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Dorninger Christian | Fellow Postdoctoral
2020-01-15 - 2022-06-30 | Research area: Sustainability Research
Human Niche Construction in the Anthropocene: From Taming Nature to Taming Growth?

The global sustainability crisis has been described as a result of the uniquely human form of adaptability and niche construction. Humanity has evolved to become a driving force of global environmental change and influences a substantial and growing part of natural ecosystem interactions and energy flows. At the same time, human distance to nature increased remarkably during the last decades due to processes of globalization and urbanization. The increasing biophysical disconnect between humans and nature effectively works to circumvent limitations and self-constraining feedbacks of natural cycles, which is a crucial feature of niche construction. In this project, I explore how increasing forms of human-nature disconnections can be grasped as a form of human niche construction where cultural innovations are set to circumvent self-constraining feedbacks by a temporal avoidance of direct consequences from the environment. However, the progressive industrial human niche construction ultimately threatens the very existence of future generations and of other species. Applying a niche construction perspective on modern human-nature disconnections has the potential to yield in truly new research insights which might help us to guide human-nature coevolution on a much more sustainable pathway.

Selected publication:

Christian Dorninger, Alf Hornborg, David J. Abson, Henrik von Wehrden, Anke Schaffartzik, Stefan Giljum, John-Oliver Engler, Robert L. Feller, Klaus Hubacek, Hanspeter Wieland (2020): Global patterns of ecologically unequal exchange: Implications for sustainability in the 21st century. Ecological Economics 179, 106824.