Social-Ecological Research

Processes of social change, or social transformations, within the overall framework of sustainable development are a key factor in social-ecological research.

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How can we improve our quality of life and conserve nature at the same time? Which political and economic framework is needed for a sustainable way of life? When do we consider the economy, our consumption patterns and lifestyles to be sustainable? The German Federal Research Ministry supports researchers in answering these questions and finding solutions, to protect our environment for future generations.

The path to a sustainable society requires natural scientists, technological and social scientists to work hand in hand. Technological development must be interlinked with changes in human behavior. For these reasons, the German Research Ministry ist funding projects, which integrate first-hand-experience from everyday life in business, associations and organizations to develop solutions for a sustainable society. This is what “Social-Ecological Research” within the new framework programme “Research for Sustainable Development” (FONA³) stands for. The research projects focus on challenges such as the German energy transition (Energiewende), urban and rural development, climate mitigation and adaptation to climate change as well as a sustainable economic development.

Shaping the Energiewende

90 percent of Germans support the expansion of renewable energy such as wind energy, photovoltaic or biogas. When it comes to planning and building such facilities and power lines, a considerable resistance arises in the population. Why is that? Which conflicts arise in the implementation of the Energiewende and how they can be solved? How can politics, business and civil society contribute to the process? The projects funded by the German Research Ministry examine how citizens can become more strongly involved in understanding and taking an active role within the Energiewende process. This research views the German energy as a whole and seeks answers to such important issues as: Do we need a centralized or decentralized power supply? How can we save energy? How much does the transition of our energy supply cost and how it can be financed?

Sustaining our Quality of Life

Social-Ecological Research looks at new models that may contribute to a more sustainable economy. The great challenge is to maintain the economic competitiveness in Germany whilst providing a good quality of life for all citizens and conserving the environment. The research projects seek to develop solutions for politics, business and civil society. For example, how business models for sharing, borrowing and trading - sharing economy - can succeed. Another research project examines how our food can be produced and distributed in an environmentally way and how we as a consumer can recognize this process.

Enabling a Good Quality of Life in Urban Areas

Around the globe, rural areas are transforming into urban areas faster than ever before. Cities and rural areas must adapt to climate change, resource scarcity, new economic processes and changing societal and demographic structures of their population. Our aim is to permanently improve the urban quality of life. For this purpose, the urban environment, infrastructure and the economy must become more sustainable and resilient to crises. Citizens must be able to participate in the decision-making processes of their city and different cultures and social groups must be integrated.  The Federal Research Ministry supports projects that provide knowledge on these processes and suggest development paths: How can spatial planning instruments be used to promote sustainable urban development? How can citizens become more involved? How can traffic problems be solved? How can the consumption of land and energy be reduced?

Living with Climate Change

Climate change causes new challenges for society. We must deal with the consequences of climate change and learn to cope with them. On top of that, we need to change our lifestyles to reduce climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions. Changing our lifestyle includes our mode of transportation, our housing or our resource and energy consumption in the production of goods and our consumer behavior. Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Research promotes research on possible changes in human behavior towards a more climate-friendly behavior.