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Methods of Sustainability Research in the Social Sciences


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PART ONE: MEASURING THE IMMEASURABLE? THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF SUSTAINABILITY RESEARCH IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES Sustainability Research in the Social Sciences - Concepts, Methodologies and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity - Henrike Rau and Frances Fahy PART TWO: RESEARCHING LOCAL LIVES: EXPERIENCES OF (UN)SUSTAINABILITY AMONG INDIVIDUALS, HOUSEHOLDS AND COMMUNITIES Household Analysis: Researching 'Green' Lifestyles, A Survey Approach - Stewart Barr and Jan Prillwitz Social Groups and Collective Decision-making: Focus Group Approaches - Anna Davies Local Lives and Conflict: Towards a Methodology of Dialogic Research - Mark Garavan PART THREE: COMPARATIVE RESEARCH ON THE SUSTAINABILITY PERFORMANCE OF CITIES, REGIONS AND NATION-STATES Sustainable Development of What? Contesting Global Development Concepts and Measures - Su-ming Khoo Biophysical Indicators of Society-Nature Interaction: Material and Energy Flow Analysis, Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production and the Ecological Footprint - Veronika Gaube, Helmut Haberl, Karl-Heinz Erb Mapping for Sustainability: Environmental Noise and the City - Enda Murphy and Eoin A King PART IV: TIME IN FOCUS Everyday Life in Transition: Biographical Research and Sustainability - Melanie Jaeger-Erben Time and Sustainability - Henrike Rau and Ricca Edmondson PART V: CURRENT DEVELOPMENT AND FUTURE TRENDS Researching Complex Sustainability Issues: Reflections on Current Challenges and Future Developments - Frances Fahy and Henrike Rau

About the Author

Dr Frances Fahy is the Head of Geography and Senior Lecturer in National University of Ireland, Galway. Dr Fahy specialises in sustainable consumption, environmental governance and planning at all scales. She has published widely and led a number of research projects exploring sustainable consumption, environmental governance, innovative methods for public participation in planning and the development of collaborative planning tools including community derived indicators and community mapping. Her publications include two edited volumes - Methods of Sustainability Research in the Social Sciences (with Prof Henrike Rau, Sage, 2013) and Challenging Consumption (with Prof Anna Davies and Prof Henrike Rau, Routledge, 2014) - and peer reviewed articles in Global Environmental Change, Area, Nature and Culture, and Journal of Consumer Policy. Frances is the Past President of the Geographical Society of Ireland (2012-2014). She is a past Chair of the Planning and Environment Research Group (PERG) of the Royal Geographical Society (2007-2012). Frances was the recipient of the 2013-14 Fulbright Scholar Award and during her research leave in the US she explored the experiences of academics involved in policy-relevant research in the field of sustainability. Dr Henrike Rau is a lecturer in Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Galway.


Methods of Sustainability Research fills a large gap in the literature of sustainability and green issues from a social science perspective. While there is a lot of work on what un/sustainability is... what we have less of is the varieties of methodological approaches to researching un/sustainability... An important book demonstrating the further maturation of the social science study of un/sustainability.
Dr John Barry
Queens University Belfast, author of The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability

Sustainable development, or sustainability, is one of the defining issues of our time. However relatively little has been written about different approaches about how to systematically research this issue. This innovative and important book fills that gap and will be widely read and used by both academics and practitioners alike.

-- Dr. Padraig Carmody, Trinity College Dublin

Fahy and Rau's collection provides useful perspectives on how 'sustainability' as a term can be opened up conceptually and methodologically. The essays will prove attractive to researchers pursuing interdisciplinary questions on how societal development can be reconciled with the consumption of resources in different regional and economic contexts.

-- Dr. William Jenkins, York University, Canada

This international and interdisciplinary collection exploring the concepts and methods of social science research into sustainability will be valuable for students, researchers and community activists wishing to research the need for or impact of environmental policies. Throughout, the focus is upon helping individual researchers to think critically about 'sustainability', ask salient questions and produce robust conclusions.

-- Dr. Karen E. Till, NUI Maynooth
An original and significant contribution to contemporary discussions surrounding the question of methodological approaches to researching and thinking about sustainability and 'green' issues internationally. The excellent selection of chapters and case studies offered gives the reader a range of approaches and tools that can be developed within other contexts, as well as identifying critical faultlines in the field and offering suggestions for future research.

-- Dr. Nessa Cronin, NUI Galway
This book offers two critical points of discussion that are relevant to all those interested in 'sustainability' as a nexus between human society and environmental resources, including researchers, teachers and students, as well as policy makers.
It takes on a bold step towards that dual aim, one that merits further discussion and exploration in the research community, but also in classrooms and in the public realm. -- Marlyne Sahakian
Methods of Sustainability Research in the Social Sciences is not a "How To" book with tips made for debutants or graduate students in search for a textbook to start their masters; it is rather for doctoral students and academics who feel they need interdisciplinary or even transdisciplinary methods for the understanding of environmental issues. This is the main strength of this volume which does not concentrate on results or conclusions as such but rather on the studying and comparison of fresh methodologies related to sustainability. -- Yves Laberge, Associate fellow at the Groupe de recherche EA 1796, ACE, at the Universite de Rennes 2, France
Th[is] book has a good collection of different researches and methodologies that present a wide variety of the sustainability field as well as various open questions presenting issues for further research. Since the book brings together studies from different disciplines it enables presenting the complexity of society-nature interaction and demonstrates the needs and the benefits of interdisciplinary approach in sustainability research. These qualities make this book useful for both social science researchers as well as students. -- Zeev Stossel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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