Melissa leach

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  • 1. Pathways to Sustainability:Agendas for a new politics of environment, development and social justice
    ESRC STEPS Centre Conference
    September 23-24 2010
  • 2. Pathways to Sustainability:The STEPS Centres Approach
    Melissa Leach
    Pathways to Sustainability Conference
    September 23 2010
  • 3. Environmental challenges
    Rapid environmental change
    Complex dynamics
    Interlocked crises and perfect storms? (Beddington 2009)
    Scientific, policy and public concern and politicisation
    A new climate for society (and social science)? (Jasanoff 2010)
  • 4. In a (more) unequal world
    Social, economic and political change mobility and interconnection (at least for some), instabilities
    New complexion to core development challenges
    Poverty, inequity, (in)justice
    Shifting geographies of power and privilege, emergent social hierarchies
    Shifting governance landscapes
  • 5. How might pathways to sustainability that link environmental integrity with social justice be conceptualised and built in a complex, dynamic world?
  • 6. A timely moment?
    UNCED 1992 a landmark for environmental policy and politics
    (Convention processes, Agenda 21) and environmental social science
    Rio Plus 20 Earth Summit social science ideas, concepts, agendas,
    engagements?
    green economy, institutional framework for sustainable development
  • 7. Presentation
    The STEPS Centres pathways approach
    Themes for the conference
    Unresolved tensions, areas for discussion
  • 8. Contradictions
    Growing recognition of complexity and dynamism intercoupled social, ecological, technological systems; non-linear, cross-scale dynamics; uncertainties
    Growing recognition of diverse knowledges and ways of knowing, values, perspectives, priorities
    Growing search for technical-managerial solutions premised on a far more static, consensual view of the world solvable problems, achievable stability, controllable risks
    A mismatch - cycles of failure as dynamics undermine assumptions of stability; emerging backlashes from nature, politics; mires of disagreement; those who are already vulnerable and marginal often lose out
  • 9. Sustainability
    A contested term with a history
    From 1712 forestry usage to wider currency in the 1980s
    Linking of environmental questions to mainstream issues of economy and development: Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland 1987)
    Vibrant, committed debate at and around Rio 1992: economics and political science, broad and narrow, strong and weak, top-down and community-defined. Technical meanings co-constructed with different visions for how sustainability should be achieved
    Through 1990s, growth in planning approaches, frameworks, measurement indicators, audit systems, evaluation protocols managerialism and bureaucratisation
    Discrediting of sustainability? (empty rhetoric, failure of managerialism, conservatism, inadequacy of institutional and policy machinery)
    Yet sustainability is the keyword for Rio plus 20 amidst complex environment-development challenges more of the same?
  • 10. Towards a normative, politicised perspective on sustainability
    Beyond generalised, colloquial notions (maintenance of system properties in a general sense)
    Beyond broad and static normative connotations of Brundtland focused on notions of (poor peoples) needs and environmental limits
    To address specified qualities of human wellbeing, social equity and environmental integrity as they relate to dynamic environments
    Normative concern with those properties that assist reductions in poverty and social injustice as defined by/for particular people, contexts and settings
    Multiple, contested sustainabilities to be defined and deliberated for particular issues and groups
    E.g. African seed systems amidst climate-change related drought sustainability in relation to national food security? Livelihoods of dryland farmers? Womens or mens crop varieties and control?
    Sustainability as a discursive resource to facilitate argument and action about diverse pathways to different futures
  • 11. A systems perspective
    environment
    System:
    Social, institutional,
    ecological and
    technological
    elements interacting
    In dynamic ways
    system
  • 12. Integrating knowledge and values: Framing
    Dimensions of framing
    - Scale
    - Boundaries
    - Key elements and relationships
    - Dynamics in play
    • Outputs
    • 13. - Perspectives
    • 14. - Interests
    • 15. - Goals
    • 16. Values
    • 17. - Notions of relevant experience
    Framings: Different ways of understanding or representing a system
    and its relevant environment
  • 18. Narratives
    Framings often become part of narratives underlying storylines
    Produced by people and institutions
    Beginning a system, framed
    Imaginary - futures desired or feared (what ideas, possibilities, values, goals?)
    Middle a set of envisaged actions
    Construction of publics who will act, who will change their behaviour, respond
    End catastrophe averted, outcome achieved, sustainability enhanced
  • 19. Creating narratives: Practices
    stating goals highlighting values assigning cause
    setting agendas defining problems characterising options
    posing questions prioritizing issues formulating criteria
    deciding context setting baselines drawing boundaries
    discounting time choosing methods including disciplines
    handling uncertainties recruiting expertise commissioning research
    constituting proof exploring sensitivities interpreting results
  • 20. Narrative examples
    Energy and climate:
    The challenges of dealing with climate change and energy security can only be dealt with through large scale, centralized systems like carbon capture and new nuclear build
    Appropriate reductions in carbon emissions are achievable by small scale, distributed innovations in technology, institutions and user behaviour, such as in smart grids, efficient use and micro-generation.
    Food (e.g. East Africa):
    Growing food deficits require massive boosts to agricultural productivity modern plant breeding and genetic engineering can deliver solutions which need to be rolled out at scale
    Food insecurities are diverse and shaped by ecological, market, social and institutional contexts, requiring socio-technical solutions in which farmer knowledge and local innovations have central roles to play
  • 21. Water (e.g. dryland India):
    Major water scarcities are developing and undermining economic development; therefore the construction of large dams and investment in the infrastructure for water delivery must take place
    Water scarcities are often human induced by the greed and mismanagement of elites; for farmers and pastoralists maintaining livelihoods amidst uncertainties must be central, and can draw on local knowledge and historically-embedded practices