Tag Archives: ecological citizenship

Just sustainability

The concept of sustainability is well described as “a big, sloppy term for a big, complex subject” (Prugh et al, 2000, p.2). The meaning of ‘sustainability’ is highly contested and subject to a wide variety of (often self-serving) definitions.

So how can this “big, sloppy” concept – and all that it tells us about global limits to resource consumption and waste production – be translated into recommendations for practical action?

One way of achieving this translation that appears in the policy documents of various green parties around the world is to work with the notion of ‘carrying capacity.’ In particular, carrying capacity features as a key principle of many green population policies.

Unfortunately there is often a serious defect in the way carrying capacity is applied, as explained in an article by Steve Vanderheiden (2008). Usefully, though, for those who wish to see sustainability policy become a reality, Vanderheiden also shows how sustainability policies be formulated differently, along lines that take proper account of issues of justice.

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Ecological citizens: do they exist?

The basic principles of a theoretical ‘ecological citizenship,’ as sketched out by Andrew Dobson, were summarised in my previous article. The obvious question to ask immediately of such a theory is whether it has any connection with the real world: do ‘ecological citizens’ actually exist?

Some social research which is able to answer this question has been published recently. Swedish political scientist Sverker Jagers (2009) has carried out a survey “to verify, identify and explain the presence of ecological citizens” (p.21).

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Ecological citizenship: the basis of a sustainable society

In his book on ‘The politics of the environment’, Neil Carter argues that, among green theorists

there is a consensus over the need for active ecological citizenship because of the recognition that the transition to a sustainable society requires more than institutional restructuring; it also needs a transformation in the beliefs, attitudes and behaviour of individuals. (Carter, 2007, p.65)

In other words, ecological citizenship is an essential prerequisite of a sustainable society.

So let’s try to understand what ‘ecological citizenship’ might actually mean.

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