This manifesto is an invitation …

to like-minded academics, activists, policy-makers and members of civil society, who share our dedication to prioritise human well-being within planetary boundaries.

Intertwined social and ecological conflicts and crises deepen, widen and accelerate around the globe. The dominant political response is driven by rising populism, nationalism, neoliberalism and ‘post-truth’ cynicism. The core goals of improving human well-being and preserving planetary biophysical capacity are at best forgotten and at worst pitted against each other.

We aim to establish a research network to tackle the giant societal challenge of ‘living well within limits’ based on the principles of deep democracy, equitable distribution and environmental justice. Our ultimate goal is to foster dignified life-chances of current and future human and non-human beings, which can only be achieved by remaining within planetary boundaries.

To address this challenge credibly, we must:

  • Think big. We acknowledge the systemic and structural causes of social ecological problems and lack of ambition to investigate ‘the bigger picture’ in academia. We prioritise research into structures, institutions and systemic change over marginal, individualistic, or market-based “solutions” grounded in moribund economic thinking.
  • Face power. We acknowledge the role of power in creating the social ecological problems we experience, and in obstructing solutions to them. Power relations can limit the solution space through manifold channels; they shape everyday patterns of production and consumption (often through obscure fiscal commitments, dominance of particular economic sectors in national economies, and institutional lock-in effects), and reproduce socio-economic inequality. Power also directs prevailing discourses and narratives of progress, such as the primacy of economic growth over human well-being. The threat of power is most insidious when invisible or ignored; it must therefore be studied, exposed and resisted.
  • Offer credible solutions. We bring forward visionary yet realistic alternatives. We acknowledge the capital importance of socio-political, rather than technological change, and seek meaningful entry points towards systemic change grounded in reality. To understand how and when social and environmental change occurs, we investigate historical, cultural, environmental and social contexts. We recognise that the universal satisfaction of human needs requires both lower and upper limits to consumption.
  • Act and experiment. Because we are entering uncharted territory for our planetary ecosystems and species, we support new forms of audacious research and teaching: collective and radical participatory experimentation, aiming to identify new ways of promoting and provisioning human well-being within the biophysical capacity of the planet. We will expose systemic economic and political barriers to this goal, and mobilise our research to overcome these.

Our research network offers spaces for expanding this type of research by:

  • Fostering spaces for lucid and collective thinking, through public engagement, joint collaborations, meetings and publications, regardless of academic discipline;
  • Promoting research outcomes whose ambition fulfills the criteria listed above, and are directly aimed at tackling the challenge of “prioritising well-being on a finite planet”;
  • Involving governments, academic societies and funding bodies to support and engage in this research, and take its outcomes forward.

How to get involved?

Sign on to this manifesto below (the list is updated every few days) or email your title, name, position, institution, and country to wellplanetmanifesto[at]posteo.de. You will then be connected to a community of like-minded researchers, and can share opportunities for engaging in collaborative projects, debates, publications, conference sessions and meetings.

Initiators of the manifesto

Julia K. Steinberger

Professor in Social Ecology and Ecological Economics at the Sustainability Research Institute of the University of Leeds, UK; coming from a physics background, she researches the environmental resource requirements of both economic activity and human well-being. julias@alum.mit.edu

William F. Lamb

Post-doctoral researcher at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC); investigating the empirical links between biophysical resource use and human well-being, drawing on methods in industrial ecology and ecological economics. william.lamb@ed-alumni.net

Elke Pirgmaier

Post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Leeds. I study core features and dynamics of capitalism to understand social ecological crises and barriers to radical social change, from a systems thinking and Marxian Political Economy perspective. elke.pirgmaier@gmail.com

Helga Weisz

Full Professor of Industrial Ecology and Climate Change at Humboldt University Berlin and co-chair of Research Domain “Transdisciplinary Concepts & Methods” at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), background in molecular biology and cultural studies, research focus interrelations between biophysical resources, social evolution and inequality. weisz@pik-potsdam.de

Peter-Paul Pichler

Senior Scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), “Transdisciplinary Concepts & Methods”, background in computational sciences, research focus: power and vulnerability in socio-metabolic networks, spatial aspects of resource use. pichler[at]pik-potsdam.de

Lina I. Brand Correa

Postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Leeds; analysing the relationship between energy services and human well-being, particularly focusing on the physical and social systemic factors that mediate between them. librand@unal.edu.co

Daniel Bailey

Daniel Bailey: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Political Economy Centre, University of Manchester. Studying the relationship between the state and environmental unsustainability from a political economy perspective, and the possibility of enacting path-shaping ‘green’ change within the state so that it could serve as an agent of ecological protection whilst ensuring the provision of basic needs. Daniel.Bailey@Manchester.ac.uk

Stephen Hall

Academic Fellow at the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, Sustainability Research Institute. Steve’s research focusses on low-carbon energy transitions and energy democratisation. Steve has a particular interest in the role of cities in providing human well-being through critical systems. S.Hall@leeds.ac.uk

Doris Fuchs

Professor of International Relations and Sustainable Development, Speaker of the Center for Interdisciplinary Sustainability Research, University of Muenster, Germany; coming from a political economy background, she analyzes ideational and material structural barriers to sustainable consumption, social justice, and the well-being of current and future generations. Doris.Fuchs@uni-muenster.de

Sylvia Lorek

Researcher and policy consultant for sustainable consumption governance at the Sustainable Europe Research Institute Germany. Ph.D. in consumer economics focusing on the intersections of the individual micro-economic and the societal macroeconomic perspective to support a good life for all. Sylvia.lorek@seri.de

Timmons Roberts

Ittleson Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology at Brown University, USA and leader of its Climate and Development Lab. His research and action on climate justice is at the local state, national and international levels; he publishes mostly on UN climate negotiations in the global political economy, and climate finance in particular. Timmons@brown.edu

Marlyne Sahakian

Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Geneva (Switzerland); from a development studies background, her research focus is on understanding natural resource consumption patterns and practices, in relation to environmental promotion and social equity, and identifying opportunities for transitions towards more sustainable societies. Marlyne.Sahakian@unige.ch