New Book Chapter: “Fifty Shades of Sufficiency: Semantic Confusion and No Policy”

Balancing on a tree
Balance - not too little, not too much, just enough. Pixabay: Wal.

Sufficiency, a concept gaining increasing attention in environmental policy discourse, is explored in depth in a recently published book chapter titled "Fifty Shades of Sufficiency: Semantic Confusion and No Policy" in the Routledge Handbook of Environmental Policy. It was written by EU 1.5° Lifestyles colleagues Doris Fuchs and Pia Mamut (University of Münster), project Advisory Board Member Sylvia Lorek (SERI), as well as Anica Roßmöller (University of Münster). The work delves into the diverse interpretations of sufficiency in environmental policy research and the challenges of implementing sufficiency-oriented policies in our current politico-economic system.

The chapter begins by highlighting the need for a paradigm shift towards sufficiency norms as a necessary condition for achieving sustainability and reducing global resource consumption. The authors emphasize the failure of efficiency measures alone to decouple economic growth from environmental resource consumption, necessitating a focus on sufficiency measures alongside efficiency and consistency strategies.

Sufficiency is explored from different perspectives, ranging from positive connotations of contentment and well-being to negative associations with scarcity and sacrifice. The authors argue that sufficiency's nature challenges the constant accumulation and growth dynamics of the capitalist political economy, contributing to its limited practical incorporation into policies.

One essential aspect addressed in the chapter is the semantic diversity of sufficiency, leading to challenges in evaluating policies with a sufficiency focus. The authors advocate for a notion of sufficiency that revolves around the core idea of "enoughness" as the basis for identifying true sufficiency policies. The chapter also discusses the difficulty of distinguishing between policies aimed at avoiding, improving, or shifting resource use, using examples from the mobility, food, and housing sectors. It highlights the necessity of identifying a clear definition of "enoughness" to determine genuine sufficiency policies.

The authors acknowledge the valuable contribution of policies aiming at reducing resource use, but underscore the ongoing lack of sufficiency-oriented policies in practice. They emphasize the urgent need for developing methodologies to design and evaluate sufficiency policies and advocate for a broader societal dialogue on the question of "what is enough." "Fifty Shades of Sufficiency" provides insights into the challenges and potentials of sufficiency-oriented policies in the pursuit of sustainability. The chapter serves as a call to action for researchers and practitioners to engage in developing strategies for incorporating sufficiency principles into environmental governance.

For those interested in exploring the concept of sufficiency as well as other concepts in environmental policy, The Routledge Handbook of Environmental Policy provides a state-of-the-art of research in this field.

Pia Mamut - WWU