Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 8, No. 8, August 2012
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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The Sustainability Revolution: A Societal Paradigm Shift? 1

Tom Burns

Abstract: This article argues that “a sustainability revolution” is taking place. The question of what are characteristic indicators of the sustainability revolution is addressed. The ongoing transformations are largely piecemeal, incremental, diffuse -- in earlier writings referred to as “organic.” Organic is a more encompassing notion than “grassroots,” since the innovation and transformation processes may be launched and developed at multiple levels by collective agents that in some cases are very large and would not be understood as “grassroots” actors. The article argues that the sustainability revolution shares some features, in particular its organic character, with the early industrial revolution. It addresses the question of what are the similarities and differences between the sustainability and industrial revolutions. It concludes that whether the sustainability revolution will be fast enough or comprehensive enough to save the planet remains to be seen; history provides numerous examples of great societies that collapsed, and visions that failed or were never realized. Rio+20, while irresolute in terms of concrete commitments, has contributed to enhance general awareness that the global transition to sustainability is already underway.

Keywords: global environmental change; paradigm shift; sustainability; transformation; revolution

The Crises of the Planetary Environment

There is a substantial scientific consensus that the major global environmental threats are the consequences of human actions: overconsumption of precious resources (such as water, forests, fossil fuels), destruction of ecosystem services, unsustainable land practices, the unabated release of toxic chemicals, and emissions driving climate disruption. Also recognized are the steps most scientists believe essential for addressing these threats: reducing greenhouse gases, establishing biosphere reserves, protecting endangered populations and species and other critical resources, regulating chemical releases, limiting human population growth, and regulating excessive consumption patterns, especially among the rich.

Despite these widely held scientific views, the policy decisions needed to deal with these threats have been disappointing – arguably not up to the level necessitated by the challenge. Meanwhile, the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) continues unabated (and humanity still lacks a clear agreement or strategy for enforceable reductions), species extinction rates accelerate to thousands of times "background" extinction rates, and more and more toxic compounds accumulate from pole to pole.

A short look backward—to the decades just before the current millennium—reveals the remarkable acceleration in the pace, scale, and spread of human impacts on the global environment [6]. Looking forward, greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere will remain there for a millennium; will increase by releases to which we are already committed, and will almost certainly contribute to weather extremes, flooding and drought, which will seriously affect agriculture. This, plus the spread of tropical diseases, increased vulnerability to vast epidemics, sea level rise, and more severe storms, will reduce (are already reducing) the welfare of many human communities and populations. A biosphere catastrophe (beyond one or more of several tipping points) threatens to wreck the economy and society as we know them.2

Global environmental change touches upon every facet of human existence - health, diet, health, leisure, quality of life, every day practices; production, consumption, education, research, politics, and societal values. However grandiloquent it sounds, no human goods -- life, love, liberty, the freedom to pursue a meaningful existence -- can be enjoyed without the flourishing of life on earth. This is a self-evident truth [7].

Modernization – whichever its current forms and however it is brought about – appears to make human life increasingly unsustainable on this planet. One of the issues – and challenges raised by contemporary research – concerns what possible forms of modernization are sustainable and how they might be accomplished. The “sustainability revolution” is bringing this issue into the open in diverse ways.3

The Emerging Sustainability Revolution [4]

In the face of the daunting problems and dilemmas there is an acute challenge to strive for significant reforms of our ways of thinking, organizing, and acting. How can societies slow down these processes, possibly mitigate them? Already, there are emerging new concepts, scientific efforts, policy schemes, a new language, an organic transformation of ways of thinking, judging, and acting, etc., as discussed below. A societal paradigm shift is taking place – whether the transformation is fast enough or comprehensive enough to save the planet remains to be seen. Such a paradigm consists of a socially shared framework -- in values, norms, beliefs, and strategies – and typically entails new principles of social organization (see related work on public policy paradigms and their shifts [3]).4 It need not be coherent or complete.5

