The aim of the Ecocultures programme is to synthesise the best current understanding of what it means to be a ‘sustainable community’, how sustainable communities maintain social-ecological resilience, and how we can transfer lessons from these communities to improve  ‘mainstream’ policy and practice.

The programme was founded from the University of EssexGlobal Challenges’ fund in late 2009. Led by Prof. Steffen Böhm, it draws on the skills of researchers across 7 University departments – the School of Biological Sciences, the Essex Business School, and the departments of Economics, Government, Human Rights and Law, Sociology and Psychology. The programme also draws on the contributions from researchers, activists and community leaders from around the world who are engaged in learning and practicing sustainability at community scale. For more on Ecocultures researchers and their contributions, please see our ‘People’ and ‘Publications’ pages.

Why Ecocultures? Ecocultures are living exemplars of sustainability resilience and high social and ecological wellbeing. There is a wide consensus that the world faces a ‘perfect storm’ of economic instability, resource degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change. Navigating and addressing these challenges will require significant psychological, social, economic, cultural and even spiritual change amongst individuals, communities and nations. We will all need to adapt to the changes imposed by the ‘anthropocene’. Effective and lasting solutions will be those which address our multiple challenges whilst enhancing our quality of life and our ability to cope with future change.

In short, current conditions force us to re-evaluate the structure and functioning of our social-ecological system and find better, more sustainable ways of living. Ecocultures provide us with a diverse set of blueprints showing how.

Ecocultures research investigates existing communities or cultures which have implicitly chosen pathways towards resilience and sustainability. These communities demonstrate a distinctive awareness of the strong linkages between social and ecological systems and manage these links to maintain sustainability, resilience and wellbeing. Despite the prevailing gloom about global prospects, these communities are living in ways that build natural, social and human capital, maintain well-being and happiness, and contribute to the sustainable use of resource as a result of various projects, programmes and cultures.