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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Narrow pasts and futures: how frames of sustainability transformation limit societal change

Priebe, Janina; Marald, Erland; Nordin, Annika


Two frames dominate present-day interpretations of sustainability and approaches to sustainability transformation in national and global policy arenas. One frame relates to transformation in global environmental governance that promotes goal-oriented agendas. The other frame relates to earth system sciences where sustainability transformation means breaking the devastating trends of the Anthropocene. In this paper, we examine the historical and cultural underpinnings of these two frames, each invoking particular relations and approaches to sustainability transformation. Our contribution is to discuss the role of the past in these frames and to illuminate how current outlooks toward the future still rely on principles that emerged in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe and thus hinder alternative approaches to transformation in the present.


Sustainability; History; Sustainability transformation; Frame; Climate change; Agenda 2030; Sustainable development goals; Earth system sciences

Published in

Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
2021, volume: 11, number: 1, pages: 76-84
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Priebe, Janina
Umeå University
Mårald, Erland
Umeå University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Environmental Management

Publication Identifiers


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