Today we are witnessing the initial stages of a new societal revolution comparable in scale and significance to the industrial revolution. Tens of millions of people are considering and adopting new conceptions, goals, techniques and technologies, and practices relating to a wide spectrum of environmental concerns and developments. The ongoing paradigm development – a gradual shift from the economistic, industrialization paradigm to one or more forms of a sustainability paradigm entail the establishment of new ways of thinking, acting, organizing, and regulating (in part, the establishment of a new cognitive-normative discursive framework and context (see endnote 4). Sustainability ideas, norms, and values permeate an ever-increasing part of modern life and have a significant impact on everyday thinking and practices in substantial parts of the world. This is occurring not only in developed countries but also in developing ones such as China, India, and Brazil.

From the 1960s there has been rapidly increasing global awareness and concern about damage to the environment – Rachel Carson’s book (The Silent Spring, 1962), the UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment (1972), the 1987 Brundtland report (The World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future), the 1992 Rio de Janeiro "Earth Summit" (UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)), and so on. The "Stockholm Declaration" was formulated at the 1972 Conference -- a number of guiding principles for the protection of the environment were adopted. These have been critical in the successive development of other instruments.6 For instance, in 1973 (elaborated 1978) there was global agreement on regulation of the pollution from ships (MARPOL). Also, the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (HELCOM) was signed in Helsinki in 1974 by all the Baltic coastal states. There were other major international agreements as well as national developments. Private initiatives also were launched. The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) established "Responsible Care" in 1985.7

The Rio Declaration was published in 1992. The aims were to reduce unsustainable consumption patterns and to establish precautionary principles in relation to socio-economic and technological developments. Passage of the OSPAR Convention (1992)8 also took place in this period – it was aimed at eliminating the pollution of the North-East Atlantic. Another important development was the launching of negotiations in the mid-1990s to eliminate releases of persistent organic pollutants (POP). The negotiations focused on the 12 most hazardous substances - the "Dirty Dozen". In a historic agreement (the Stockholm Convention or "the POPs Treaty) in Stockholm in May 2001, the nations of the world for the first time agreed to eliminate all releases of a number of highly hazardous chemical substances [16]. Earlier at Kyoto, 1997, three of the greenhouse gases that were agreed to be regulated are man-made chemicals (HFCs, PFCs, and SF6). There has been a rapid growth of international environmental agreements, some more enforced (and enforceable) than others.

From the 1960s, processes of consciousness raising, defining threatening environmental realities, mobilizing agencies, enterprises, and citizens etc. have been taking place, and continue to do so;9 these processes relate to a cascade of private and public initiatives and accomplishments in addressing environmental issues and challenges. The UN, environmental agencies, many enterprises, public "intellectuals," researchers, NGOS, and media have succeeded to a greater or lesser extent in convincing multitudes of people that the environment and human life as well as life generally are threatened on planet earth and action is necessary10 (this is not to overlook the deniers and opposers who make for formidable resistance).

Today we are witnessing the early stages of a new societal revolution comparable in scale and import to the industrial revolution.11 This "sustainability revolution" – sustainalization – implies a new type of society – or family of societies. It is being forged, piece by piece ("organically", so to speak). A great many “sustainability” designs, plans, and initiatives at different levels have been developed as people try to forge new orders (local, meso-, and –macro) as occurred in the case of industrialization. Another way of thinking about this transformation is that a “green” or sustainalization world is emerging – just as an industrial world perspective emerged in and through the industrializing process. In the "green revolution", one finds:

