Headline: Perceptions, Values, Orientations

Researchers in the area Perceptions, Values, Orientation reconstruct and generate orientation and transformation knowledge aimed at the individual and societal levels. Working across a range of topics, this research area explores the relationship between individuals, societies, and politics. What normative requirements can be distilled from the call for more sustainable lifestyles and governance structures to shape human behaviour? Throughout society, ideas (imaginaries), rhetorical structures (narratives) and values come to bear of which the respective actors themselves are frequently unaware. These imaginaries and narratives convey ideas about desirable futures, perceptions of conflicts, or fundamental views about the general nature of societal transformation. They feed into and shape (political) institutions, in turn eliciting analogous behaviour among individuals. This process also informs the development of strategies that are intended to address sustainability challenges, but which frequently reproduce ideas and values that are inconsistent with action for sustainable development. This research area seeks to render these largely subconscious ideas visible and to reflect upon their potential to foster or hinder change. The research group Narratives and Images of Sustainability analyses social-scientific discourse and undertakes art-based accompanying research, with the aim of reconstructing the collective narrative patterns that determine current discourse, and considers how these patterns might be modified to better serve democratic transformations towards sustainable development. Researchers in the group Politicizing the Future analyse contemporary future practices with respect to their potential to envisage and facilitate the evolution of open and sustainable futures. The researcher group A Mindset for the Anthropocene develops practical processes and resources that enable individuals and actors to reflect upon and transform mental paradigms in order to develop more sustainable strategies for action.


Special Feature

One Planet, Many Futures

The future has always been an important frame of reference for sustainable development. Indeed, the concept of sustainability emerged from the realisation that we need to use our planet’s resources sparingly in the interests of future generations. Many different people are working on ideas and solutions for the future and taking steps towards their implementation. But who are they? What steps are they taking? And what kind of futures do they want to bring about? These are the questions addressed by a special feature of the journal Sustainability Science.

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Climate negotiations

Most Affected, Least Heard

It seems reasonable to expect that the people who suffer most from the impacts of climate change are represented in the international climate negotiations. Patrick Toussaint, a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), has analysed the status quo from the perspective of international law. He concludes that those who currently bear the brunt of climate change – or will do so in the foreseeable future – have little or no influence on the negotiations.

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Governance for Future Generations

In recent months young people across the world have been going on strike on Fridays to protest about their governments’ failure to adequately address the climate crisis. In their view, lack of political action to protect the climate is putting their future in jeopardy. But Wales is leading by example here with a law passed in 2015 that echoes the demands of the Fridays for Future protesters: the Well-being for Future Generations Act. It requires public authorities in Wales to consider the long-term effects of their decisions and make sustainable development a touchstone for policymaking.

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Blog Posts

Three opinions on the elections

Election Sunday left me at once elated, uncertain, and angry. Voter turnout has improved, the Greens were the clear winners in many places, and the climate crisis is taking centre-stage at last. At first glance the AfD appears to have lost some of its momentum. But this is only true if one ignores their successes in the former East German states – sadly, that is impossible to do.

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Natural resource exploitation in Germany and South America: Activists share their experiences of resistance and transformation

Today, emerging visions of a better society are forged in practical experience and experimentation. The contexts, approaches, and methods employed by activists differ radically from one experiment to the next. As researchers with the IASS project Politicizing the Future, we were keen to facilitate exchange on the subject of societal visions among activists from very different contexts and to see what could be learnt from their experiences for the development of more sustainable societies.

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