Framing the alternative: socio-political dynamics toward sustainability


Publication: Book chapter

Guerra, J., L. B. Lourenço. 2018. “The 2030 Agenda: trends of transition toward sustainability”. In Changing Societies: Legacies and Challenges. Vol. iii. The Diverse Worlds of Sustainability, eds. A. Delicado, N. Domingos and L. de Sousa. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, 55-87.

With the arrival of the xxi century the relationship between humans and nature is reaching a critical stage. At stake are the planetary liveability patterns of both human and most non-human life forms. Despite the sometimes conflicting data on the urgency of the need to rethink this relationship, there is a growing consensus that we face an unsustainable status quo (Capra 2004; Ehrlich and Ehrlich 2013). As a result of this socio-ecological crisis and overall public inability to address it glocally, there has been a substantial increase, over the past decades, in the number and variety of social movements favouring sustainability, commonly self-referred to as alternatives (Barry and Quilley 2009; Alexander and Rutherford 2014). In this chapter we propose a framework of inquiry into these emergent alternatives. We first contextualize the socio-political alternatives toward sustainability debate by briefly examining why these emerge in the “Root of the Alternative” section. In the “Frameworks, dynamics and dimensions of change” section, we inquire into what ethos underpins them, and what their potential role in the wider transition to sustainability debate is. From a conceptual standpoint, we advance an interpretation matrix (Figure 3.3) to help the reader navigate the different and often overlapping dynamics of change that socio-political movements toward sustainability embody. Third, in the section “Socio-political mobilization” we explore the theoretical origins of the Deep Green Alternatives, the highly committed green ethics-based set of social movements that sits at the forefront of the implementation of transition toward sustainability practices.

We systematize (Table 3.1) the main constituent trends within the Deep Green Alternatives, their proposals, and desired futures. Thus, the main contribution of this chapter is to serve as a “one-stop shop” for both students and scholars who are interested in navigating the troubled waters of alternatives debates within the context of transitions to sustainability.