Friday, September 7, 2007

Agyeman, Chapter 3 – Just Sustainability In Theory

Agyeman’s views and conclusions push for a view of the whole system. He emphasizes a global view, of economics, resources, ideas, and policies. His views seem to complement those in The Key to Sustainable Cities, in that by looking at the community as a whole, we are able to see all of the interactions within the system and evaluate its capacity to meet all of our needs. He also advocates for the improvement of social networks (democracy, inclusiveness, empowerment, responsibility), equitable resource distribution, economic security, and, ultimately, human and environmental health – all of which are described in the Key’s Community Systems Dynamics discussion.

Overall, I felt that Agyeman’s writing would have been much clearer had he written out his abbreviations more often, and used footnotes rather than citing every author, date, page, and conference in his paragraphs – which required the reader to navigate a sea of parenthesis to follow a sentence. I also wish he had expanded a bit on his discussion of cited authors’ equation of “ecological” with “nonhuman.” The widespread idea of humans as being something other than nature, something outside of it, and often as having a managerial or stewardship role (which is perhaps exploited), plays an important role in our use of resources and in shaping the discourse that surrounds environmental policy.

Agyeman sees the “just sustainability” paradigm (JSP) as a bridge between the current environmental sustainability paradigm (NEP) and the environmental justice paradigm (EJP). He defines JSP as including the consideration of both present and future generations, quality of life, the concept of justice and equity, and living within ecosystem limits. He attributes the NEP-EJP divide to the paradigms’ origin and history, demographic differences, reluctance toward engagement, and individual vs. communitarian approaches. The author describes the divide between the rich, Northern, environment-based “green” agenda – focused on ecological sustainability (No Humanity Without Nature), and the poor, Southern, equity-based, “brown” agenda – focused on environmental health (No Nature without Social Justice). Agyeman brings up the Earth Charter, which is discussed at length in Chapter 6 of The Key to Sustainable Cities - “Envisioning a Beautiful World,” and emphasizes its focus on a global partnership and universal responsibility. Agyeman states that we simply require open discussion and a fusion of the movements, enabling the creation of proactive and progressive policies, a “new economics,” and local to global thinking.