Urban Sustainability seminars & conference, 2015

Urban Sustainability – Summary of seminars and conference

2-3 February 2015. Prepared for SCORAI by Valerie Brachya

Seminar for the research projectProfessor Halina Brown was invited by the Sustainability Policy Center of theJerusalem Institute for Israel Studies to be the keynote speaker at the conference on Urban Sustainability and to lead 2 seminars for different target audiences on sustainable consumption and lifestyles. Professor Brown was accompanied by Professor Philip Vergragt, who actively participated in the events.

In her keynote address at the conference in Holon Municipality, attended by over 250 people, senior staff from local authorities and civil society organizations, Professor Brown described how the consumer society developed and flourished as the realization of a post WW2 dream,
where higher wages enabled more spending power which brought great prosperity as measured by GDP. However, the American dream, as expressed in increasingly larger homes and the proliferation of goods, was not accompanied by a rise in subjective wellbeing and levels of income inequality increased. [Full Agenda]


In their introduction to the seminar for the interdisciplinary project team and to the seminar for some 25 academic researchers from various universities and departments in Israel, Professors Brown and Vergragt surveyed a range of themes of research concerning sustainable consumption:

1. Economic modelling, including models of economic structures and models of a non increasing steady state economy;
2. Subjective wellbeing, which has been found to be based on similar parameters around the world;
3. Social practices, which are often not regarded as consumption but are the basis of everyday behavior and have a rising baseline;
4. Policy arena, such as pricing or a shorter working week, where policies are in competition with one another;
5. Behavioral change, using incentives, campaigns or the provision of information, which when used alone have been found to have rather small results but can be combined with structural changes to achieve more significant change;
6. Local and solidarity economy, which favors stronger local economies and communities, including the potential for sharing or collaborative consumption;
7. Cultural change, through ongoing learning;
8. Socio-technical transitions, including research on landscape pressures which are driving change (such as climate change) and niche bottom-up experiments;
9. De-growth posing an ideological challenge, replacing the search for efficiency with a search for sufficiency;
10. Values, which includes how to measure values and changes in values, whether personal or communal;
11. Re-thinking indicators, from a consumption perspective.