Dobson, 2003). The New Economics is fundamentally an equity-based understanding of environmental governance, drawing on 'ecological footprinting' metaphors to guide action. Ecological footprints define and visualise environmental injustice in terms of the inequitable distribution of 'ecological space' (the footprint of resources and pollution-absorbing capacity) taken up by individuals, cities and countries; this inequity requires a reduction in the scale of material consumption among the affluent advanced economies (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996).

Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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