  • The increasing stress on green values: that is, articulation and development of new values, norms, standards, in a word, the "green" normative perspective.
  • An ever-growing generalized judgment that “green” patterns of action and developments are "good." And patterns and developments which are "non-green" or “anti-green” (use of high gas consumption vehicles, overuse or wastage of water or other critical resources, etc.) are “bad”.
  • New practices, for instance new accounting conceptions and standards such as “triple bottom line”
  • The growing role of “green thinking, conceptions, standards and practices” in many areas of social life; there are also increasing narratives about green ideas, values, and standards, which circulate in wider and wider circles
  • The growing role of “green” entrepreneurs (for whatever reasons, they initiate projects-- beliefs in a green future, profitability, pressures of competition, or combinations of such motivators)
  • Green governance; new regulatory mechanisms: distinguishing "good" (green) versus "bad" (non-green) innovations and developments
  • Institutionalization of green standards and considerations in decision and policymaking settings in government agencies, corporations, and associations
  • Increasing stakeholder involvement in the corridors of economic and policymaking power (Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WWF)
  • Green technological developments; design and production of new “green” technologies, development of “green” (or “greener”) systems [17,18]
  • Greening of consumption
  • Massive experimentation (accompanied by failures, of course) with “green” initiatives. These concern not only businesses but NGOs, other private agents, government agencies, etc
  • New alertness and readiness to experiment or innovate with green ideas, designs, technologies and practices

The emerging sustainability paradigm is being established then by a process of multiple initiatives facilitated by diffusion and collective learning of new values, ideas, and practices through associations, communities, business, and political networks.12 There are not only values and beliefs shifting -- and some reordering (up to now, still limited) of priorities-- but governance reforms and innovations, and changes in many daily practices. The conditions of initiative and innovation encompass multiple agents who enjoy some power and means of structural control over their own situations and are able to make relatively autonomous independent decisions. This process results on an aggregate level in adaptations and shifts in the industrial paradigm complex and its particular institutional and cultural arrangements. The latter with its massive nexus are being challenged piece-by-piece by elements of the sustainability paradigm.13

The transformation process is an organic one with many different agents at different levels driven by diverse motives and interests. Gradually, blueprints will be developed specifying standardized designs and strategies for the sustainability transformations. Industrialization was also characterized first by such a highly organic phase followed later by more blueprint-like modalities: where, for instance, Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and others adopted and imposed designs.

Social science research has identified some of the drivers and facilitators of the sustainability revolution: (1) normative pressures and resource and power mobilization; (2) open, new sectors are able to develop quickly on green dimensions by utilizing innovative ideas, models, methods, technologies and techniques where there is often less resistance from, or resilience in the institutionalized arrangements and agents of established sectors; (3) some strategic sectors – such as energy and chemicals – are subject to particular attention and pressures to transform themselves, because in the case of energy – as is increasingly recognized -- some forms such as fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce and also because these fuels contribute significantly to pollution, GHGs, and climate change.

In the sustainability revolution we see hybrid cars, re-development of the electric car, solar energy innovations and other renewable energy developments, "smart switches," recycling systems, banning or tighter regulation of chemicals, increased controls of many pollutants, movements to protect forests and threatened species. These changes take place more in some parts of the world than others, but there is a powerful and sustained general thrust, involving many thousands of initiatives and innovations. The emerging social trend is manifested in the plans and actions of thousands of international regimes, international bureaucracies, national agencies, local and transnational activist groups and expert networks. At the same time, “earth system governance”14 can be understood as a political project that engages more and more actors who seek to change the current architecture of institutions and networks at local-, meso-, and global-levels in order to advance the cause of sustainability.

The "green revolution" represents then multiple paradigm shifts, not only in production, technologies, consumption, and lifestyles, etc. but in governance and practical ethics and related normative areas. The new paradigm (or family of paradigms) is spreading readily – horizontally -- new knowledge, values, and practices. "Green modernization" entails "green re-industrialization", "green capitalism", "green governance", "green thinking and lifestyles."

