Eversberg, Dennis / Fritz, Martin (2022): Bioeconomy as a societal transformation: Mentalities, conflicts and social practices. In: Sustainable Production and Consumption, 30, 973-987. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spc.2022.01.021
In this article, we argue that a comprehensive understanding of the kinds of societal change envisioned and contested in the bioeconomy debate requires broadening the view beyond policy debates and stakeholder positions. We use representative German survey data from 2018 to explore social conflicts and coalitions for and against bio-based, post-fossil transformations within the general population. Mapping different socio-ecological mentalities in a relational analysis, we find that tensions between growth- and sufficiency-oriented, high-tech-focused and techno-skeptical as well as between fossilist and post-fossil visions shape the current ‘socio-ecological space of possibilities’ for transformations in Germany.
Results show most of the population to broadly align along a continuum between ‘less is more’ views skeptical of both growth and technology and visions of ‘technoeconomic advance’ that favor both. In addition, a more openly conflictual confrontation surfaces between a ‘sufficient progress’ view that looks to reconcile sufficiency with democratically checked technology use and a ‘growth as usual’ imaginary openly opposed to any kind of post-fossil transformation. These tensions correlate with social inequalities: Women and the materially disadvantaged tend to favor ‘less is more’ views, men and the more affluent those of ‘technoeconomic advance’. Moreover, starkly contrasting patterns of environmentally relevant practices emerge along the growth and fossilism dimensions. We conclude that issues surrounding bio-based, post-fossil transformations are more contested among the population than in policy debates, entailing significant potential for social conflicts. The core challenge will be to establish ecologically sustainable and socially just transformation pathways in democratic and participatory ways.