I’ve been mulling over ideas for an economic model that fits in with the concept of just sustainabilities. In the research for my latest book Introducing just sustainabilities: Policy, planning and practice (and the Series to follow it) my co-researcher Duncan McLaren introduced me to the idea of co-production. In its broadest sense it reflects the capabilities approach of Sen (1999). It sees people as assets not as burdens, invests in their capacities, promotes mutuality and reciprocity, facilitates rather than delivering and uses peer-support networks in addition to professionals to transfer knowledge and capabilities. In narrower, economic terms co-production refers to the involvement of the consumer in the manufacture of the goods and services they consume thereby blurring the distinction between producer and consumer.
Cities of difference (Fincher and Jacobs 1998) are places where we are “in the presence of otherness” (Sennett 1990 p123) — namely, our increasingly different, diverse, and culturally heterogeneous urban areas. Yet as I travel around the world I see token, or very little recognition, understanding of, and engagement with this difference, diversity, and cultural heterogeneity in creative and productive ways. Moreover, I’ve seen no examples which could be said to be capable of fundamentally transforming civic institutions, the public realm, its discourses and city management practices.
I welcome innovations in our thinking which move us closer to realizing just sustainabilities and Kate Raworth/Oxfam’s A Safe and Just Operating Space for Humanity: Can We Live Within the Doughnut? is no exception. Its clarity and ease of visualization make it an excellent communication tool for students, academics, policymakers and activists alike.
The focus of just sustainabilities which I have articulated more fully elsewhere (Agyeman et al. 2003, Agyeman 2005), is the development of policy and planning themes that:
- Improve people’s quality of life and well-being, both now (intra-generational equity) and into the future (inter-generational equity);
Sustainable development means using our unlimited mental and creative resources, not our limited natural resources. If this is true, as I believe it to be, then we need to develop more constructive ways to unleash these phenomenal mental and creative resources, and quickly. Currently, around the globe we waste human potential as wantonly and comprehensively as we lay waste to our environmental potential, and this is no surprise, as both actions are directly related. We need to understand that while there is growing human inequality, there will never be environmental quality.
Two agriculture related stories caught my attention recently. One, on National Public Radio’s ‘All Things Considered’ entitled ‘Some US Farms Trade Tobacco for a Taste of Africa’ reported on George Bowling’s 60 acre farm in southern Maryland which has started growing African crops for the region’s 120,000 strong African population. The other, a piece in the New York Times, ‘When the Uprooted Put Down Roots’, highlighted the growth across the US in ‘refugee agriculture‘ among for example Somalis, Cambodians, Liberians, Congolese, Bhutanese and Burundians.
Three years ago today, on October 10 2008, I wrote a blog for Britain’s Forum for the Future whose strapline is ‘action for a sustainable world’. They asked me as a British person, living in the U.S.A. (or Unsure State of America, as I then called it) to comment on the later stages of the 2008 Presidential Campaign and my response was this piece, The Fierce Urgency of Now:
“Feminist social scientists use the term positionality to refer to the understanding that our lived experiences, particularly those of race, class, and gender, shape our worldviews. The food movement narrative is largely created by, and resonates most deeply, with white and middle class individuals. For example, Michael Pollan’s recently offered list of food rules (2007) is intended to guide consumers toward eating practices aligned with the food movement.
For those of you who read my recent Blog Danger. Overhead Catenary Wires are Alive!? you’ll understand I’m not an MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority), or more simply ‘T’ basher. I love it. We need it. I get it. I use it. But who’s in charge of communications? Read the notice above at Porter T Station. Someone at MBTA Customer Communications please, please put me out of my abject and oxymoronic misery and tell me just what is a “new redundant elevator”………?
A posting by Helen Whybrow in ‘Saving Land’ the Land Trust Alliance’s newsletter entitled 2042 Today: Cultivating Conservation Leaders of the Future (Fall 2011) described a 2010 leadership retreat for diverse conservation leaders under 35 where ”for most of them, this [was] the first time they [had] been in a group of conservationists where people of color [were] the majority.” The event, developed as an ongoing collaboration between the Portland, OR based Center for Diversity and the Environment, and the Center for Whole Communities in Vermont, got me thinking about some research my Tufts Masters Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning students and I did for the Massachusetts Audubon Society (Mass Audubon) in 2005.