Current Status and Future Outlook

This article suggests that a "sustainability revolution" is already taking place on multiple levels: (1) a moral-cognitive level; (2) a level of action and the establishment of new practices on the part of individuals, groups, and organizations; (3) an institutional level as "green" institutional arrangements and policies are promoted, often cautiously, but sometimes boldly – with varying degrees of success. Several key factors explain why the sustainability revolution is likely to continue and even to accelerate:

  • continuing environmental crises (that will not go away)
  • continual outpouring of critical analyses and prognoses about the current failings and hazards
  • normative ethos and collective pressures
  • sustained creative challenge; the excitement of innovating, experiencing the new, its opportunities as well as exhilarating risks and uncertainties
  • the paradigm shift itself entails new ways to frame, think, judge, and act that are challenges to be mastered and developed
  • diffusion and imitation mechanisms through diverse social networks
  • The sustainability revolution shares the organic character of the industrial revolution (see note 11). But the two differ significantly in a number of ways, as would be expected given their obviously very different historical, institutional, and cultural contexts as well as the difference in levels of scientific and technical knowledge.
  • Complexity: sustainalization is taking place in a much more developed and complicated world in terms of institutions, cultures, and technologies including of course communications; for instance, the infrastructures of agriculture, manufacturing, government, science, education, etc. are very different
  • The numbers and diversity of stakeholders and regulatory and governance systems that must be taken into account is much greater (partly a result of democratization and partly learning to deal with modern complexity)
  • Our modern world has its established expectations about consumption levels, lifestyles and welfare (this is also increasingly the case in developing countries)
  • There are greater explicit concerns about issues of general welfare, justice, human rights (see Stockholm Memorandum [22])

In spite of the complexity and the many institutional and cultural as well as power constraints, sustainalization is likely to proceed much more rapidly than industrialization did in large part:

  • because of the resources and capabilities of modern science and technology
  • because of the availability of more rapid and widespread advanced communications (scientific and technical associations, the WWW, twitter, facebook, blogs linking people concerned about environment and sustainability and facilitating the spread of sustainability ideas and accelerating rates of innovation and application)
  • because of the large numbers of people and collective agents already mobilized and acting to drive sustainability improvements and transformations


While "sustainability" initiatives continue to grow and spread by the many tens of thousands, the ongoing transformation will be no walkover. There is a formidable opposition (including deniers and opposers) among the powerful, for instance, many in the established industrial-commercial-banking complexes and their allies. The struggle will be long and difficult. But most of the established systems they represent will be replaced or radically reformed in the medium to long-term. Whether the sustainability revolution will be fast enough or comprehensive enough to save the planet remains to be seen. History provides numerous examples of great societies that collapsed, and visions that failed or were never realized [23,24].

Rio+20 – with the participation of a 100+ national leaders and representatives and thousands of businesses and NGO -- is part of the global process identified and discussed in this article. Assessments of the meeting have been mixed: many business and non-governmental organizations found highly disappointing the indecisive inter-governmental negotiations and the almost 50 page irresolute document, The Future We Want [24,25].

The document did not identify or prescribe any well-defined courses for nations on earth to follow [24]. While normative ideas such as “green economy” and “sustainable development goals” appearing in the Rio+20 final document are important ones (but unfortunately were left undefined [24]) and indicate the kind of consciousness-raising and synergies referred to in this article, no concrete projects or funds were established (for instance, the 30 billion dollar fund proposed by G77, the group of developing countries, failed to be established). In general, there was much rhetoric, many positive visions, and indications of future meetings, but, unfortunately, no major concrete commitments which would reduce or stop environmental degradation worldwide.

Oil and coal interests had sufficient power to dilute several robust recommendations such as scrapping fossil-fuel subsidies; and the USA, India and Kazakhstan, among others -- concerned about increasing burdens on their companies – were active in eliminating strong, enforceable commitments to action. On the other hand, many of the world’s largest companies (Coca Cola, Unilever, Nike, among others) as well as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition (made up of institutional investors) came forward with a number of positive proposals, for instance, the commitment to devise new environmentally friendly development benchmarks in areas like renewable energy and food security. Several bourses including NASDAQ OMX stated that they would pressure listed companies into disclosing details of their environmental and social footprints [25].

