Sustainable Development in Swedish Municipalities : To know, to be able, to want and to do
Sammanfattning: A process of change like the building-up of sustainable societies can be visualised as four steps: to know, to be able, to want and to do. To pay attention to the appropriate measures and the best solutions implies a wide range of knowledge of natural and societal conditions. But to make it possible to realize them, there has to be space of action including physical tools (technique, money etc.), as well as desire and courage among the participants and decision-makers to act towards sustainability. The most important prerequisites for sustainable development are considered to be appropriate natural resources management and public participation. In this thesis I concentrate on the possibilities of modifying administration at local levels in order to economise resources in durable ways, locally as well as globally. In some case studies I examine to what extent local Agenda 21 (LA21) processes can facilitate this realization. In developing more sustainable societies I emphasise the following aspects to be among the most relevant: Society has to prepare for unexpected outcomes, thus the apparent unpredictability of the behaviour of ecosystems and their response to impacts have to be taken into account in planning and in making decisions. Moreover, it has to be discussed what to do if aims are reached without obtaining the expected recovery in the ecosystems and in the natural situation. Environmental space and function should more often be used as a basis when managing natural resource. Finally, the interplay beween the central and the local levels should be enhanced in order to choose the most relevant measures and to strive in the same direction: towards creating more flexible societies. The LA21 processes can very well be excellent tools in this work because they provide platforms for better understanding and exchange of knowledge and experience among different levels of society. These discussions can make the participants more willing to take actions as well as to find new solutions and new ways acting. The case studies show that the first steps towards more sustainable societies are taken. The support for LA21 given by the local governments has been and is absolutely vital to the progress and results of the processes. The most progressive results are found in the municipalities of the case study where top-level politicians have been most interested and have taken on the responsibility of LA21. My main conclusions of how the LA21 processes and the striving towards sustainability could be improved are that goals and visions should be discussed more thoroughly involving many parts of society. More and more these visions and objectives should observe the connections between environmental, economic and social issues. Furthermore, measures and actions should be diversified and flexible, and co-operation across administrative borders should be developed. It is also essential to formulate strategies of how to deal with up-coming ideas and proposals as well as how to increase the level of influence of all participants. In order to improve the handling of natural resources the kind of resource and the functions making it one has to be identified. To choose the most appropriate measures it is important to know if the resource is vital and scarce, scarce, or poisonous and/or if its use may cause pollution. Paper I comprises the frame of and the tools for developing the local system in Sweden in the direction of global sustainability. Swedish municipalities have taken the first steps towards sustainability mainly through local Agenda 21 processes. Environmental issues have a prominent role in the decision-making of the local governments, but social and economic topics are not connected to decisions on sustainable development to the same extent. How to proceed at the local level is discussed in this paper as is the national frame and local prerequisities for achieving sustainable development. This article states that most important factors, when creating sustainable societies, are active, high-level politicians and officials, a structured process with co-operation aiming at including all stakeholders' real influence, increased knowledge among all participants, positive thinking, feedback and information, money and much time. To use limited projects as one of the first steps of a more comprehensive process may attract more inhabitants to take part. Their results can be shown quite rapidly, further encouraging actions and involvement in other areas of interest. The papers II and III are based on a five-year study of the LA21 processes in four Swedish municipalities. In Paper II the LA21 of two of the chosen municipalities are analysed. Comparisons between attitudes among local politicians and officials and LA21 documents and projects indicate that the most important issues, to protect clean air and to co-operate with the inhabitants in LA21, are followed up in plans, actions and projects connected to LA21. The local governments have made efforts to improve the natural resources management, to prolong the views of planning in the local government, but they have difficulties in interpreting visions and long-term goals in their daily decisions. It is still too early to discern whether or not the two municipalities have moved towards sustainability. Paper III includes results from all four municipalities. This study shows that the LA21 processes have aroused many new thoughts, brought fields together and introduced new subjects into the municipal world. In the decisions of the local govemments' environmental considerations are treated seriously. There are signs of an increased dialogue and of public influence, especially within fields where the inhabitants are users. It is indicated that LA21 does not seem to have great influence on which natural resources are dealt with, but on how. New stakeholders within and outside the municipal organization have been identified through the LA21 processes, and more comprehensive ways of solving problems and a positive climate of testing new ideas have been created. In these respects LA21 has been and will be a significant support to the development of appropriate natural resources management at the local level. In Paper IV a part of a local Agenda 21 project aiming at reducing the nutrient supply into a Swedish Baltic Sea fjord is analysed. The reduction is to be carried out in way that permits and facilitates the re-use of the nutrients as fertilizers. This article is focused on how to implement the project and on how to increase public participation, especially that of farmers and owners of houses of single sewage treatment systems. Increased public participation needs continuous efforts by the project leaders. Indivdual as well as group actions, forming of small groups, information, feedback and continous encouragement are crucial. The homogenous group of farmers considers the management of natural resources very important. They have voluntarily formed five watercourse groups where community management is developed. The owners of houses of single sewage treatment systems form a heterogeneous group. They are mostly interested in individual measures. Constant changes of the prerequisites of sewage systems and lack of knowledge are other obstacles against carrying out voluntary measure.
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