Transformative Solutions for Sustainable Well-Being

Designing Effective Strategies for Addressing Our Planetary Challenges
  • Annick De Witt
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Our severe environmental and social issues challenge us to think in new and innovative ways about the needed solutions. In this chapter, I argue we need to move beyond mere instrumental, linear, and reductionist approaches, toward more transformative, emergent, and aspirational approaches. Considering the nature of our global sustainability problems – often characterized as profoundly systemic, highly complex, and ultimately human-created – I use insights from three distinct academic fields in order to articulate a number of principles for effective sustainability strategies. Sustainability science urges us to engage with the intent or purpose of the system, thus shifting worldviews, mindsets, and paradigms, or inviting reflection on them. From such a systems perspective “multi-problem-solvers” are preferred. Complexity science recommends drawing in collaboration with diverse stakeholders and viewpoints, so strategies are co-created and co-owned, as well as allowing ‘emergence’ through inviting experimentation and self-organization. Positive psychology proposes supporting people to strengthen intrinsic goals and values; behave in autonomous, volitional, or consensual ways; and be mindful. This perspective also emphasizes the importance of cultivating a positive, empowering sustainability narrative, which challenges the empirically faulty - yet highly persistent - idea that hedonism leads to happiness, and which demonstrates alternative, eudaimonic routes to well-being that are both fulfilling and sustainable. I then discuss a dietary change toward more plant-based diets as an example of such a transformative solution pathway. Arguing that highly potent pathways are often overlooked in the sustainability debate, I invite reflection on the nature and characteristics of the solutions we need, and the sustainable world we collectively envision.


Sustainable well-being Transformation Climate change Sustainability science Complexity science Positive psychology Leverage points Worldviews Multi-problem-solvers Emergence Eudaimonia Mindfulness Sustainability narrative Dietary change Meat consumption 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Copernicus Institute of Sustainable DevelopmentUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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