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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

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

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
    Environmental Management

    Publication identifier


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