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Chapter 3

A Social Learning Process

3.1 Introduction Transition towards sustainability will be a social learning process that will teach us, progressively, through mistakes and contradictions – like every other learning process – how to live better, consuming (a lot) less and how to recreate the physical and social ambient we live in. This phrase summarises effectively all that has been said in the previous chapters. In particular, this sentence claims that in order to avoid a social catastrophe, this transition has to be effectuated by positive choices, and the results of the transition have to be perceived as improvements in living conditions. The second chapter showed that new concepts of well-being have to be created and spread in order to secure such a possibility. The following chapter will focus instead on a parallel transformation that has to invest in the production–consumption system, where such ideas of well-being can take place, and in the role that the different social actors involved are supposed to play.

3.2 The Production–Consumption System The term production–consumption system refers to a complex social and technological system in which socio-culturally and economically available natural resources are transformed into a supply of products, services and public goods that responds – or at least is supposed to respond – to a demand of well-being in the given society. It is all a great interactive network among people (consumers/users), organisations (public institutions, private and social enterprises, civil society institutions) and territorial resources (natural and social capital, the input of production–consumption processes). In the face of this complexity it is natural to ask how the radical systemic changes that the transition towards sustainability requires will take place, and who 29

Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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