Re-making the Future: Transition movements and dismantling the environment-economy dichotomy

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Rapid changes in social, economic and environmental circumstances necessitate transitions to reconfigured social, economic and environment futures. The move to a low carbon future will be no different; fundamentally different social, economic and environmental futures will emerge. As globally adaptation to climate change dominates, different potential paths will be evident, each representing transition to a different potential low carbon future. This chapter argues that the current political debates about transitions to a low-carbon future are dominated by economic considerations, rather than environmental ones, reflecting the entrenched environment-economy dichotomy evident in the politics of nature liberal democracies and the modern state. Economic elites thus govern these discussions, failing to engage those whose futures are most at stake in the transition to a low-carbon future. Not surprisingly, these debates then also fail to engage with questions about just transitions, ignoring the equity and redistributive impacts of economic transformation. Despite this, major economic change offers the opportunity to re-write societal structures. In contrast to denialist and green capitalism discourses, transition movements have arisen, focussed on the idea of a just transition to a low-carbon, improved economic and environmental future for all. These movements are located at a number of key intersections that seek to unravel the environment-economy dichotomy inherent in contemporary capitalism. These include local food systems, small scale and alternative energy economies, sustainable communities and housing. Thus, current debates about transition to a low-carbon future represent a battle between competing futures globally. The outcome will transform global economic relations, global material flows and the current structures of power and economic flourishing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Managing Fossil Fuels and Energy Transitions
EditorsGeoffrey Wood, Keith Baker
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9783030280765, 978-3-030-28076-5
ISBN (Print)9783030280758, 978-3-030-28075-8
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Green technology
  • Justice
  • Transition
  • Transition network


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