Note: deadline for submissions extended until 7 February 2012.
The Technical University of Denmark will host the
3rd International Conference on Sustainability Transitions with the title
Sustainable Transitions: Navigating Theories and Challenging Realities
The need for societal sustainability strategies is globally recognized and reflected in the coming Rio+20 Earth Summit. In the wake of the current international economic crisis such strategies are increasingly framed in a ‘green growth’ discourse, where economic and ecological problems are addressed through the promotion of clean technologies and ‘smart’ solutions: Smart cities, smart grids and smart growth. While such efficiency strategies may provide for changes in specific sectors and cross-sector practices, they are not likely to facilitate the type of pervasive transformative changes at the system level needed to deal with the entrenched character of the current climate and resource utilisation challenges.
Previous STRN conferences in Amsterdam and Lund have explored the plurality of issues related to such transition processes. Various approaches have been developed to describe the path-dependency of socio-technical systems’ developments and to explore and engage in transition’s challenges.
This third IST conference hosted by the ‘SusTrans’ research alliance in Denmark welcomes further explorative studies. Furthermore, it also aims to engage in the core research program of the community through deepening the analysis of how opportunities for transformative change of systems reconfigurations may be recognized and exploited. This includes strategies for changing or dismantling existing systems as well as nurturing diversity in solution frames.
Date: August 29-31, 2012
Place: Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen
See full call at: www.ist2012.dk
Mail to organizers firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsored by the RGS-IBG Participatory Geographies Research Group (PYGYWG)
Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference, July 3-5th 2012, Edinburgh
Amanda Smith, Nottingham Trent University and Peter North, University of Liverpool
Increasingly, cities are considering their vulnerability and by association, their ability to withstand and respond to (security) crises induced by issues such as climate change, finance, globalisation, energy price rises, general resource scarcity, terrorism and civil unrest. In many cases cities are staring to plan for alternative futures and the concept of resilience is frequently deployed as discourse and practice via which cities can or might adapt to these crises. In social environmental systems the concept of resilience has considerable power to focus on the capacity of humans to anticipate and plan for future events, with the ecosystem in mind (Adger, 2000). Indeed, in a “resilient social-ecological system, disturbance has the potential to create opportunity for doing new things, for innovation and for development” (Folke, 2006:253). Therefore, a resilient urban system presents us with a set of pathways in which we can move beyond the dominant paradigm of maintaining the status quo and attempting to control change.
We invite contributions which can be either a paper, an outline of a research problem for discussion or an account of an experience that explore issues associated with the following questions (or others, as appropriate):
- How is the concept of resilience being deployed in cities? Has there been consideration of the variety of definitions and deployments of the concept? Can the concept have value in all urban contexts?
- In what ways are issues being ‘securitised’ for consideration in a resilient urban system? Whose security and resilience are being sought? What are the implications of these strategies?
- Does the concept of resilience provide a means of exploring pathways to move beyond the dominant paradigms of neoliberalism and securitisation?
Please send your offers of contribution to – Amanda.email@example.com and P.J.North@liverpool.ac.uk by January 23rd 2012.
Robyn Dowling (Macquarie University) reports…
In one sense it is difficult to see sustainability transitions emerging from the everyday practices of urban and suburban life. Built into the patterns and practices of daily life – of living in housing, of maintaining familial and social networks, of earning a living – is intensive use of fossil fuels. High household energy consumption, reliance on the private motor vehicle, and avid consumption of household ‘stuff’ are, in the main, normalized and, importantly, connected to valorized urban identities – of home ownership, of parenting, of providers, of workers, to name a few. But is this always and everywhere the case? Is it possible that everyday practices and identities cement unsustainable resource use yet, simultaneously, have embedded within them transitions to less resource-intensive futures?
One suggestion is that perhaps we need to think about everyday practice in a more open way. In much of my recent research I have been concerned with the means through which socio-material arrangements – the energy intensive suburban household – are held together. But in thinking through these socio-material assemblages I have also become alert to their nascent seeds of obsolescence, or more realistically cracks in their walls. I am indebted theoretically here to Gibson-Graham’s[i] decentring of capitalism and the notion of the universalized, disciplined, subject of capitalism. Simplifying greatly, for Gibson-Graham, capitalism is not universal but multiple; not omnipotent, but fractured. For me, Gibson-Graham’s work is inspirational in helping suggest that new identities, new ways of identifying with and identifying carbon-different alternatives are nascent in the present. In other words, identities in transition are already in existence; the practices of the resource-dependent suburban household may contain traces of sustainable practice worth recognizing and building upon.
At the Identities in Transition seminar held at the University of Leicester in October 2011, Emily Hodgkinson from Transition Leicester and Jill Fisher from the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development at De Montfort University presented findings from an ongoing evaluation of the Footpaths carbon reduction project run by Transitions Leicester.
Their presentation can be downloaded here: Leicester Footpaths project
This post summarises the work Jon Anderson from the School of City and Regional Planning at Cardiff University presented at the Identities in Transition seminar in October 2011
The individual has been cast as both the source of and solution to many contemporary environmental problems. Although some individuals may display concern for the environment, actions are undertaken within a societal context that is often ambivalent to environmental issues. To ‘become green’, therefore, individuals have to negotiate a range of trade-offs between their environmental aspirations and the realities of life in a developed, consumer-based society. This paper draws on extensive field work at one site at which individuals have explicitly sought to manage these trade-offs – the Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales, UK.
It argues that two distinct strategies are adopted to manage the tensions involved in becoming green:
- a ‘strategy of segregation’ – where professional practices are separated from personal actions to establish balance, if not consistency, in everyday life; and
- a ‘strategy of alignment’ – where (unsuccessful) attempts are made to unify personal and professional practices in line with environmental ideals.
This paper outlines how the inability of these strategies to fully reconcile the tensions involved in becoming green has led to a ‘politics of pragmatism’ within environmental practice. It argues that this politics offers a way forward for contemporary environmentalism, both within ‘ecotopian’ spaces such as the Centre for Alternative Technology, but also in more mainstream spaces where the majority live their lives.
Jon’s paper can be downloaded here: becoming green in ecotopia
Here is a copy of the presentation given at the first seminar by Susannah Fisher from the University of Cambridge. In it, she reflects on the contested politics of sustainability transitions in the Global South, focusing in particular on debates and practices in India.
Susannah’s paper poses several very important questions, not least of all, what is the difference between ‘development’ and ‘transition’ in the Global South?