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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Evaluating sufficiency through the lens of human lens theory

Sufficiency is the concept that, rather than having society flooded with excess or withering in scarcity, a compromise between the two extremes is the most desirable state, where people have enough for a good life without unnecessary excess. This idea has been proposed as a means of addressing unsustainable consumer demands, particularly in affluent communities. However, obstacles to the adoption of sufficiency remain, one of which is the ambiguity and blurry boundaries of what is considered "enough” and this ambiguity has led to its underutilization due to the perception that sufficiency threatens to lower quality of life. As a result, three questions will be addressed in this dissertation: first, what are the various disciplinary understandings of "enough". Second, in what areas do sufficiency strategies in the housing, transportation, and food sectors affect human needs fulfilment? Finally, what are the barriers to sufficiency in those sectors? A deeper understanding of what "enough" entails for sufficiency is gained by conducting a literature review where the concept of “enough” was found to be expressed as a consumption space where an individual is said to have enough if they are able to curate a unique set of human needs satisfiers, whilst at the same time remain within a consumption space that respects equitable socioeconomic and biophysical boundaries that enables human flourishing over time. Based on this knowledge, Max-Neef’s Human Needs Matrix is used to conduct a critical analysis of prominent sufficiency strategies in the housing, transportation, and food sectors to identify enhancement and/or infringements upon the satisfaction of human needs. Enhancements in the areas of Subsistence, Protection, and Participation were identified along with infringements in Identity, Affection, and Leisure. Promisingly, cross-sectoral synergies were identified that could minimize infringements or further enhance improvements. Ultimately, future strategies to increase uptake of sufficiency must challenge and transform existing social paradigms and infrastructure for needs provision that shape behaviours. Cultivating future-oriented prosocial attitudes will also better enable individuals to value the interest of others, and that of greater society, making sufficiency more personally acceptable. Additionally, deepening discussions around human propensity for temporal discounting that impair long-term decision-making is key for engaging short-term profit-oriented businesses and policy makers on sufficiency practices.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.