Panel 4: Interactions and connections between class-specific and sustainable consumption

One paradox of sustainable consumption is that poor people normally consume more sustainably than wealthy people, even if they purchase fewer organic products. The mere quantity of consumed goods is what leads to higher-income-people leaving a larger "ecological footprint". It may be the case that sustainable consumption in the sense of a conscious decision is not open to all social strata in the same fashion, and that sustainable consumption can therefore be seen as just another field of new social inequality. In terms of material flows, however, it makes no difference with which degree of ecological consciousness people consume. Nevertheless, forced ecological poverty consumption is not sustainable in terms of permanence: on the contrary, one has to expect that the poor will claim their demand to catch up, just as much as developing countries will demand this at the global political level. A reduction of poverty could also lead to an increase in non-sustainable consumption, while inequality itself is, at the same time, also a driving force of non-sustainable consumption: Some argue that it is social inequality in the first place that triggers the need for status goods accounting for a major part of demanded products. So, if striving for recognition is, in fact, a motor for consumption, then it is also a motor of using up resources and for environmental destruction. In a society with a tendency toward material equality among its people, status competition – which may ultimately be inevitable – could be dealt with in different ways rather than through buying automobiles and plane trips. The fourth panel will focus on the interactions and connections between class-specific and sustainable consumption, thereby also sharpening the awareness of the concepts.



Prof. Dr. Klaus Kraemer (University of Graz): Can precarious prosperity be sustainable?

Dr. Melanie Jaeger-Erben (Technical University of Berlin): Between ability, willingness and knowledge: Sustainable consumption and everyday social practice

Slides (German)
Kraemer, Klaus: Kann prekärer Wohlstand nachhaltig sein? PDF