Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Green idealists - valuable innovators?

26.04.2006


New research shows how radical activists have triggered innovations that are helping move the UK in a more sustainable direction. Long seen as the bane of rational economic progress, these devotees to a greener lifestyle turn out to have been a key source of ideas that have seeded new industries in areas such as food, housing and energy. Rather than dismissing activists as hopelessly idealistic, mainstream business and policy should recognise how they create a diversity of options for sustainability, and improve their own capacities to learn from them.



The study, carried out at the University of Sussex and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), clearly shows the value of “green niche” initiatives in influencing mainstream activities. The study examined three radical niches; wind energy, organic food and eco-housing. In each case, the activists’ original ideas went far beyond what actually became mainstream. Yet the role of the niche ideas in providing solutions for ‘newly’ perceived problems within the mainstream should not be under-estimated.

The report’s author, Dr Adrian Smith, said: ‘Activists often struggle to keep projects going and fail to produce the radical transformations they originally envisaged. This lack of breakthrough inclines them (and others) to under-estimate the effect of their ideas. But we found that although their influence is more subtle and beyond their control, it is still hugely significant in many cases’.


In the case of wind power, activists kept the idea of wind power alive during its wilderness years in the 1970s and 1980s when it was ignored or actively opposed by those involved in mainstream power provision. The idealists envisaged small-scale off-grid autonomous systems that were community owned. The mainstream appropriation of wind power has resulted in large wind farms connected both to the grid and to the commercial market.

In food production, niche thinking demanded sustainable local food economies based around organic farming. These ideas were transformed into an organic food industry, when mainstream farmers, food processors, and large retailers perceived the potential commercial advantage of going green, but not to the extent envisaged by activists in the organic movement.

Niche ideas in housing around environmentally friendly, reclaimable materials, autonomous buildings and self-build in small communities, have also had an influence. Here policy and regulatory pressures have directed mainstream builders towards green building ideas pioneered by activists.

Dr Smith said: ‘The fact is that elements of radical niche thinking do get adopted and incorporated. Radical green niches create diversity for when the mainstream runs into trouble, as it is at the moment over climate change. Whilst not all of the idealists’ ideas turn out to be a model for wider changes in the short term, they are important sources of innovation. And as the mainstream moves, activists re-radicalise, adapt to the new mainstream, and seek to shift it on again.’

Alexandra Saxon | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/ViewAwardPage.aspx?AwardId=2268

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>