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Researcher: we need to tell a different future story – pay less attention to growth



The need to convey a new image of our future is inevitable, which means a lot now. One of them is Åsa Svenfelt, associate professor at KTH.

“We need to tell another future story. In the future we look pretty gloomy now. It seems that we cannot meet environmental and social goals that we want to achieve, that everyone has a good life and to achieve success in the environment, ”says Åsa Svenfelt, Assistant for Sustainable Development and future research at KTH .

Her research focuses on sustainable consumption, a sustainable future beyond GDP growth, equitable distribution and use of ecosystem services.

“My main research area is future research and feedback as tools for achieving sustainable development and managing uncertainties in environmental policy and long-term social planning.”

Åsa Svenfelt and other contributors to the recent KTH report “Beyond GDP Growth” mean that our lifestyle and consumption in Sweden is not sustainable today.

So, how can we create a society that provides a good life for all and does not limit the resources of the earth? In economic and political discussions, economic growth is often seen as the starting point and prerequisite for safe and sustainable social development.

At the same time, undeclared confidence and the expectation of growth can pose a threat to the sustainable development of the community if economic growth fails.

In the report, the researchers prepared four future scenarios for society.

One of the future scenarios in the report is a joint economy, that is, the economy is more characterized by cooperation rather than competition. Access to goods and services is more important than individual property and the means of production, and material resources are increasingly moving from private and public to collective ownership.

Another future scenario is self-esteem. Close relatives, parents or friends often live together in an extended family constellation. Many live in rural areas and in small or extended cities, where there is the possibility of growing and other production.

Two other scenarios concern the automation of the quality of life and the circular economy in the welfare state.

Common to all scenarios is that the consumption of goods, as well as the consumption of meat is reduced. Similarly, air traffic must be drastically reduced before reaching the climate goal.

In all scenarios, construction of both residential and road infrastructure is also reduced, although to varying degrees. Other aspects, such as working time, how social security systems are organized, what a building looks like and how much infrastructure is needed, are different in different scenarios.

John Hassler, professor of economics at the University of Stockholm, criticizes the report.

“I do not see any realism in this. In the future, we will live in villages with shared toilets and showers, and not trade with each other. There is no realism in this, ”he says to Swedish radio.

But Asa Svenfelt explains that it is not considered that the scenarios should be realistic.

“They are in the process of creating a discussion,” she says.

As a funny illustration in the report, there is a cartoon with a quote:

“Some say that I have to meet with someone else, but my growth economy stated that after the holidays everything will be different, and I just need to have some patience and better compromise and stop using fossil fuels, but for now It’s not right, and that he really had a difficult childhood, and I can stop whining at some point. ”


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