Mainstreaming Social-Ecological Sufficiency: Closing the sustainable consumption gap between societal demand and ecological limits (ERC Consolidator Grant)

Project: Research

Project participants


Funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant, Prof. Dr. Dave Abson is addressing the problem that global production and consumption patterns are fundamentally unsustainable, threatening important processes on our planet that are essential for maintaining ecological functioning and the long-term survival of humanity.

Classical strategies to avert this "ecological overshoot" have largely focused on "greening" production by reducing the material intensity (efficiency) or material throughput (consistency) of economic activity. None of these approaches, however, addresses the question of how much economic activity is really necessary in the face of a global ecological overload.

Here, the innovative concept of socio-ecological sufficiency - ensuring a socially satisfactory standard of living while using natural resources in an ecologically sustainable manner - represents an important third (integrative) strategy to achieve an economy within a "safe operating space for humanity".

The overarching goal of MaSES is to establish the concept of socio-ecological sufficiency as a conceptual and empirical bridge between planetary boundaries research and sustainable production and consumption, with far-reaching implications for sustainable resource use from a scientific and societal perspective.

Different work packages of the interdisciplinary team are:
- conceptualising sufficiency and establishing socio-ecological sufficiency as a core idea of sustainability;
- quantifying key planetary boundaries (land system change, biochemical fluxes, climate change and freshwater use) in relation to an 'ecologically sufficient' level of household consumption by using a global, ecologically extended material and energy flow analysis;
- adapt methods from consensual deprivation assessments to identify 'socially sufficient' levels of household consumption in different social groups;
- assessing the feasibility of different strategies to close the gap between environmentally 'safe' and socially 'acceptable' levels of household consumption.

The European Research Council (ERC) is funding this outstanding and forward-looking scientific work 2023-2028 with around two million euros.
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