The Eco-Gost in the Machine : Reflexions on Space, Place and Time in Environmental Geography

Sammanfattning: The objective of this thesis is to propose a way to introduce social and cultural aspects of environmental degradation to the sustainable development debate. This is done by a reflexive and critical examination of environmental research as it has been applied to different spatial levels (and thus levels of social complexity). The spatial categories discussed are the city, the household and the landscape. The central argument is that processes of consumption can be fruitfully regarded as a medium for interactions between spheres of culture and nature. By taking the individual, social and cultural significance of consumption into account, we gain a theoretical tool for understanding the complexity of contemporary environmental problems and why it is, and will be, problematic to realise pro-environmental measures. Part one of the thesis address the interface between natural and social sciences referred to as urban ecology. The focus is on a number of general environmental problems where the urban system is percieved to be primary causative agent. It is argued that the city is an inappropiate organisational unit to manipulate - mentally and physically - in order to come to terms with environmental problems and demands for a sustainable development. Part two expands on the household in an environmental context as an attempt to establish a connection between everyday life and anthropogenic impact on the environment. The discussion revolves around the material conditions of everyday life and the socio-cultural and physical rationale behind material accumulation and individual mobility. Part three contrasts landscapes of consumption with landscapes of sustainability with the aim to explain the necessity of grouping schemes for ecological sustainability on contemporary socio-cultural realities. The general conclusion is that we should abandon global, totalising and naive formulations of space, place and the individual in visions for ecological sustainability. Instead, we should pay greater attention to the (cultural) meaning of objects, mobility and places, and thus contextualise sustainability by looking behind the purely material aspects of resource management practices.

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