Living Well Within Limits

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= "What influence do social and technical provisioning systems have on the levels of resource use associated with well-being?".


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"The Living Well Within Limits (LiLi) project is a Leverhulme Research Leadership Grant awarded to Dr Julia Steinberger. LiLi addresses crucial but understudied questions:

  • What are the biophysical resources, more specifically energy, required to achieve human well-being?
  • What influence do social and technical provisioning systems have on the levels of resource use associated with well-being?
  • If remaining within planetary boundaries requires rapid decreases in resource & energy use, how could these scarce resources best be employed to enhance and preserve well-being?

The principal motivation for this project is the lack of coherent approaches, combining environmental, engineering, economic and social sciences, which would allow comprehensive answers to these questions. An enormous body of scholarship exists connecting economic activity to energy and material use, whereas very little research has been carried out on the biophysical requirements of the well-being of the humans within those economies.

The LiLi project’s ambitious aim is to construct the conceptual and methodological framework upon which this type of research can be carried forward, and to apply it using both quantitative and qualitative methods to analyse and model the energy requirements of well-being. LiLi’s focus is relevant to recent high level comprehensive policy goals, such as the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the EU’s 7th Environmental Action Programme.

The LiLi project is based on an innovative framework, integrating

(1) biophysical resource use,

(2) the social and physical provisioning systems which draw up on these resources as inputs, and

(3) the social outcomes which depend upon them.

Each of these three phases, and their constitutive elements, have traditionally been the purview of separate disciplines. The purpose of this project is to present a new integrative research approach, highlighting the crucial role of provisioning systems in linking physical and social processes and outcomes, and thus in enabling empirical research into achieving well-being within a bounded economy.

The crucial role of provisioning systems in connecting physical and social processes and outcomes remains sparsely researched. This is because the topic spans traditional disciplinary boundaries, requiring a coherent operational framework, robust concepts, methods and metrics bridging the social sciences (living well within society) and natural and physical sciences (physical resources and technologies, environmental limits), which could be applied equally to industrialised and developing contexts."