Shorelines of adaptation and fields of innovation Emerging sustainability transformations in sea-level rise planning and the food system

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: This licentiate thesis builds on the understanding that there is an urgent need for radical and systemic transformations towards sustainability in all parts of society, since current socio-ecological relations are highly unsustainable. The aim of the thesis is to explore emerging societal transformations towards strengthened sustainability through case studies within planning for sea-level rise and the food system, respectively.A warmer climate leads to rising sea levels. Although it is uncertain how fast sea levels will rise, and by how much, preparing and adapting to sea-level rise is crucial for society. The global food system is profoundly unsustainable and in need of transformations to sustainability. This thesis links two separate studies, one examining the state of planning for future sea-level rise in Swedish municipalities, the other exploring to what extent organic food initiatives can push the dominant food system in the direction of sustainability transformations. In both studies, the main methods used are qualitative interviews and document surveys.The results show that transformational change towards sustainability builds on different strategies in different fields. Whereas in planning for sea-level rise the emphasis lies on handling and adapting to one of the main impacts of climate change, rising sea levels, under conditions of uncertainty, the focus within food systems change directed at sustainability lies on creating sustainable alternatives that can challenge the dominant food regime. However, in both fields there is a need for moving from a currently dominant regime or paradigm to one characterized by sustainability and dynamic robustness, respectively. This requires a shift in understanding of socio-ecological relations, in turn connected to values and politics.Key recommendations from this thesis include that planning for sea-level rise should be guided by dynamically robust planning approaches, worst-case scenarios for future sea-level rise should be taken into account, a long-term perspective should be considered, and a national strategy for sea-level rise planning in Sweden should be developed. To strengthen the sustainability of the food system, a variety of organic food initiatives, methods and models should be encouraged, organic food initiatives should persistently strive to build niches and alliances departing from Organic 3.0 values, and as sustainability transformations require radical and systemic changes in values, governance, social practices, policies and economic structures, food systems change should be aimed accordingly.