University of St Andrews

New paper calls for a social avalanche of human behaviour towards more sustainable activities

Wednesday 29 February 2012

A new paper has been published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment that It demands changes in human behaviour for sustainability. Authors include Dr Ioan Fazey from the Department of Sustainable Development, and others from Germany, USA and Australia.

The paper highlights priority areas including reforming formal institutions, strengthening the institutions of civil society, improving citizen engagement, curbing consumption and population growth, addressing social justice, and reflecting on value and belief systems. The paper reviews existing knowledge across these areas and conclude that the global sustainability deficit results neither from a lack of biophysical, nor social science knowledge. Rather, unsustainable behaviours result from a vicious cycle, where traditional market and state institutions reinforce disincentives for more sustainable behaviours, while at the same time, the institutions of civil society lack momentum to effectively promote fundamental reforms of those institutions. Thus addressing sustainability issues requires more action in the form of a “social avalanche”.

The paper can be found at or by with the reference doi:10.1890/110079