While there had been hopes among many that a comprehensive and all-encompassing “agreement” or possibly a treaty would be accomplished, this failed to be realized. But Rio+20 was an important global symbol. And it brought many environmentally concerned agents in contact with one another. Many left the meeting disappointed with the formal results of the conference but determined to take their own initiatives in the areas and on the levels open to them: businesses, NGOs, business associations, bourses. Also, larger coordinated movements were forged from smaller efforts.

Individual companies, associations, and a variety of NGOs through their proposals and initiatives demonstrate the organic character of the sustainability revolution. All in all, Rio+20 was an important event in the progress of the Sustainability Revolution even if not much concretely came out of the formal process (and the non-committal report); but there was increased awareness of the threats to the earth and of many of the steps that can now be taken to deal with them; and there was the active engagement of many major world businesses and NGOs, and, in general, the potential launching of thousands of new initiatives after Rio+20.


1 While the subject matter of this article shares much in common with Andres Edwards’ important book, The Sustainability Revolution [1], my approach is that of sociological and social science analysis, grounded in theories of institutions and governance [2, 9,12,15], paradigm shifts [3,8,14], and societal transformations [4,5,10,11]. Earlier versions of this article were presented at Plenary Sessions of the International Sociological Association’s Forum of Sociology, Barcelona, September 2008, The International Sociological Association’s World Congress, Gothenburg, July 2010, and in Sustainability, 2012. During the preparation of this article, the author has been active in the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) as a Visiting Scholar at the Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, and at the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme in Portugal; he has also been partially funded by CERES21 at the Center for Development and Environment(SUM), University of Oslo, Norway.

2 The Greenhouse effect is transforming global and local weather patterns, 100 year floods become frequent events, as do the frequency of powerful hurricanes, continental forest fires, and other disasters; all of these draw down the reserves of insurance companies and the emergency funds of even the most prosperous states. The poor ones suffer their fates or receive some relief through international aid.

3 “Sustainability” and "sustainable development" are political and normative ideas such as "democracy", "social justice", "equality," "liberty", etc. rather than precise and scientific concepts; as such, they are contested and part of struggles over the direction and speed of social, economic, and political initiatives and developments [19-20]. Baker [19-20] emphasizes that they become particularly meaningful and effective in concrete settings where they are to be operationalized, put into practice – they thus serve constructive purposes.

4 The paradigm concept is of course most often associated with Thomas Kuhn’s work, and it continues to be widely used in a manner closer to Kuhn’s original usage [3] also, see Capra [13], among others. Elsewhere several of us have specified and empirically tested the “architecture of social paradigms” (see [3,8,9,12]). How well suited the concept is to describe and analyze conceptual developments in the natural or social sciences has remained a subject of controversy, but that is a separate matter and not a debate to be taken up here. My claim is that a paradigm concept is very suitable to the analysis of societal, institutional, and public policy developments which are shaped and governed by societal agents (scientists included) sharing and developing cognitive-normative frameworks. For instance, the sustainability paradigm or framework entails cognitively such conceptions and understandings as “no more cornucopias”, “there are ecological limits,” “complex interdependencies”, “tipping points,” risks of catastrophes; normatively, it incorporates new values stressing “conservation,” “protection of the environment,” the values of maintaining forests, water, and animal kingdoms, precautionary principles, and ends not justifying means, among other principles. Capra [13] considers and argues for a “scientific revolution”, and, in particular for a shift from a mechanistic to an ecological paradigm (grounded in scientific ways of thinking). He indicates that he believes society requires such a radical paradigm shift in its shared perceptions, values, judgments, and practices. Indeed, he believes this shift is already taking place. In this way, he also tries to extend Kuhn’s notion: (i) from the scientific domain to society as a whole and (ii) from a descriptive tool to a normative one – what is required, what should be done. While Capra’s ecological paradigm shares some commonalities with the sustainability paradigm outlined in this article, I am proposing a social scientific model (not a normative model) with a focus on the agents of change, the general mechanism whereby changes are taking place, and a stress not only on new values and cognitive frames but on social organizational and institutional changes taking place, for instance in the area of governance.

