Rethinking cultural practices in viticulture: Strategizing for sustainability

Given the earth’s finite set of resources and unwavering resource consumption trends, steadily increasing pressures on biodiversity, land, and resource use are becoming increasingly problematic. Not immune to this, and in some ways especially related for its impact on and acute vulnerability to climate change effects, is the practice of viticulture and winemaking. Regional programs and national goal setting have already led to attempts to sustainability – but no structural change has taken place yet. In response to increasing societal unsustainability, the concept of a circular economy (CE) has emerged as one widely supported strategy in policy, research, and practice more generally. However, it is not yet fully understood how we can best strategize within complex and persistent environmental sustainability issues in viticulture and oenology. We are critical about the majority of sustainability initiatives in the wine field focusing on waste valorization and end-of-life solutions and propose that it is more appropriate to take a systems-thinking approach such as that inherent to circular economy. Based on our work, we found a lack of cultural support for and formation of transformative governance, with targets leaning more heavily into a “carbon reduction tunnel vision” than a holistic circular strategy. Applying a circular analysis tool, we identified seven cultural barriers that may act as obstacles to engaging with and accelerating the desired sustainability transition: sense of place, informal quality regulations, cultural entrenchment and deep path dependencies, generalization in databases, insufficient related CE research, language, and international optimization of current practices. Next in our analysis, we identified six potential strategies for removing barriers to successful adaptation to climate change. We also discuss the multitude of co-benefits to be had from a transition to a CE, from the individual winery level to international reach, which we would be very happy to present at TerClim2022.

Author: Rachel Greer

DRIFT – Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands

Email: greer@drift.eur.nl

Keywords: circular economy, environmental pressures, life-cycle approach, transformative governance, transition

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