Para Limes

Seminar: Solutions for a Sustainable and Desirable Future

Seminar: Solutions for a Sustainable and Desirable Future

Professor Robert Costanza

Chair in Public Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

​Dr Robert Costanza is currently Professor and Chair in Public Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. Prior to this, he was Distinguished University Professor of Sustainability, in the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University (2010–2012), Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and founding director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont (2002–2010), Professor at the University of Maryland (1988–2002) and at Louisiana State University (1980–1988). His transdisciplinary research integrates the study of humans and the rest of nature to address research, policy and management issues at multiple time and space scales, from small watersheds to the global system. He is co-founder of the International Society for Ecological Economics and founding editor in chief of Solutions ( He is author or co-author of over 500 articles and 24 books and has been named one of ISI’s Highly Cited Researchers since 2004. More than 200 interviews and reports on his work have appeared in various popular media.

Date: 28th October 2013

Time: 3pm – 4pm

Venue: Lecture Room 5, Level 3, Nanyang Executive Centre

Address: 60 Nanyang View, Singapore 639673


A high and sustainable quality of life is a central goal for humanity. Our current socio-ecological regime and its set of interconnected worldviews, institutions, and technologies all support the vision of unlimited growth of material production and consumption as a proxy for quality of life. However, abundant evidence shows that, beyond a certain threshold, further material growth only marginally contributes to improvement in quality of life. Not only does further material growth not meet humanity’s central goal, there is mounting evidence that it creates significant roadblocks to sustainability through increasing resource constraints (i.e., peak oil, water limitations), sink constraints (i.e., climate disruption, biodiversity loss, pollution), and the inequitable distribution of wealth. Overcoming these roadblocks and creating a sustainable and desirable future will require an integrated, systems level redesign of our socio-ecological regime and economic paradigm focused explicitly and directly on the goal of sustainable quality of life and well-being rather than the proxy of unlimited material growth. It will require the recognition and measurement of the contributions of natural and social to sustainable well-being. This transition, like all cultural transitions, will occur through an evolutionary process, but one that we, to a certain extent, can control and direct through the process of shared envisioning and the creation of both physical and computer models. Visions and models of integrated sets of worldviews, institutions, and technologies are needed to stimulate and seed this evolutionary redesign. The process of creating a shared vision of the future is also a key missing element of real democracy.