Green Economy and Sustainability (Adrian Newton)

Authors: Adrian Newton (Applied Sciences)

Alternative name suggestion: None

Brief theme summary: The development of a green economy, or an economy that is environmentally sustainable, has become a political and socio-economic imperative. Key drivers include the need to reduce carbon emissions to reduce the risk of climate change, overexploitation of resources and widespread environmental degradation, which is eroding the natural capital on which human wellbeing depends. The transition to a green economy represents a substantial challenge to society, particularly in the current era of rapid environmental and socio-economic change.

Scope of theme: what is included? This is a strongly inter-disciplinary theme, which could potentially connect with many other areas of academic endeavour within the University. Key elements include reduction of carbon emissions; renewable energy; recycling and waste management; sustainable use of natural resources (eg water, fisheries, ecosystem services); ecotourism; urban planning and green infrastructure; transport; environmental justice etc. 

Scope of theme: what is excluded? Any element that does not consider the environmental impacts of its actions, and that does not attempt to reduce this impact.

Which big societal questions are addressed by this theme?

  • How may the transition to a green economy, or sustainable lifestyles, be made?
  • What are the environmental limits to growth?
  • How can natural resources be exploited sustainably?
  • What are the ecological footprints of different economic activities?
  • What are the factors influencing the resilience of social-ecological systems?
  • How can human society adapt to environmental change?
  • How can global poverty be alleviated without compromising the earth’s life support systems?
  • How can the risks of climate change to human society be averted?

How do these link to the priorities of the major funding bodies? Many of these issues are now featuring in calls from each of the UK research councils (eg through the LWEC programme), and from the EC.

How does this theme interlink with the other BU themes currently under consideration?

There is a strong potential link with Environmental change and biodiversity, but also potential to develop links with Health and wellbeing, Recreation and leisure, Culture and society or Society & Social Change, Creative and digital economies, Entrepreneurship and economic growth, Technology and design. I would also highlight the importance of understanding human behaviour, which relates to psychology.

One Response to “Green Economy and Sustainability (Adrian Newton)”

  1. Ant Diaz

    This important theme forges links across a wide range of physical and social sciences. As an ecologist, one aspect that particularly catches my attention is that of ecosystem service provision and how we can increase human awareness of its importance and support for its conservation. The relatively easy part is the ecologist’s job of conveying we are all totally dependent on the Earth’s biological processes to provide us with the basic conditions for life; the right air mix and temperature, food, water and removal of waste that can cause ill heath. Trickier is the social scientist’s job of conveying the importance of cultural services such as landscapes that we find beautiful and inspiring. Does that seem unimportant? Not to the economy of Scotland it is not; tourism is a huge part of its economy and is intricately linked to Scotland’s successful marketing of its rolling romantic hills of heather landscape. Similar examples of links between tourism and landscape abound across the world. Then there are the really challenging aspects of how psychologists and other practitioners in human health measure and convey the benefits of multiple ecosystem services.

    Ecosystem services is an exciting concept full of opportunities and also big questions e.g. how do we choose between mutually exclusive ecosystem services (those rolling heather hills are not all good!) and who pays and how does the financial support and benefit get to the people conserving the ecosystem services? Answers to questions such as these will need collaborative thinking by researchers and practitioners in diverse areas including economics, tourism, marketing, media, psychology, politics, policy development, human health and the physical and natural sciences.