Good questions about (after) sustainability

So, if there were a functioning climate movement in Manchester, it would, imho, be answering some of the questions in bold (scroll down if you want to see them).  But there isn’t. Ho-hum, #gladtobe45andchildfree.


Global Discourse special issue: ‘After sustainability – what?’
Call for Papers

Guest editor:
John Foster (

It is no longer completely out of court among thinkers and scholars concerned with environmental issues to argue that the ‘sustainability’ discourse and policy paradigm have failed, and that we are moving into a new era of much bleaker  prospects. A recent Policy Review paper in the journal Society and Natural Resources (Benson and Craig, 2014) is bluntly entitled ‘The End of Sustainability’. Authors as diverse as Clive Hamilton (2010),  Tim Mulgan (2011), Dale Jamieson (2014) and  John Foster (2015) write with the working assumption that climate change, on a scale lying unpredictably between the seriously disruptive and the catastrophic, is no longer something we must find ways of avoiding, but something we are going to have to live  with. Parallel to this recognition is the rise to prominence of the ‘anthropocene’ trope (e.g. Hamilton et al, 2015) with its defining acceptance that human beings have decisively altered the atmosphere and set in motion a mass extinction as drastic and now  inevitable as any produced by Earth-system changes over geological time.

Retrospectively, indeed, we can begin to see how impotent the sustainability model was always going to prove. Constraining immediate needs (or desires) to serve future needs, the anticipation, interpretation and measurement of which were  all to be carried out under pressure of the immediate needs and desires supposedly to be constrained, could never have offered anything but a toolkit of lead spanners, capable only of bending helplessly when any serious force was applied. No wonder we continue  to find the nuts and bolts of unsustainable living so stubbornly unshiftable.

What is then all the more striking is the complete lack of acknowledgement of this paradigm failure in mainstream political discourse. In the world of the United Nations and other international and national policy fora, less and less promising  prospects are met only by a more and more firmly fixed grin of willed optimism. The latest Monitoring Report for the EU’s Sustainable Development Strategy, for instance (Eurostat Press Office, 2015), claims that in respect of sustainable consumption and production,  demographic changes and greenhouse gas emissions, changes in headline indicators mark changes that are ‘clearly favourable’, although only willed optimism could celebrate the last of these without a glance in the direction of China or India. Meanwhile the upcoming (November-December 2015) UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (the twenty-first of these jamborees since the UN started  interesting itself in such matters) is touted, as all its predecessors since Copenhagen 2009 have been touted, as the really last last-chance saloon.

The nearest the official policy world comes to recognition that we actually won’t prevent (above all) unsustainable climate change, is in the increasing volume of talk about  ‘mitigation’ rather than prevention. But even here, denial is  plainly at work. How do you ‘mitigate’ the unavoidably tragic and disastrous? There is evidently some very serious cognitive disjuncture operating here.

This special issue of Global Discourse will seek to grapple with both the diagnosis and the prognosis of that disjuncture. We call for papers to explore a range of related questions, including:

*Where does widespread denial come from? How will it be overcome?

*What options for political and personal action will remain open in a radically degraded world? What are the conditions of habitability of such a world?

*How will economic and community life, political and social leadership and education be different in such a world?

*What will the geopolitics be? (What might what we now call a refugee ‘crisis’ look like when sub-Saharan Africa becomes uninhabitable? How could we deal with that? What is the role of defence and armaments – including nuclear armaments  – in such a world?)

*Are there any grounds for hope that don’t rest on denial?

Benson, M. and Craig, R. (2014) ‘The End of Sustainability’, Society and Natural Resources 27; 777-782 Eurostat Press Office (2015) ‘Is the European Union moving towards sustainable development?’ (News Release 148/2015, 1st September 2015) Foster, J. (2015) After Sustainability (Abingdon: Earthscan from Routledge) Hamilton, C. (2010) Requiem for a Species (London: Earthscan) Hamilton, C. et al. (eds.) (2015) The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis (Abingdon: Routledge) Jamieson, D. (2014) Reason in a Dark Time (Oxford: Oxford University Press) Mulgan, T. (2011) Ethics for a Broken World  (Durham: Acumen)

Submission instructions and deadlines
Abstracts of 400 words: 31st December 2015 Articles (solicited on the basis of review of abstracts): 1st May 2016
Publication: Early 2017

Instructions for authors
Please submit all abstracts and articles to the Guest Editor Further details:

Editor contact details: John Foster

Journal Aims and Scope
Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented journal of applied contemporary thought operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The journal’s  scope is broad, encouraging interrogation of current affairs with regard to core questions of distributive justice, wellbeing, cultural diversity, autonomy, sovereignty, security and recognition. Rejecting the notion that publication is the final stage in  the research process, Global Discourse seeks to foster discussion and debate between often artificially isolated disciplines and paradigms, with responses to articles encouraged and conversations continued across issues. The journal features a mix of  full-length articles, each accompanied by one or more replies, shorter essays, rapid replies, discussion pieces and book review symposia, typically consisting of three reviews and a reply by the author/s. With an international advisory editorial board consisting  of experienced, highly-cited academics, Global Discourse welcomes submissions from and on any region. Authors are encouraged to explore the international dimensions and implications of their work. With a mix of themed and general issues, symposia are  periodically deployed to examine topics as they emerge.


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
This entry was posted in academia, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s