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Christian Dorninger
On the Sustainability of Human Niche Construction
This meeting takes place on 2 June 2022, 3.00 pm, Vienna time:


Topic description / abstract:


In my talk, I will explore the potential of the niche and niche construction concepts to analyse contemporary social-ecological phenomena and associated sustainability dilemma. It will consist of three main parts: In the first part, I will present insights from empirical and applied investigations of how contemporary human societies (nation states) interact with the natural environment through land and material use and how they manage to construct niches with the aid of non-renewable resources and teleconnections, i.e., the shifting of environmental burdens to far away places. I will lay special emphasis on issues of global justice and equality. The second part will present insights from a literature review on niches in different disciplines to get a systematic understanding of what niches are in different disciplines and how they work in different research fields. Results are analysed in a comparative manner and also from a social-ecological sustainability perspective. The third part will integrate findings from the previous two sections and discuss a new conception of social-ecological niche construction to investigate current sustainability problems from a new perspective and to possibly lay the ground for more social-ecological niche studies in the future.


Biographical note:

Christian Dorninger obtained his PhD from the Faculty of Sustainability at the Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany, and currently holds a PostDoc fellowship at the KLI and is also affiliated with the Institute of Social Ecology at BOKU University in Vienna. Christian has a background in social ecology, ecological economics, and sustainability science. His research interest lies in the interdisciplinary exploration of human-nature interactions across scales and the identification of sustainability issues therein. He applies different methodological approaches to study phenomena of production and consumption systems, land and material use, biophysical aspects of international trade and development, teleconnections and ecologically unequal exchange, as well as the sustainability transformation. At the KLI he explores the potential of the niche concept to better understand contemporary social-ecological phenomena, pathway dependencies and the possibility of sustainable niche construction.