5 Typically, in the early phases, it tends to be incomplete and partially contradictory.

6 Another important outcome of this conference was the agreement to create a new programme for global environmental protection under the United Nations: Then United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

7 These and other private, voluntary initiatives did not lead very far, however (although arguably they contributed to the growing attention to and concern about chemicals) [3].

8 This Convention concerned the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (from Gilbraltar to northern Norway and Russia).

9 Obviously, there was growing and widespread concern with conservation, environmental pollution and degradation long before there emerged a "sustainability" concept, as suggested above.

10 Some instances of radical steps have been accomplished such as the EU chemical directive REACH (2006) in which Swedish EU agents and pressure groups played a significant role in passing it over the opposition of the European, American, and Japanese chemical industries as well as the political leadership of Germany, France, and the UK [3][19-20][21].

11 The development of the industrial social order – with its technologies, experts, and governance and regulatory systems -- was characterized by, among other things, the widespread application of engineering, science, and systematic knowledge to production, products, technology and technological development, standardization, and economies of scale; the environment was exploited to the fullest for economic and related purposes, "unspoiled areas" would be defined as "wasted" and “should be effectively exploited” in the name of progress and “welfare.” The industrialization paradigm spread from England to North America and the rest of Europe and eventually to most corners of the globe. Its great success reinforced the idea that humans could ignore or, at least, overcome, environmental detriments and resource problems. Consequently and progressively, industrial society engaged in a reckless and extensive exploitation of nature. This was done on the basis of faulty assumptions and conceptions of real impacts and in many instances, in ignorance of long-term consequences.

Nevertheless, historically there was substantial opposition to many aspects of industrialization: In a number of countries, for instance, in Europe and North America, concerns about industrial forms of production, pollution, water and air quality, and deforestation led to powerful reactions. NGOs were founded to promote environmental protection, conservation and wildlife protection—a whole battery of policies, programs, and parks were established. For workers, socialist and trade union movements emerged to fight for the regulation of work conditions, social protection, welfare, and justice. These movements and the governance and regulatory developments they helped bring about operated on many levels and with varying degrees of effectiveness.

12 A subsequent article will specify and analyze several of the key mechanisms in organic transformation such as innovation, imitation processes, influence mechanisms, collective learning, and communication processes and their technologies.

13 The ongoing sustainability revolution is much more than a “Third Industrial Revolution” to which Jeremy Rifkin refers in a book (The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World) that has recently (2011) appeared; but, significantly, Rifkin recognizes the organic character of the transformative processes.

14 The Earth System Governance (ESG) Project is the largest social science research network in the area of governance and global environmental change. It is a core project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP)


(The reference list does not do justice to the many researchers whose work has contributed to the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of this article. This will be accomplished in a book to appear in 2013).

1. Edwards, AR. The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift. Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers. 2005.

2. Burns, TR.; Flam, H. The Shaping of Social Organization: Social Rule System Theory with Applications. London: Sage Publications 1987.

3. Carson, M.; Burns, TR.; Gomez Calvo, D. Public Policy Paradigms: The Theory and Practice of Paradigm Shifts in the EU. Franfurt/Berlin/New York: Peter Lang Publishers 2009.

4. Burns, T.R.; Hall, P. The Meta-Power Paradigm: Causalities, Mechanisms, & Constructions. Frankfurt/Berlin/Oxford: Peter Lang 2012.

5. Burns, TR.; Dietz, T. Revolution: An Evolutionary Perspective. International Sociology. 2001 16, 531-555.

6. Rosa, E.; Diekmann, A.; Dietz, T.; and Jaeger, C. Eds. Human Footprints on the Global Environment: Threats to Sustainability. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010, pp. 1-45.

7. Burns, TR.; Witoszek, N. The Crisis of our Planet and the Shaping of a Sustainable Society. Journal of Human Ecology, 2012 in press.

