Built environment and human behaviour challenges to sustainable consumption

A gap analysis
01 Jan 2016

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is a well-known phrase that highlights the principle that there is no merit in good intentions unless they are acted on. If more sustainably designed housing, neighbourhoods and cities are provided for populations to live in, is there a capacity within individuals and households in high income societies such as Australia to actually live more sustainable, low carbon lives; that is, to behave more sustainably and reduce their ecological footprints? And in the process make earth’s finite resources more widely available to others (distributive equality)?

This chapter has examined the unsustainable and unequal pattern of resource consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that characterise cities in high income developed societies, such as Australia. They are slow burn issues (aka ‘boiling frog’)—gradual but cumulative processes. A picture of the future (i.e. fifty years hence) consequences of climate change, resource depletion, population growth and environmental degradation is now apparent but still largely unacknowledged by those living in the present— a shunning of the central Brundtland sustainable development principle. This chapter has provided clear evidence that there are significant gaps in respect of resource consumption generally (and energy in particular) when performance metrics related to dwelling design, dwelling construction and dwelling operation are compared. This significantly inhibits current attempts to create more sustainable built environments that provide the context within which urban populations can attempt to live more sustainable, low carbon lives.

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Ethics and Morality in Consumption : Interdisciplinary Perspectives
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Routledge Studies in Business Ethics