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Living Well: Provisioning Systems for Sustainable Resource Use and Human Well-Being

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LIVEWELL (Living Well: Provisioning Systems for Sustainable Resource Use and Human Well-Being)

Reporting period: 2017-10-02 to 2019-10-01

The LIVEWELL project revolved around an innovative framework that integrates biophysical resource use, the social and physical provisioning systems that draw upon these resources, and the social outcomes that depend upon them (Figure 1). The rationale for the project was that a better understanding of provisioning systems can provide insight on how to achieve high levels of well-being at lower levels of resource consumption that are within planetary boundaries. There were three specific objectives:
(i) Assess trends in resource use and need satisfaction in quantitative terms, taking provisioning systems into account
(ii) Conduct case studies of provisioning systems
(iii) Develop alternative provisioning system scenarios
*WP1: Assess quantitative trends in resource use and need satisfaction*

The work carried out under this work package is described in two scientific journal articles and associated communication activities.

The first article, entitled “A good life for all within planetary boundaries”, was published in Nature Sustainability (February 2018, Using indicators designed to measure a ‘safe and just’ development space, our analysis quantified the resource use associated with meeting basic human needs, and compared this to downscaled planetary boundaries for over 150 nations. We found that no country meets basic needs for its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use (Figure 2). To communicate these results, I completed the development of an accompanying interactive website ( launched on the same day as the article was published. We also produced a press release that was sent to major news outlets, and promoted social media content. In addition, I wrote two feature articles for general audiences, and I presented the study results during a seminar at the University of Leeds (December 2017). To date, the website I developed has been visited by more than 50,000 people from 195 countries, and the study findings were reported in over 125 different publications, including the New York Times and Scientific American (see for a longer list of media coverage).

The second journal article, entitled “The Wellbeing–Consumption paradox: Happiness, health, income, and carbon emissions in growing versus non-growing economies”, was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production (March 2019, We investigated how wellbeing and consumption change over time across growing and non-growing economies. We analysed two wellbeing indicators (life satisfaction and life expectancy), and two consumption indicators (GDP per capita and carbon footprint) for close to 120 countries over the 2005–2015 period. We found no relationship between changes in per capita consumption and health, irrespective of whether GDP or carbon footprint is growing or not (Figure 3, bottom panels). However, countries with declining per capita consumption do have significant reductions in average happiness (Figure 3, top panels). These findings have profound implications for climate policies: if the 2⁰ C target is to be met without a decline in wellbeing, then either decoupling must be vastly improved, or happiness levels must be made less sensitive to declining consumption. To communicate these results, I developed an accompanying webpage that showcases the results using animated and interactive data visualisations ( To date, the dedicated webpage for these time series results has been visited by more than 7,000 people.

*WP2: Conduct case studies of provisioning systems*

The work carried out under this work package is described in one scientific journal article and associated communication activities. The journal article is currently undergoing revision in a leading journal (in response to favourable reviewer comments). The analysis defines a provisioning system as a set of related elements that work together in the transformation of resources to satisfy a foreseen human need. We used the “safe and just space” framework as a unifying concept to align institutional, technical, and cultural elements that explain why some provisioning systems may be more resource-efficient than others across societies. We identified a set of four analytic tools to better understand the obstacles to transforming provisioning systems, and proposed a general approach to apply these tools. I presented the findings at an academic conference (July 2019), and also held a workshop to evaluate a list of theories that was attended by 18 academics working in the broad field of sustainability science with diverse backgrounds that span the natural and social sciences (November 2018).

*WP3: Develop alternative provisioning system scenarios*

The work carried out under this work package is described in one journal article and associated communication activities. The journal article is in the final stages of preparation for submission to a high-impact journal in the Nature Publishing Group. We analysed indicators for more than 140 countries over nearly 50 years (1970–2015), in order to explore the trade-offs between social and environmental outcomes within the context of planetary boundaries (in general, as countries have been more socially sustainable, they have become less environmentally sustainable). Disturbingly, the analysis found that no country during this time period has been able to provide even basic needs for its citizens at a sustainable level of resource use. We also constructed future scenarios that explore relationships between basic needs provision and resource use out to 2050, and found that the goal of achieving a good life for all people within planetary boundaries will require massive decoupling of resource use from social outcomes (by 50–95%, depending on the indicator). These findings address a significant knowledge gap in sustainability science. When the analysis is published, a number of major communication activities are planned, including the creation of a web-based “Historical Data and Scenario Explorer”, country-specific factsheets for policy-makers, general interest articles, and promoted social media content.

*Enhancing the career prospects of the MSCA research Fellow*

My Career Development Plan was discussed during a meeting with the project Supervisor, and Advisory Panel shortly after the project began (November 2017). I met formally with the Advisory Panel every 6 months to assess the Career Development Plan as the project progressed. These meetings were a very valuable stock-taking and planning exercise. I met regularly with my Supervisor to discuss project activities (at least once a month, but often more frequently). I also gained valuable experience implementing a medium-sized project, including leadership skills.
The LIVEWELL project results have generated substantial media attention and interest from UK and EU policy-makers. To increase the impact of the project, we have applied for two “impact acceleration” grants to continue to disseminate the results of the LIVEWELL project, one of which has already been awarded. We are working with four non-academic project partners to translate the LIVEWELL project results into easily accessible tools and materials for policy-makers and the wider public.