The Role of Formal and Informal Forces in Shaping Consumption and Implications for a Sustainable Society. Part I
Addressing climate change and the collapse of ecosystems without threatening the economy, while simultaneously improving the well-being of all people and ensuring social justice and equality, seems to be the largest challenge in the history of mankind. So far, all the efforts to address growing environmental and human problems through technological solutions and policy measures have been largely outpaced by growing population and increasing consumption levels. Therefore, an understanding of the essential driving forces and complexities of consumption, and of how environmental impacts from rising consumption can be reduced, is becoming increasingly important. This understanding can be achieved by analyzing not only economic frameworks, political settings, business models, and technological innovations, but also social norms, psychological factors, and collective and individual decision-making processes. This article, Part I, provides a meta-analysis of the main political, economic, technological, and business drivers of contemporary consumption and offers a systematic discussion of the relevance of these factors for the instigation of change towards sustainable patterns and levels of consumption. The main conclusion from Part I and II is that a systems-thinking approach is required in order to understand how various political, technical, social, economic, and psychological drivers overlap and influence each other in creating our consumer society.
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