An Ecosocial Approach to Well-Being: A Solution to the Wicked Problems in the Era of Anthropocene

Arto O. Salonen, Jyrki Konkka


Modern Western states have a history of the thinking tradition, where the development of human societies is seen as independent from ecological constraints. Our thinking is a social construction, a product of the human mind. It can be changed. In this article we describe a new approach to well-being called an Ecosocial Approach to Well-Being (EAW). It is a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to well-being that will facilitate the analysis and management of the world’s complexity from a socio-ecological perspective. The EAW is based on the fact that without the well-functioning biosphere there can be no society and without a society there can be no societal functions, including an economy. Fundamentally all wicked problems in the era of Anthropocene are global and have social and environmental backgrounds. A more holistic and multi-disciplinary systems thinking is needed to analyze and manage the causal complexity of the world in which we live. The EAW asks us to focus on post-material values because they are only loosely coupled with resource consumption. On the finite planet that is the question of what is enough and what is good for us. The EAW leads us maximizing psychological well-being and nurturing social harmony and cohesion. The EAW holds promise not only for solving social and ecological problems but also for helping people to be happier. It emphasizes human relationships and the meaningfulness of people’s unique lives. If people properly reflected on their values, especially what is ultimately good for those they care about, most of the wicked problems would be resolved.

How to reference this article

Salonen, A. O., & Konkka, J. (2015). An Ecosocial Approach to Well-Being: A Solution to the Wicked Problems in the Era of AnthropoceneForo de Educación, 13(19), 19-34. doi:

Palabras clave

sostenibilidad; enfoque ecosocial del bienestar; cambio climático; bienestar psicológico; felicidad; desarrollo sostenible; Antropoceno; valores post-materiales

Texto completo:

PDF (English)


Adger, N. (2000). Social and ecological resilience: are they related. Progress in Human Geography, 24(3), pp. 347-364.

Aknin, L., Hamlin, J., & Dunn, E. (2012). Giving leads to happiness in young children. PLoS ONE, 7(6), e39211.

Alkire, S. (2002). Dimensions of Human Development. World Development, 30(2), 181-205.

Allardt, E. (1976). Dimensions of welfare in a Comparative Scandinavian Study. Acta. Sociology, 19, pp. 227-239.

Bartolini, S. (2014). Buying alone: how the decreasing American happiness turned into the current economic crisis. In Hämäläinen, T. and Michaelson, J. (Eds.), Well-being and Beyond – Broadening the Public and Policy Discourse (pp. 144-181). Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Boyle, D., Cordon, C., & Potts, R. (2008). Are you happy? New economics past, present and future. London: The New Economics Foundation.

Costanza, R. (2014). A Virtual Visit to a Sustainable 2050. In Costanza, R. and Kubiszewski, I. (Eds.), Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future (pp. 73-84). London: World Scientific.

Crutzen, P. (2002). The effects of industrial and agricultural practices on atmospheric chemistry and climate during the Anthropocene. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A, 37, pp. 423-424.

Darwall, S. (2002). Welfare and Rational Care. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Di Giulio, A., Fischer, D., Schäfer, M., & Blätter-Mink, B. (2014). Conceptualizing sustainable consumption: toward ad integrative framework. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy, 10(1), pp. 45-61.

Diener, E., & Seligman, M. (2004). Beyond Money. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5(1), pp. 1-31.

EEA (2013). Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation. Summary. Volume II. EEA Report No. 1. European Environment Agency. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Ehrlich, P., & Ehrlich, A. (2004). One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future. Washington DC: Island Press.

Ehrlich, P., & Ehrlich, A. (2013). Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided? Proceeding of the Royal Society, 280(1754), pp. 1-10.

Elliot, C. (2003). Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Foot, P. (2001). Natural Goodness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fuentes-Nieva, R., & Galasso, N. (2014). Working for the few. Political capture and economic inequality. Oxford: Oxfam International.

Frank, T. (1997). The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gert, B. (2004). Common morality. Deciding what to do? New York: Oxford University.

