Beyond Consumption: Pathways to Responsible Living

Submitted by Arthur Dahl on 22. March 2012 - 0:48

The Partnership for Education and research about Responsible Living (PERL) held its 2nd International Conference at the Technical University in Berlin, Germany, on 19-20 March 2012, on the theme "Beyond Consumption: Pathways to Responsible Living". The International Environment Forum is a partner in PERL and participated actively in the conference. Keynote speakers at the conference included Victoria Thoresen, PERL Project Coordinator (and IEF board member), speaking on "Concern, Compassion and Commitment: Keys to Responsible Living"; Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth; Helen McCallum, Director General of Consumers International, and Jochen Flasbarth, President of the Federal Environment Agency, Germany. Sixty presentations were given, including one by IEF President Arthur Dahl on "Alternatives to the Consumer Society". Arthur also presented a poster on "Enabling Action at Rio+20". Both are available on the IEF web site. There were also panel discussions allowing a deeper exploration of the issues.

The conference explored the value-action gap between an understanding of the issues and action to change behaviour in response to the issue. Tim Jackson described consumption as a search for meaning, where people consume because of the hope for satisfaction in a product (even if short-lived) in a secular society resulting from the erosion of religious commitment. He said we should build a new economy that is fit for purpose and does not rely upon growth. He defined prosperity as the ability to flourish as human beings within ecological limits, connecting with what is truly human within us. The conference programme and abstracts are available on the PERL web site at http://www.perlprojects.org/Project-sites/PERL/PERL-International-Confe….

PERL now has 200 partners around the world, and is collaborating with IEF in plans for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. Victoria Thoresen is co-leading a thematic group on sustainable consumption and production in preparation for Rio+20. Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen and Arthur Dahl have been active in the PERL working group organizing forward-looking expert think tanks to guide PERL's further development.