Publications round-up: ingenuity, values, environmental limits, age
A round-up of recent sustainable development publications highlighted by our partner, the Sustainable Development Research Network (SDRN). For more news on sustainable development research and publications, join the network and receive regular SDRN mailings.
In this round-up:
- How to be ingenious (RSA Publication)
- Working from values (Waste Watch Report)
- Living with Environmental Limits (POST Report)
- Coming of Age (Demos Publication)
- Know your environmental limits: A local leaders’ guide (SDC Report)
Read about more recent publications and research in the latest SDRN bulletin…
The RSA has recently published its first account of ingenuity – how to do unexpectedly more with less in resource-constrained environments, which continues their interest in resourcefulness, and examines in greater detail how to innovate with few resources.
Through examining the literature and interviewing ingenious people such as improvisation performers, engineers and survivalists, this report presents specific principles of turning tight budgets from an affliction into an advantage. In times characterised by austerity, it is hoped that these insights might assist those struggling with reduced budgets and pressured to ‘do more with less’. The pamphlet is not intended to hold all the answers, but rather to bring some focus to those facing challenges in public, private and third sector alike.
Although ‘How to be Ingenious’ represents the RSA’s theoretical understanding, they plan to expand this area of work and are looking for practical opportunities to encourage ingenuity. Comments and ideas are invited.
Waste Watch has been developing a new approach to enabling communities to live more sustainably, which recognises the need to trial, innovate, collect evidence and advocate for new approaches to social change.
Their Sustainable Lifestyles programme is a framework for innovation and has four founding principles:
- Valuing society and the environment;
- Learning through experience and exploration;
- Collective change;
Their first discussion paper, entitled ‘Working from Values’, calls for more to be done to engage communities by appealing to, and building on, more altruistic or common values. They believe this approach provides a solid foundation upon which change can be initiated on the scale required. The success of this approach will require the engagement of like-minded individuals and organisations in a collective call for change.
All are invited to join an online community, taking part in workshops, discussions and the sharing of ideas and experiences.
Human wellbeing is dependent upon renewable natural resources, which can be subject to biological and physical thresholds beyond which irreversible changes in benefit provision may occur. These are difficult to define and many are likely to be identified only once crossed.
An environmental limit is usually interpreted as the point or range of conditions beyond which there is a significant risk of thresholds being exceeded and unacceptable changes occurring.
This report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST):
- Summarises the concept of environmental limits, the importance of natural resource systems for human wellbeing and how human-induced pressures impact on these systems;
- Discusses the challenges relating to measurement of the impacts of economic growth on natural resource systems within national accounting frameworks;
- Describes how consideration of the use of and impacts on ecosystem structures and processes to maintain the flow of defined ecosystem services could provide a new focus for existing decision-making processes regulating impacts on natural resource systems;
- Considers what aspects of resilience can be meaningfully assessed and how uncertainties in relation to the impacts of human use of natural resource systems could be managed;
- Considers the basis for how the risks arising from breaching environmental limits could be assessed in different policy areas.
Britain’s ageing population is frequently described as a demographic time-bomb.
As a society we often view ageing as a ‘problem’ which must be ‘managed’ – how to cope with the pressure on national health services of growing numbers of older people, the cost of sustaining them with pensions and social care, and the effect on families and housing needs.
This report argues that ageing is not a policy problem to be solved. Instead it is a normal part of life, which varies according to personal characteristics, experience and outlook, and for many people growing older can be a very positive experience.
Drawing on the Mass Observation project, a long-running longitudinal life-writing project, this report grounds public policy in people’s real, lived experiences of ageing. It finds that the experience of ageing is changing, so that most people who are now reaching retirement do not identify themselves as old. One-size-fits-all policy approaches that treat older people as if they are all alike are alienating and inappropriate. Instead, older people need inclusive policy approaches that enable them to live their lives on their own terms.
To ensure that older people are actively engaged, policy-makers should stop emphasising the costs posed by an ageing population and start building on the many positive contributions that older people already make to our society.
Living within environmental limits is one of the five principles of sustainable development.
It is easy to talk about environmental limits, and many of us accept that such limits must exist. But how do we recognise them? How do we know when we’re bumping up against them? What can we do to prevent those limits being breached? With the re-energised focus on local decision making, what do such limits mean for local areas?
The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) considered there to be an urgent need to recognise and live within environmental limits. Investigative work has been started by government and other agencies, but the SDC identified a gap in understanding ‘environmental limits’ at a local, practical level and set out to support the UK Government in developing a clearer set of principles for embedding environmental limits in a wide range of land use planning documents and policies.
This report is intended to help local governance bodies and community groups take their first steps in this area, and for government and its agencies to establish a grip on the subject and take it on. The report proposes a definition of environmental limits and examines seven ‘key’ environmental areas under OECD’s ‘Pressure-State-Response’ framework, highlighting existing legislative limits and where these do not exist. It considers ‘land use’ and ‘soils’ as particular areas for government action as there is currently little or no action taken to recognise environmental limits in these areas.
The report also makes suggestions for action by local governance bodies and community groups.
The Sustainable Development Research Network (SDRN) is an initiative funded by both Defra and the Department for Transport, and is coordinated by the Policy Studies Institute in London.
SDRN aims to facilitate and strengthen the links between providers of research and policymakers across government, in order to improve evidence-based policymaking to deliver the UK government’s objectives for sustainable development.
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