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Sustainability

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Adapting to the Coming Downshift

Energy supplies are tightening. Persistent pollutants are accumulating. Food security is declining. There is no going back to the days of reckless consumption, but there is a possibility--already being realized in communities across North America and around the world--of localizing, of living well as we learn to live well within immutable constraints. This book maps the transition to a more localized world.

Society is shifting from the centrifugal forces of globalization (cheap and abundant raw materials and energy, intensive commercialization, concentrated economic and political power) to the centripetal forces of localization: distributed authority and leadership, sustainable use of nearby natural resources, community self-reliance and cohesion (with crucial regional, national, and international dimensions).

This collection, offering classic texts by such writers as Wendell Berry, M. King Hubbert, and Ernst F. Schumacher, as well as new work by authors including Karen Litfin and David Hess, shows how localization--a process of affirmative social change--can enable psychologically meaningful and fulfilling lives while promoting ecological and social sustainability. Topics range from energy dynamics to philosophies of limits, from the governance of place-based communities to the discovery of positive personal engagement. Together they point the way to a transition that can be peaceful, democratic, just, and environmentally resilient.

Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability

Environmental issues often span long periods of time, far-flung areas, and labyrinthine layers of complexity. In Greening through IT, Bill Tomlinson investigates how the tools and techniques of information technology (IT) can help us tackle environmental problems at such vast scales. Tomlinson describes theoretical, technological, and social aspects of a growing interdisciplinary approach to sustainability, “Green IT,” offering both a human-centered framework for understanding Green IT systems and specific examples and case studies of Green IT in action.

Tomlinson descrobes many efforts toward sustainability supported by IT--from fishers in India who maximized the sales potential of their catch by coordinating their activities with mobile phones to the installation of smart meters that optimize electricity use in California households--and offers three detailed studies of specific research projects that he and his colleagues have undertaken: EcoRaft, an interactive museum exhibit to help children learn principles of restoration ecology; Trackulous, a set of web-based tools with which people can chart their own environmental behavior; and GreenScanner, an online system that provides access to environmental-impact reports about consumer products. Taken together, these examples illustrate the significant environmental benefits that innovations in information technology can enable.

The idea of “sustainability” has gone mainstream. Thanks to Prius-driving movie stars, it’s even hip. What began as a grassroots movement to promote responsible development has become a bullet point in corporate ecobranding strategies. In Hijacking Sustainability, Adrian Parr describes how this has happened: how the goals of an environmental movement came to be mediated by corporate interests, government, and the military. Parr argues that the more popular sustainable development becomes, the more commodified it becomes; the more mainstream culture embraces the sustainability movement’s concern over global warming and poverty, the more “sustainability culture” advances the profit-maximizing values of corporate capitalism. And the more issues of sustainability are aligned with those of national security, the more military values are conflated with the goals of sustainable development.

Parr looks closely at five examples of the hijacking of sustainability: corporate image-greening; Hollywood activism; gated communities; the greening of the White House; and the incongruous efforts to achieve a “sustainable” army. Parr then examines key challenges to sustainability--waste disposal, disaster relief and environmental refugees, slum development, and poverty.

Sustainability, Parr says, offers an alternative narrative of the collective good--an idea now compromised and endangered by corporate, military, and government interests.

Race, Class, and Sustainability

Popularized by such best-selling authors as Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Eric Schlosser, a growing food movement urges us to support sustainable agriculture by eating fresh food produced on local family farms. But many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have been systematically deprived of access to healthy and sustainable food. These communities have been actively prevented from producing their own food and often live in “food deserts” where fast food is more common than fresh food. Cultivating Food Justice describes their efforts to envision and create environmentally sustainable and socially just alternatives to the food system.
Bringing together insights from studies of environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, critical race theory, and food studies, Cultivating Food Justice highlights the ways race and class inequalities permeate the food system, from production to distribution to consumption. The studies offered in the book explore a range of important issues, including agricultural and land use policies that systematically disadvantage Native American, African American, Latino/a, and Asian American farmers and farmworkers; access problems in both urban and rural areas; efforts to create sustainable local food systems in low-income communities of color; and future directions for the food justice movement. These diverse accounts of the relationships among food, environmentalism, justice, race, and identity will help guide efforts to achieve a just and sustainable agriculture.

Nature, Technology, and the Sustainable City

When rain falls on the city, it creates urban runoff that cause flooding, erosion, and water pollution. Municipal engineers manage a complex network of technical and natural systems to treat and remove these temporary water flows from cities as quickly as possible. Urban runoff is frequently discussed in terms of technical expertise and environmental management, but it encompasses a multitude of such nontechnical issues as land use, quality of life, governance, aesthetics, and community identity, and is central to the larger debates on creating more sustainable and livable cities. In this book, Andrew Karvonen uses urban runoff as a lens to view the relationships among nature, technology, and society. Offering theoretical insights from urban environmental history, human geography, landscape and ecological planning, and science and technology studies as well as empirical evidence from case studies, Karvonen proposes a new relational politics of urban nature.
After describing the evolution of urban runoff practices, Karvonen analyzes the urban runoff activities in Austin and Seattle--two cities known for their highly contested public debates over runoff issues and exemplary stormwater management practices. The Austin case study highlights the tensions among urban development, property rights, land use planning, and citizen activism; the Seattle case study explores the city’s long-standing reputation for being in harmony with nature. Drawing on these accounts, Karvonen suggests a new relational politics of urban nature that is situated, inclusive, and action-oriented to address the tensions among nature, technology, and society.