Ginsborg, P. (2005). The Politics of Everyday Life. Making Choices Changing Lives. London: Yale University Press.

Graeber, D. (2011). Debt. The First 5000 Years. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House.

Graham, C. (2011). The pursuit of happiness. An economy of well-being. Washington: Brookings Institution Press.

Haque, U. (2011). Betterness: Economics for Humans. Harvard: Harvard Business Press.

Haybron, D. (2008). The Pursuit of Unhappiness - The Elusive Psychology of Well-Being. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haybron, D. (2013). Happiness - A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Helliwell, J., & Barrington-Leigh, C. (2011). How much is social capital worth? In Jetten, J., Haslam, C. & Haslam, S. (Eds.), The Social Cure (pp. 55-71). London: Psychology Press.

Helliwell, J. (2014). Social norms, happiness, and the environment: closing the circle. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy, 10(1), pp. 78-84.

Hirvilammi, T., & Helne, T. (2014). Changing Paradigms: A Sketch for Sustainable Well- being and Ecosocial Policy. Sustainability, 6(4), pp. 2160-2175.

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind. Intercultural Cooperation and its Importance for Survival. London: McGraw–Hill.

Howell, L. (2013). Global Risks 2013. Eighth Edition. An Initiative of the Risk Response Network. World Economic Forum.

Hurka, T. (1993). Perfectionism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Inglehart, R. (1977). The silent revolution, Changing values and political styles among the Western Public. Princeton: Princeton University.

Inglehart, R. (2008). Changing Values among Western Publics from 1970 to 2006. West European Politics, 31(1-2), pp. 130-146.

Jackson, T. (2009). Prosperity without growth. Economics for a finite planet. London: Earthscan.

Kahneman, D., Krueger, A., Schkade, D., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. (2006). Would you be happier if you were richer? A focusing illusion. Science, 312(5782), pp. 1908-1910.

Kasser, T. (2002). The High Price of Materialism. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Kasser, T. (2011a). Cultural values and the well-being of future generations: a cross-national study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(2), pp. 206-215.

Kasser, T. (2011b). Ecological challenges, materialistic values, and social change. In Biswas–Diener, R. (Ed.), Positive Psychology as Social Change (pp. 89-108). Dordrecht: Springer.

Kasser, T. (2014). A Values–Based Set of Solutions for the Next Generation. In Costanza, R. & Kubiszewski, I. (Eds.), Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future (pp. 331-340). London: World Scientific.

Kraut, R. (2007). What is Good and Why - The Ethics of Well-Being. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Layard, R. (2006). Happiness and Public Policy: A Challenge to the Profession. The Economic Journal, 116(510), pp. 24-33.

Marglin, S. (2008). The Dismal Science. How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community. London: Harvard University.

Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Maslow, A. (1960). Toward a Psychology of Being. Blacksburg: Wilder Publications.

Maslow, A. H. (1962). Towards a psychology of being. Princeton: Van Nostrand Company.

Max-Neef, M. (2010). The World on a Collision Course and the Need for a New Economy. Ambio, 39(3), pp. 200-210.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Living beyond our means: natural assets and human well-being. Statement from the Board. Retrieved from

Munasinghe, M. (2014). Millennium Consumption Goals MCGs. at Rio+20: A Practical Step Toward Global Sustainability. In Costanza, R. & Kubiszewski, I. (Eds.), Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future (pp. 255-262). London: World Scientific.

Nevarez, L. (2011). Pursuing Quality of Life. From the Affluent Society to the Consumer Society. New York: Routledge.

Norton, B. (2005). Sustainability: A philosophy of adaptive ecosystem management. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Pattberg, P. (2007). Conquest, Domination and Control: Europe’s Mastery of Nature in Historic Perspective. Journal of Political Ecologies, 14(4), pp. 1-9.

Peeters, J. (2012). The place of social work in sustainable development: Towards ecosocial practice. International Journal of Social Welfare, 21(3), pp. 287-298.

Quoidbach, J., Dunn, E., Petrides, K. V., & Mikolajczak, M. (2010). Money Giveth, Money Taketh Away: The Dual Effect of Wealth on Happiness. Psychological Science, 21(6), pp. 759-763.

