Keywords: sustainability, ecological citizenship, critical realism, sustainable economy, sustainable consumption, social identity, sustainable development, green economics
The path to a sustainable economy: sustainable consumption, social identity and ecological citizenship
Green economists have argued for years about the need to develop sustainable economies. Given the central focus on consumption activity in post-industrial economies, a change in attitude towards 'sustainable consumption' will be needed in order for societies to engage on a sustainability path. Among three approaches to sustainable consumption, it is argued here that only the ecological citizenship approach is truly compatible with sustainability; however, it is also the approach that requires the most profound socio-cultural changes. Based on a critical realist notion of a relational society, this paper contends that significant changes may be needed to socio-cultural structures that currently legitimise consumption growth as an engine of progress. Because the goal of a sustainable economy is to improve and maintain human well-being, policies and institutions seeking to foster pro-sustainable behaviour, such as an ecological citizenship curriculum in education, may be necessary to avoid future environmental, economic and cultural crises.