This book was inspired by unease regarding the lack of progress we have made towards sustainable development,1 despite numerous activities carried out by government agencies, research laboratories, environmental organizations, neighbourhood councils and the like. It would be difficult indeed to defend that only little energy and thought has been dedicated to developing sustainable solutions. After all, we now have hybrid cars, e-government, Earth Days and Earth Summits, Ride Your Bike campaigns, photovoltaics and 6022 books on sustainable development in the US Library of Congress.2 In short: much has been done, but not much has been achieved. The United Nations’ General Assembly, in preparation for the Johannesburg summit Rio +10, enunciates the same impression much more eloquently:

This book is an invitation to imagine that the problem might not rest so much with the number of activities we undertake in the name of sustainable development but – at least also – with the type of activities. ‘A story of Asterix, not of Hercules’3

as Kemp (personal communication, 26 August, 2004) describes the transition to sustainability. This is the lesson I suggest can be learned from several notable cases in which communities achieved substantial advancements with respect to sustainability, cases that are described in this book. What I encountered were not successful attempts to devise vastly more efficient technologies, nor did I find increased sustainable behaviour due to resounding awareness campaigns. These two approaches could quite rightly have been expected. After all, they represent the two poles of a spectrum I found helpful in describing the current discourse on sustainable development. It reaches from technology orientated approaches to behaviour orientated approaches. Cognate vocabularies range from modern to antimodern, from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to eco-farming, from technophilic to sociophilic, from high-tech to back-to-the-roots. The technology orientated approach promises that smart technologies can take care of our unsustainabilities. Thus unencumbered, individuals would not have to change

their behaviour, at least not to make heroic choices.4 In contrast, advocates of the behaviour orientated approach respond that technology has proven too often to be a false promise. In this view, we should face the truth that heroic choices, such as the reduction of consumption, are unavoidable if we are to be serious about sustainability. Advocates of both camps claim to serve sustainability, which leaves not only the public in a conceptual babel, as depicted poignantly by Hellman in Figure 1.1. A more thorough explanation of these two positions is presented in Chapter 2.