Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

New publication on understanding sustainability

In his book, Armin Grunwald argues that the various meanings of sustainability do not have to be an obstacle for the realization of sustainable ideas. Quite the contrary: Diversity as a central element of sustainability has an intrinsic value.
Source: oekom

By and large, the importance of sustainability seems to be clear: It is a matter of securing the basis for a permanent human civilization on earth. However, as soon as one has to explain what sustainable development concretely means, there are very different answers. The widespread desire for more sustainability soon gives way to a variety of meanings which is often only considered an obstacle for the communication and implementation of the idea of sustainability.

In this book, Armin Grunwald argues the opposite: That the diversity of meanings is, first of all, a central element of sustainability and, second, that it has an intrinsic value. Sustainability needs management, but is not completely merged into it. Management has to be complemented by debates about general questions of meaning of sustainable development. According to Grunwald, this conclusion results from an analysis of the emergence of the meaning of sustainability – not why sustainability is meaningful, but what it means. The way from the brilliant Brundtland definition to concrete research and transformation projects for sustainable development is a long one. This way is also a way of constructing meaning of sustainability – and, if and when this construction is relevant beyond the respective context, it needs, in the opinion of Grunwald, a backflow of this meaning which was constructed with reference to practice to more abstract levels of meaning.

Working on the meaning of sustainable development is thus seen as a constructive hermeneutic process. Case studies trace this process on, e.g., eco modernism, knowledge integration, life cycle assessment, and urban transition labs. Here it becomes obvious that the assignment of meaning takes mainly place in the interplay of theory and practice of sustainable development. In the end, concludes Grunwald, these processes have to be made transparent in order to be able to recognize and utilize the value of this diversity of meanings. (02.08.2016)

Bibliographic data
Armin Grunwald
Nachhaltigkeit verstehen, Arbeiten an der Bedeutung nachhaltiger Entwicklung, München oekom verlag 2016, ISBN-13: 978-3-86581-821-8
Further information by the publisher