The purpose of this study is to understand what a sustainable future would look like and the nature of the changes needed to achieve it. Continued reliance on economic growth to meet the demands of a growing population is unsustainable and comes at an unacceptable social and environmental cost. Given these increasing demands, radical changes to present practices of production and consumption are needed to enable a sustainable future.
To address this the projective technique of backcasting was used in a pilot study to explore student visions of a sustainable future. An integrative framework comprising housing, clothing, travel, leisure and food provided the structure for six focus group discussions.
Thematic analysis identified three key characteristics of a sustainable consumption future, namely, efficiency, sharing and community and three critical elements, namely, the role of government, education and technology, necessary for its achievement.
Demonstrating the usefulness of backcasting will encourage its application in a wider range of consumption contexts with a broader range of participants. The vision of a sustainable future provides a blueprint that identifies its nature, and the basis upon which decisions to achieve it can be made.
The research introduces the technique of backcasting and demonstrates its usefulness when dealing with complex problems, where there is a need for radical change and when the status quo is not sustainable. Unexpectedly, results suggest a commitment to prosocial values, collaborative experience, collective action and the importance of community. Research and social implications demonstrating the usefulness of backcasting will encourage its application in a wider range of consumption contexts with a broader range of participants. The vision of a sustainable future provides a blueprint that identifies its nature, and the basis upon which decisions to achieve it can be made.
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