Consumption, Work, and Well-Being


The Great Transition development paradigm is rooted in three key values: human solidarity, quality of life, and ecological sensibility. These values proved a framework for analyzing the dimensions of a good life, not only in the future, but also in the contemporary world. A simple image—the well-being mandala—shows the unity of the key values and their relationship to basic human needs. Case studies conducted by Tellus Institute in such areas as solid waste management suggest how attentiveness to these values can help address issues of consumption and work today. Our theoretical work illuminates the nature of well-being and its paradoxical character, such as its failure to increase with income.


How do we assess progress toward a world based on solidarity, well-being, and ecological resilience? Tellus Institute has developed a Quality of Development Index as an explicit, quantitative index to track movement toward or away from a global development vision based on these values. Other more focused work provides a quantitative measure for sufficiency, an important aspect of sustainable consumption (e.g., see Quantifying Sufficiency).


Tellus is an active participant and sponsor of the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI), a network of scholars that aims to promote fresh thinking on broad questions of well-being. SCORAI has been effective in broadening the discourse on these issues, offering new insight and analysis to the larger Great Transition project. SCORAI has sponsored a number of conferences and meetings, including a colloquium series on theories of social change. As SCORAI expands from its initial base in North America to Europe, China, and beyond, opportunities for partnership are expanding, as well. The partnership with SCORAI also has spawned new nodes of international collaboration, such as a working group on post-automobile futures.