The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples

Since 1900, more than 108,000 officially protected conservation areas have been established worldwide, largely at the urging of five international conservation organizations. About half of these areas were occupied or regularly used by indigenous peoples. Millions who had been living sustainably on their land for generations were displaced in the interests of conservation. In Conservation Refugees, Mark Dowie tells this story. This is a “good guy vs. good guy” story, Dowie writes; the indigenous peoples’ movement and conservation organizations have a vital common goal--to protect biological diversity--and could work effectively and powerfully together to protect the planet and preserve biological diversity. Yet for more than a hundred years, these two forces have been at odds. The result: thousands of unmanageable protected areas and native peoples reduced to poaching and trespassing on their ancestral lands or “assimilated” but permanently indentured on the lowest rungs of the money economy. Dowie begins with the story of Yosemite National Park, which by the turn of the twentieth century established a template for bitter encounters between native peoples and conservation. He then describes the experiences of other groups, ranging from the Ogiek and Maasai of eastern Africa and the Pygmies of Central Africa to the Karen of Thailand and the Adevasis of India. He also discusses such issues as differing definitions of “nature” and “wilderness,” the influence of the “BINGOs” (Big International NGOs, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy), the need for Western scientists to respect and honor traditional lifeways, and the need for native peoples to blend their traditional knowledge with the knowledge of modern ecology. When conservationists and native peoples acknowledge the interdependence of biodiversity conservation and cultural survival, Dowie writes, they can together create a new and much more effective paradigm for conservation.

An Integrated History and Future of People on Earth

Human history, as written traditionally, leaves out the important ecological and climate context of historical events. But the capability to integrate the history of human beings with the natural history of the Earth now exists, and we are finding that human-environmental systems are intimately linked in ways we are only beginning to appreciate. In Sustainability or Collapse?, researchers from a range of scholarly disciplines develop an integrated human and environmental history over millennial, centennial, and decadal time scales and make projections for the future. The contributors focus on the human-environment interactions that have shaped historical forces since ancient times and discuss such key methodological issues as data quality. Topics highlighted include the political ecology of the Mayans; the effect of climate on the Roman Empire; the "revolutionary weather" of El Niño from 1788 to 1795; twentieth-century social, economic, and political forces in environmental change; scenarios for the future; and the accuracy of such past forecasts as The Limits to Growth.

Consequences for the Global Environment

An environmentalist maps the hidden costs of overconsumption in a globalized world by tracing the environmental consequences of five commodities.

Humanity faces immense hurdles as it struggles to define the path toward a sustainable future. The multiple components of sustainability, all of which demand attention, make understanding the very concept of sustainability itself a challenge. Information about whether global agriculture can be made sustainable, for example, or calculations of the global need for water are useless unless we understand how these issues connect to each other and to other components of sustainability. In this book, experts engage in an extended dialogue concerning these linkages, arguing for a comprehensive view of sustainability. They emphasize the constraints imposed by the relationships among the components--for example, how the need for clean, easily accessible water intersects with the need for the energy required to provide it--and distinguish those constraints that may pose severe limitations on humanity’s future from those of less concern. The book also highlights areas for future research and debate.Linkages of Sustainability urges a transformation in the way we view sustainability--a transformation that is necessary if we are to plan responsibly for a more sustainable world.

Threats to Sustainability

The colossal human ecological footprint now threatens the sustainability of the entire planet. Scientists, policymakers, and other close observers know that any understanding of the causes of global environmental change is a function of understanding its human dimension--the range of human choices and actions that affect the environment. This book offers a state-of-the-art assessment of research on the human dimensions of global environmental change, describing how global threats to sustainability have come about, providing an interpretive framework for understanding environmental change, reviewing recent work in the social and ecological sciences, and discussing which paths for future advances in our knowledge may prove most promising. The chapters, by prominent North American and European authors, offer perspectives on population, consumption, land cover and use, institutional actions, and culture. They discuss such topics as risk, the new Structural Human Ecology approach to analyzing anthropogenic drivers of global environmental change, recent progress in understanding land use change, international environmental regimes, the concept of the commons, and the comparative vulnerability of societies around the world.ContributorsUlrich Beck, Thomas Dietz, Carlo C. Jaeger, Svein Jentoft, Jeanne X. Kasperson, Roger E. Kasperson, Bonnie J. McCay, Emilio F. Moran, Eugene A. Rosa, B. L. Turner II, Richard York, Oran R. Young

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