Just Environments : Politicising Sustainable Urban Development
Sammanfattning: European cities are becoming increasingly multicultural and diverse in terms of lifestyles and socioeconomic conditions. However, in planning for sustainable urban development, implications of this increased diversity and possibly conflicting perspectives are seldom considered. The aim of this thesis is to explore dimensions of justice and politics in sustainable urban development by studying inclusionary/exclusionary effects of discursive power of official strategies for eco-friendly living on the one hand and everyday lifestyles on the other, in ethnically and socially diverse areas. Two case studies have been conducted, one in a city district of Stockholm, Sweden, and one in an area of Sheffield, England. The empirical material consists of interviews with residents, interviews with planners and officials and an analysis of strategic planning documents. The case study in Stockholm illustrated the prevalence of a dominant discourse among residents in which Swedishness is connected with environmental responsibility in the form of tidiness, recycling and familiarity with nature. In Sheffield there are more competing and parallel environmental discourses. The mainstream British environmental discourse and sustainability strategies are being criticised from Muslim as well as green radical perspectives. The mainstream discourse is criticised for being tokenistic in its focus on gardening, tidiness, recycling and eco-consumption, and hence ignoring deeper unsustainable societal structures. This can be interpreted as a postpolitical condition, in which there is a consensus around “what needs to be done,” such as more recycling, but in which difficult societal problems and conflicting perspectives on these are not highlighted. In the thesis it is argued that the strategies for urban sustainability are underpinned by Swedish/British middle-class norms, entailing processes of (self-)disciplining and normalisation of the Other into well-behaving citizens. It is argued that an appreciation of the multiple and others’ ways of saving natural resources would make the sustainability strategies more attuned to social and cultural diversity as well as more environmentally progressive. Finally, the importance of asserting the political in sustainability strategies is stressed, highlighting the organisation of society and possible alternative socioenvironmental futures.
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