Beyond the glass ceiling: from sustainable lifestyles to sustainable livelihood practices and social innovation.

Authors: Julian Agyeman*, TUFTS UNIVERSITY, Terry Marsden*, Cardiff University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: lifestyle, livelihood, sustainability, inequality, access
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom E, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is considerable concern amongst the academic and civil society community that sustainability debates and policies have reached something of a ceiling in terms of their transformational potential. In addition, various and important global agreements like COP21 and the SDGs have a danger of being increasingly bureauractised and perceived very much as top-down initiatives, and are at best influencing only the already committed and informed classes. These are the people who have the opportunities to ‘choose’ sustainable lifestyle practices through myriad consumer choices, their easy access to information and web-based knowledge and overall spending power and access to leisure and amenity resources.

The sustainability and sustainable communities agenda now urgently need to begin in designing ways of affecting and empowering those with minimal choices of the foods they eat, the energy and water they use, and those who suffer from poor and accessible housing and access to green infrastructures. We need, as indeed many South American experiments are doing, to turn sustainability and inequality relationships on their head. We need to see sustainability not as a lifestyle choice, but as part of livelihoods; the empowering solution to restoring more equal access to place-based resources, including foods. Taking empirical references from recent research work in North and South America and Europe we begin to show how new methods and practices of social and economic innovation are taking place to influence real transformational change through affecting livelihood practices.

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