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The project’s rationale resides on four main pillars:

Globalization as given

GLOBIS takes globalisation for given, i.e. the accelerating interdependence of practically all people in the world. Increasing economic integration, increasing political interaction, and increasing cultural contact (harmonious or conflictual) between different societies are facts of everyday life in the world we live in. (Brown 2008) Our concern is to make globalisation work for sustainable development worldwide.

Sustainable Development as universally desirable

GLOBIS assumes Sustainable Development as universally desirable. The fact that different perspectives on sustainable development range from pro-market liberals to anti-market social greens (Harris et al. 2001; Clapp and Dauvergne 2005) is itself a sign that achieving sustainability for our ecological, social, and economic systems has become all but a universal value. How to get there is of course a matter of heated debate, but, as the Stern Review (Stern 2006) has recently shown, even from the standpoint of sustaining the existing rates of economic growth, business-as-usual is not an option. Something has to change.

Transition Theory

According to GLOBIS, transition theory is a holistic approach, capable of mapping the way from the present situation to a sustainable world. Transitions are transformation processes in which societies, or sub-systems thereof, change profoundly in terms of structures, institutions and relations between actors. After a transition the society, or a subsystem, operates according to new assumptions and rules (Rotmans et al. 2001; Foxon 2007) thus indicating a range of new practices.

The Green Revolution (GR) can serve to illustrate transition theory. The GR is often described as a technological change involving new crop varieties and agro-chemicals. But the GR was in fact part of a much more fundamental change in national and international politics, markets and institutions (Djurfeldt and Jirström 2005), thus a transition in which new technologies based on scientific research were introduced and supported by a new and comprehensive institutional package, which in turn gave rise to several other adaptation processes (Burton et al. 1993).

Technology and its relations to institutions is a central theme in transition theory. Viewed through the lens of transition theory, adaptation problems with livelihoods at risk from climate change will be understood as part of a complex system with multiple chains of causality. It may also be characterized by institutional as well as technological lock-ins (Foxon 2007). And importantly, the allocation of power plays an important role in the analysis spanning multiple levels, such as: niches, regimes, landscapes (Rip and Kemp 1998). These three levels represent a useful heuristic for understanding technological and social change (Geels 2002) rather than an ontological description. The niche level refers to individual actors (or groups of actors), technologies or practices. On this level the symptoms of the problem are identified. The regime level refers to the web of institutions governing the predominant practices at the niche level, for example regional markets, local credit systems and government services. The landscape level refers to slowly changing social, physical and natural structures, such as physical infrastructure, international political institutions, macro-economic conditions, and the natural environment.

Clumsy Solutions

GLOBIS strives for ‘clumsy’ solution, not the ‘elegant solution’. Both the complexity of the problem and the nature of scientific knowledge make us cautious of grand theorising and once-and-for-all fixes. No silver bullet, but silver buck-shot. The best we can hope for is to meddle our way through the present, unsustainable system towards a sustainable world. By clumsy solutions we mean “policies that creatively combine all opposing perspectives on what the problems are and how they should be resolved” (Verweij et al. 2006).

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