The costs of living in the material world

Researchers at the Essex Sustainability Institute, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Exeter Medical School and the NHS Sustainable Development Unit have recently published a paper exploring the externalities associated with high levels of material consumption. In the UK, poor diets, physical inactivity, loneliness and other artefacts of modern lifestyles cost an estimated £180 billion each year. The researchers conclude that there is a clear need to redefine what we think of as prosperity.

The paper is available open-access online here.

Food in Transition: Call for Workshop Participants


A collaborative workshop of the Transition Research Network, Essex Sustainability Institute, Participatory and Rural Geographies Research Groups.

University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, Essex 

Wed 6th Feb 2013, 12 noon – 6pm (followed by dinner) 

Are you:

  • Working or seeking to work, on local food initiatives where you live?
  • A grower or producer who supplies, or would like to supply locally, and support the work of community food initiatives?
  • Involved in academic research on local food systems, and seeking to maximise its practical value by collaborating directly with community groups, growers and producers?

If so, please join us and help develop a new agenda for local food practice, research and policy. We will use inclusive facilitation techniques to ensure the meeting is dynamic and makes the most of what all participants have to offer. The event is open to everyone interested in contributing to this theme. Attendance is free but by registration only. Travel and accommodation support is are available and will be allocated based on income and a simple email application.

Please spread the word, and feel free to circulate the attached flier.

For registration and bursary applications: Send an email to Prof. Steffen Boehm (steffen at by 21st December 2012 with:

  • Your name and location
  • The name of the initiative you wish to represent (where relevant)
  • A few lines to tell us about your key relevant experience and why you wish to attend
  • An indication of whether you would like to apply for a travel bursary to enable you to attend.

We will then get back to you with a link to our registration page. The deadline for registration is 14th January 2012. 

The Transition Research Network is a self-organising group of academics and community activists. See:

Download Call-for-participants-Food-in-Transition2.pdf

Seminar: Is a Just Transition Possible?

The Essex Sustainability Institute  is hosting  a new seminar series, Sustainability Contested, at the Wivenhoe Park campus. The seminars are open to staff, students and members of the public.

The first seminar will be held on the 7th of September 2012, in Room 5A.303 at the Wivenhoe Park Campus, between 1:30pm and 3pm. All are welcome, and attendence is free! Please spread the word! If you would like to meet the speakers on the day, please email Zareen Bharucha, at zpbhar (at) More on the first seminar below.

Title: Is a Just Transition Possible? – A southern perspective on the global polycrisis and what happens next.

Abstract: In this seminar Prof Mark Swilling and Eve Annecke will discuss the arguments developed in their recently published book  Just Transitions: Explorations of Sustainability in an Unfair World (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2012). In particular they will address questions about what lies beyond the current global polycrisis and the implications for rapidly industrialising developing economies. Can we anticipate a ‘sixth wave’ of industrial growth? What will the next long-term development cycle look like? They will draw on Prof Swilling’s work on decoupling and global material flows for UNEP’s International Resource Panel as well as their joint local work in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where they have translated their thinking into practice in the building of South Africa’s first socially integrated ecologically designed neighbourhood. Connecting global transition dynamics to local prefigurative examples of sustainable living in practice has been the focus of their work over the past decade.

About the speakers:

Mark Swilling

Mark Swilling is appointed as Professor of Sustainable Development in the School of Public Leadership, University of Stellenbosch and Academic Director of the Sustainability Institute. He is responsible for the design and implementation of a Master’s and Doctoral Program in Sustainable Development that gets delivered at the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He also heads up the TSAMA Hub, a new Center for the transdisciplinary study of sustainability and complexity at Stellenbosch University. The TSAMA Hub hosts a new transdisciplinary Doctoral Program that involves collaboration between seven ofStellenboschUniversity’s Faculties. Professor Swilling obtained his PhD from theUniversity ofWarwick in 1994.

Eve Annecke

Eve Annecke is the founding director of the Sustainability Institute (SI), a living and learning centre for studies and experience in ecology, community and spirit. She is co-founder of the Lynedoch EcoVillage, and pioneered the work in Learning for Sustainability Further Education and Training College. She leads a child-centred approach to building sustainable communities within the SI.  Her teaching and research at masters level focuses on sustainability, complexity, leadership and environmental ethics.

Download Mark-Swilling-Flier.pdf