The Ecological Transformation of Modern Societies

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Ulrike M.M. SCHUERKENS, Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, France
The ecological transformation of modern societies

In many publications of national and international organizations, we can currently find discussions on the necessary ecological transformation of modern societies. The UNESCO World Social Science Report of 2013 with the title Changing Global Environments underlines this in particular. It argues in the preface: “The gap between what we know about the interconnectedness and fragility of our planetary system and what we are actually doing about it is alarming. And it is deepening.” (3) In this sense, the report is in line with a reform movement that tries to bring forward the socio-ecological transformation of modern societies. This change is however slow and contradictory.

The question is why despite all activities (state programs and international conferences), we don’t succeed in interrupting the predominant non-ecological development trend. Not only problems of poverty and inequality, but also problems of climate change, the continuing loss of species, the overfishing of the oceans, the deforestation, or the low level of drinking water are not stopped. One can see in day-to-day activities of politicians and in personal activities that sustainability targets don’t matter. Why is the balance sheet so contradictory? Why do we hardly translate principles of sustainable development in a concrete way in politics, the activities of organizations, and daily life?

The ecological transformation of societies will certainly be one of the main challenges in the coming years. It is therefore important to reflect on the chances of an ecological restructuring of modernity in order to see which conflicts and dynamics are important.