Raibley, J. (2012). Health and Well-Being. Philosophical Studies, 165(2), pp. 469-489.

Randers, J. (2012). 2052 – A global forecast for the next forty years. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Rees, W. (2014). The Way Forward: Survival 2100. In Costanza, R. & Kubiszewski, I. (Eds.), Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future (pp. 191-200). London: World Scientific.

Rockström, J., Steffem, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., Chapin, S., Lambin, E., Lenton, T., Scheffer, M., Folke, C., Schellnhuber, H., Nykvist, B., de Wit, C., Hughes, T., van der Leeuw, S., Rodhe, H., Sörlin, S., Snyder, P., Costanza, R., Svedin, U., Falkenmark, M., Karlberg, L., Corell, R., Fabry, V., Hansen, J., Walker, B., Liverman, D., Richardson, K., Crutzen, P., & Foley, J. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461, pp. 472-475.

Sachs, J. (2008). Common Wealth. Economics for a Crowded Planet. New York: Penguin Press.

Sachs, W., & Santarius T. (Eds.). (2007). Fair Future. Resource conflicts, security & global justice. London: Zed Books.

Salonen, A., & Åhlberg, M. (2013). Towards sustainable society – From materialism to post-materialism. International Journal of Sustainable Society, 5(4), pp. 374-393.

Schwartz, S. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 25(1), pp. 1-65.

Schwartz, S. (2006). Basic Human Values: Theory, Measurement, and Applications. Revue francaise de sociologue, 47(4), pp. 929-968.

Schwartz, S., & Bilsky, W. (1987). Toward Universal Psychological Structure of Human Values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(3), pp. 550-562.

Shen, F. (2015). Beijing to Shut All Major Coal Power Plants to Cut Pollution. BloombergBusiness. Retrieved from

Speth, J. (2014). A Vision of America the Possible. In Costanza, R. & Kubiszewski, I. (Eds.), Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future (pp. 185-188). London: World Scientific.

Stiglitz, J. (2015). The Great Divide. London: Penquin Random House.

Stiglitz, J., Sen A., & Fitoussi, J–P. (2009). The Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress Revisited. Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Retrieved from

Sumner, L. W. (1996). Welfare, Happiness and Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Royal Society (2012). People and the planet. The Royal Society. Science Policy Centre Report 01/12. London: The Royal Society. Retrieved from–planet/report/

The Values Revolution (2015). GT Values Revolution Report. London: Global Tolerance. Retrieved from

Tiberius, V. (2008). The Reflective Life - Living Wisely With Our Limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tiberius, V. (2014). Beyond the Experience Machine: How to Build a Theory of Well-Being. In Haug, M. (Ed.), Philosophical Methodology: The Armchair or the Laboratory? (pp. 398-415). London: Routledge.

UNDP (2011). Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. New York: United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved from

Vasquez, G. (2005). Nurturance in the Andes. In Bowers, C.A. & Apffel– Marglin, F. (Eds.), Rethinking Freire. Globalization and the Environmental Crisis (pp. 31-47). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Warneken, F., & Tomasello, M. (2009). The roots of human altruism. British Journal of Psychology, 100(3), pp. 455-471.

World Bank. (2012). Turn Down the Heat. A Report for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics. Retrieved from

Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2010). The spirit level. Why equality is better for everyone. London: Penquin.

Williams, M., Zalasiewicz, J., Haff, PK., Schwägerl, C., Barnosky, A., & Ellis, E. (2015). The Anthropocene biosphere. The Anthropocene Biosphere. doi: 10.1177/2053019615591020

Zaki, J., & Mitchell, J. (2011). Equitable decision-making is associated with neural markers of intrinsic value. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(49), pp. 19761-19766.


Enlaces refback

  • No hay ningún enlace refback.

e-ISSN: 1698-7802

DOI prefix: 10.14516/fde


FahrenHouse: Salamanca, España 

Licencia de Creative Commons
Este obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial 3.0 España.