Introduction: Sustainability Research in the Social Sciences Concepts, Methodologies and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity
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Rau, H. and Fahy, F. (2013) ' Introduction: Sustainability Research in the Social Sciences Concepts, Methodologies and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity' In: Frances Fahy and Henrike Rau(Eds.). in Fahy, F. and Rau, H. (eds) Methods of Sustainability Research in the Social Sciences. London : Sage.
The necessity to reconcile the needs and wants of human society with the limits of the global ecological system has resulted in proposals for alternative forms of development that prioritise human flourishing and well-being over materially intensive economic growth. Calls for development that is capable of sustaining more than seven billion people on a planet with finite resources and that ensures a good quality of life for current and future generations have shaped political agendas in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. These practical and political sustainability issues are matched by equally daunting challenges with regard to its measurement. Who decides what counts as sustainable? How do we know if a new waste management policy or an initiative to encourage walking and cycling yield 'sustainable outcomes'? What time frame is needed to assess the results of a policy that claims to enhance sustainability? Perhaps some outcomes will only emerge years after the sustainability assessment of a particular initiative has been completed. Finally, who are the 'winners' and who are the 'losers' of sustainability initiatives and policies, both now and in the future?