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How radical is the Green Economy?

In 2012 the UN Conference on Sustainable Development presented the Green Economy is a strategic development concept and vehicle for realizing sustainability and for eradicating poverty. The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) defines the green economy as an economy that results in ‘improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities’ (UNEP 2011, p. 2) .  For scholars the Green Economy concept poses multiple challenges. With researchers from different backgrounds taking part in the discussion, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, for instance between social and natural scientists, becomes key. Morover, the Green Economy poses a trans-disiciplinary challenge for science policy-interactions as it needs to be operationalized bot in academia and in society.
In our latest publication in Environmental Values, we engaged young researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds in a deliberative space to better understand the predominant framings and interpretations of the Green Economy among young scholars. The research question is: How do young scholars percieved the Green Economy, the need for societal change, the potential for the Green Economy to realize such change, and the role of research in promoting this change.
Using a qualitative and participatory research approach, We identified a bottom line of crucial values that are generally shared by the respondents, including a common recognition of the need to address interlinked ecological and social problems, and the need for research to be independent, provide options, guidance and solutions to policy-making. We observed disparate and divergent opinions concerning the Green Economy and its potential to genuinely further sustainable development. We also identified a broad spectrum of opinions regarding the degree and nature of needed societal change and the role of research in the field of Green Economy. We captured these dimensions in a four-quadrant model that includes four different ideological positions of researchers: Radical evolutionist, Pragmatic evolutionist, Radical revolutionary and Pragmatic revolutionary. The Green Economy is not perceived as a particularly revolutionary concept, rather it is understood to incrementally improve the current economic and institutional system. Most of the participants, however, were positioned in the pragmatic revolutionist quadrant; they aspire to a more fundamental systemic change through adopting pragmatic approaches.

The recorded exercise in this study can prove useful in visualising the theoretical landscape across which researchers in the field of the Green Economy move. This article is meant as a moment of self-reflection on the meaning of research itself, and its role in contributing to deliver visions, strategies and instruments towards a more environmentally-committed, just and equitable society – for which the Green Economy appears to be only a partial solution.

D’Amato, D., Droste, N., Chan, S.,  Hofer, A. (2017) “Green economy researchers: between revolution and pragmatism.” Environmental Values. Vol. 26 (4): 413–435. doi: 10.3197/096327117X14976900137331
For a full .pdf of our latest publication, please do not hesitate to contact me.