8. Burns, TR., Carson, M. Actors, Paradigms, and Institutional Dynamics. In Advancing Socio-Economics: An Institutionalist Perspective. Hollingsworth, R.; Muller, KH.; Hollingsworth EJ. Eds. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield 2002.

9. Burns, TR.; Stöhr C. Power, Knowledge, And Conflict In The Shaping Of Commons Governance: The Case of EU Baltic Fisheries. The International Journal of Commons (Special Issue: The 20th anniversary of Elinor Ostrom’s Governing the Commons), 2011, 5(2), pp 233-258.

10. Burns, TR. System Theories. In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing 2006.

11. Burns, TR.; DeVille, P. Dynamic Systems Theory. In The Handbook of 21st Century Sociology Bryant, C.; Peck, D. Eds. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, California, 2007.

12. Burns, T.R.; Stohr, C. The Architecture and Transformation of Governance Systems: Power, Knowledge, and Conflict. Human Systems Management, 2011, 30, 173-194.

13. Capra, F. The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

14. Coleman, WE. From protected development to market liberalism: Paradigm change in agriculture. Journal of European Public Policy. 1998, 5, pp. 632-51.

15. Nikoloyuk, J.; Burns, TR.; de Man, R. The promise and limitations of partnered governance: The case of sustainable palm oil. Corporate Governance. 2010 Vol. 10:59-72.

16. Lind, G. REACH: The Only Planet Guide to the Secrets of Chemicals Policy in the EU. Norrtalje, Sweden: Affarstryckeriet, 2004.

17. Baumgartner, T. and T. R. Burns 1984 Transitions to Alternative Energy Systems: Entrepreneurs, Strategies and Social Change. Boulder: Westview Press.

18. Woodward, A.; Ellig, J.; Burns,TR. Municipal Entrepreneurship and Energy Policy: A Five Nation Study of Politics, Innovation, and Social Change. New York: Gordon and Breach. 1994.

19. Baker, S. The Evolution of EU Environmental Policy: From Growth to Sustainable Development. In The Politics of Sustainable Development: Theory, Policy and Practice within the European Union. Baker, S.; Kousis, M.; Richardson D.; Young, S.C. Eds. London: Routledge 1996.

20. Baker, S. Between Commitment and Implementation: tensions in sustainable development policy of the European Union. In The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology Redclift, M. Woodgate, G. Eds. Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar 1997.

21. Lafferty, WM. The Implementation of Sustainable Development in the European Union. In Contemporary Political Studies. Proceedings of the Political Studies Association. Lovenduski, J.; Stanyer, J. Eds. 1995 (1) Belfast: PSA.

22. Stockholm Memorandum, Tipping the Scales toward Sustainability, 2011.

23. Diamond, J. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking-Penguin, 2005.

24. Leahy, S. “Rio’s Roadmap Falls Flat, Civil Society Groups Say.” IPS News, 19 June 2012.

25. “Rio+20: Many “mays” but few “musts” – A limp agreement at the UN’s vaunted environmental summit”, The Economist, 23 June 2012.

Tom R. Burns is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Sociology, University of Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden. He has been a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University since 2004, Visiting Professor at the Lisbon University Institute, Portugal (since 2007), and a member of the Oslo Sustainability Initiative (since 2006). Among his past engagements, he has been a Jean Monnet Visiting Professor at the European University, Florence, Italy (2002); Visiting Fellow, Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF), Bielefeld, Germany (2002); Visiting Professor at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (1985), Clarence J. Robinson University Professor at George Mason University (1987–1990), Fellow at Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences (Spring, 1992; Autumn, 1998), among others. Professor Burns has published more than 15 books and 140 articles in the areas of the sociology of technology and environment, governance and politics, the analysis of markets and market regulation, and studies of administration and management. He has also published extensively on social theory and methodology, with an emphasis on neo-institutionalism, a unique social theory of games and human interaction (GGT), socio-cultural evolutionary theory, and dynamic systems theory ("actor-system dialectics" (ASD)).

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