With this year’s conference, the initiative “Growth in Transition” celebrates its 10th year of existence since it was set up by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability & Tourism as a platform for debate and critical discourse on issues such as sustainability, economic growth, prosperity and quality of life.
The conference featured theoretical inputs by well-known academics in the field, such as Kate Raworth and Tim Jackson and was attended by high-level politicians and individuals such as Ban Ki-moon, or Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission. The latter was handed over a ‘Call to Action’, a set of key messages and recommendations for policy on the issues covered at the conference.
The Austrian-German BLOOM hub seized the opportunity to engage critically thinking participants and embed the discussion on the bioeconomy within the conference. Therefore, the Ecosocial Forum teamed up with the Centre for Social Innovation, Vienna University of Economics and Business, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna and Wissenschaftsladen Bonn to organize the workshop “Bioeconomy – designed by all of us”. The outcome of this workshop will be used to shape future Co-Creation workshops of the hub.
At the beginning Prof. Rosemarie Stangl (Institute of Soil Bioengineering and Landscape Construction at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna) gave a brief input to have a common definition what the term ‘bioeconomy’ means. Afterwards participants were asked to give their estimate on future bioeconomy scenarios. While the emphasis were specific applications of the hub focus, participants were asked to discuss potential opportunities and risks that might arise in the implementation of the bioeconomy in Austria and Europe. Overall, participants presumed the bioeconomy to be more of an opportunity than as a risk, especially with regards to strengthening local economies, providing jobs in rural areas, using waste as a resource and – more generally – an economic and societal system with stronger orientation towards circularity.
With regards to its risks, several participants raised quite interesting aspects within the theme of the conference, linking bioeconomy to criticism of the growth-dependency of our economic system and its questionable role as an indicator for human prosperity. Some participants were intensively discussing about possible rebound effects in a post-fossil society and that the bioeconomy might contribute to an increased resource use, which – even though bio-based – continues to exceed the planet’s biophysical limits. Thus, this workshop has once again highlighted the indispensable need for participation in a bioeconomy implementation process to address inherent conflicts and limitations, in order to create a bioeconomy that serves humanity at large.