Melissa leach


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Melissa leach

  1. 1. Pathways to Sustainability:Agendas for a new politics of environment, development and social justice<br />ESRC STEPS Centre Conference <br />September 23-24 2010<br />
  2. 2. Pathways to Sustainability:The STEPS Centre’s Approach<br />Melissa Leach<br />Pathways to Sustainability Conference <br />September 23 2010<br />
  3. 3. Environmental challenges<br />Rapid environmental change<br />Complex dynamics<br />Interlocked crises and ‘perfect storms’? (Beddington 2009)<br />Scientific, policy and public concern – and politicisation<br />‘A new climate for society’ (and social science)? (Jasanoff 2010)<br />
  4. 4. In a (more) unequal world<br />Social, economic and political change – mobility and interconnection (at least for some), instabilities<br />New complexion to core development challenges<br />Poverty, inequity, (in)justice<br />Shifting geographies of power and privilege, emergent social hierarchies<br />Shifting governance landscapes<br />
  5. 5. How might pathways to sustainability – that link environmental integrity with social justice – be conceptualised and built – in a complex, dynamic world?<br />
  6. 6. A timely moment?<br />UNCED 1992 a landmark for environmental policy and politics <br />(Convention processes, Agenda 21) – and environmental social science<br />‘Rio Plus 20 Earth Summit’ – social science ideas, concepts, agendas, <br />engagements?<br />‘green economy’, ‘institutional framework for sustainable development’<br />
  7. 7. Presentation<br />The STEPS Centre’s ‘pathways approach’ <br />Themes for the conference<br />Unresolved tensions, areas for discussion<br />
  8. 8. Contradictions<br />Growing recognition of complexity and dynamism – intercoupled social, ecological, technological systems; non-linear, cross-scale dynamics; uncertainties<br />Growing recognition of diverse knowledges and ways of knowing, values, perspectives, priorities<br />Growing search for technical-managerial solutions premised on a far more static, consensual view of the world – solvable problems, achievable stability, controllable risks<br />……A mismatch - cycles of ‘failure’ as dynamics undermine assumptions of stability; emerging backlashes from nature, politics; mires of disagreement; those who are already vulnerable and marginal often lose out <br />
  9. 9. Sustainability<br />A contested term with a history<br />From 1712 forestry usage to wider currency in the 1980s <br />Linking of environmental questions to mainstream issues of economy and development: ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (Brundtland 1987)<br />Vibrant, committed debate at and around Rio 1992: economics and political science, broad and narrow, strong and weak, top-down and community-defined…. Technical meanings co-constructed with different visions for how sustainability should be achieved<br />Through 1990s, growth in planning approaches, frameworks, measurement indicators, audit systems, evaluation protocols – managerialism and bureaucratisation<br />Discrediting of ‘sustainability’? (empty rhetoric, failure of managerialism, conservatism, inadequacy of institutional and policy machinery) <br />Yet sustainability is the ‘keyword’ for Rio plus 20 amidst complex environment-development challenges – more of the same?<br />
  10. 10. Towards a normative, politicised perspective on sustainability<br />Beyond generalised, colloquial notions (maintenance of system properties in a general sense) <br />Beyond broad and static normative connotations of Brundtland – focused on notions of (poor people’s) ‘needs’ and environmental ‘limits’<br />To address specified qualities of human wellbeing, social equity and environmental integrity – as they relate to dynamic environments<br />Normative concern with those properties that assist reductions in poverty and social injustice – as defined by/for particular people, contexts and settings<br />Multiple, contested sustainabilities to be defined and deliberated for particular issues and groups<br />E.g. African seed systems amidst climate-change related drought – sustainability in relation to national food security? Livelihoods of dryland farmers? Women’s or men’s crop varieties and control?<br />Sustainability as a discursive resource to facilitate argument and action about diverse pathways to different futures<br />
  11. 11. A systems perspective<br />environment<br />System:<br />Social, institutional, <br />ecological and <br />technological <br />elements interacting<br />In dynamic ways<br />‘system’<br />
  12. 12. Integrating knowledge and values: Framing<br />Dimensions of framing<br />- Scale <br />- Boundaries <br />- Key elements and relationships <br />- Dynamics in play <br /><ul><li> Outputs
  13. 13. - Perspectives
  14. 14. - Interests
  15. 15. - Goals
  16. 16. Values
  17. 17. - Notions of relevant experience</li></ul>Framings: Different ways of understanding or representing a system <br />and its relevant environment<br />
  18. 18. Narratives<br />Framings often become part of narratives – underlying storylines<br />Produced by people and institutions<br />Beginning – a system, framed <br />Imaginary - futures desired or feared (what ideas, possibilities, values, goals?)<br />Middle – a set of envisaged actions<br />Construction of publics – who will act, who will change their behaviour, respond<br />End – catastrophe averted, outcome achieved, ‘sustainability’ enhanced<br />
  19. 19. Creating narratives: Practices<br />stating goals highlighting values assigning cause<br />setting agendas defining problems characterising options <br />posing questions prioritizing issues formulating criteria<br />deciding context setting baselines drawing boundaries <br />discounting time choosing methods including disciplines<br />handling uncertainties recruiting expertise commissioning research<br />constituting ‘proof’ exploring sensitivities interpreting results<br />
  20. 20. Narrative examples<br />Energy and climate:<br />‘The challenges of dealing with climate change and energy security can only be dealt with through large scale, centralized systems like carbon capture and new nuclear build’<br />‘Appropriate reductions in carbon emissions are achievable by small scale, distributed innovations in technology, institutions and user behaviour, such as in smart grids, efficient use and micro-generation’.<br />Food (e.g. East Africa):<br /> ‘Growing food deficits require massive boosts to agricultural productivity – modern plant breeding and genetic engineering can deliver solutions which need to be rolled out at scale’<br /> ‘Food insecurities are diverse and shaped by ecological, market, social and institutional contexts, requiring socio-technical solutions in which farmer knowledge and local innovations have central roles to play’<br />
  21. 21. Water (e.g. dryland India):<br /> ‘Major water scarcities are developing and undermining economic development; therefore the construction of large dams and investment in the infrastructure for water delivery must take place’<br />‘Water scarcities are often human induced by the greed and mismanagement of elites; for farmers and pastoralists maintaining livelihoods amidst uncertainties must be central, and can draw on local knowledge and historically-embedded practices’<br />
  22. 22. Strategies and dynamics<br />style of action<br />control<br />respond<br />shock (transient disruption)<br />STABILITY<br />RESILIENCE<br />temporality of change<br />stress (enduring shift)<br />DURABILITY<br />ROBUSTNESS<br />
  23. 23. Dealing with water resources in dryland India:<br />Strategies and dynamics<br />style of action<br />control<br />respond<br />shock (transient disruption)<br />STABILITY<br />RESILIENCE<br />Adaptive responses and interventions geared to floods and droughts (e.g. crop mixes, mobility, water harvesting) ; local knowledge, culturally-embedded practices<br />Control of short-term supply variability through dams, pumps and pipes<br />temporality of change<br />Response to long-term shifts in water supply and use (e.g. changes in land use, agricultural practices, livelihoods); variegated, flexible institutional and engineering arrangements<br />Engineering solutions geared to long-term shifts in rainfall and hydrology (e.g. margins, reduced water levels) <br />stress (enduring shift)<br />DURABILITY<br />ROBUSTNESS<br />
  24. 24. style of action<br />control<br />respond<br />STABILITY<br />RESILIENCE<br />STABILITY<br />RESILIENCE<br />temporality of change<br />SUSTAINABILITY<br />stress (enduring shift)<br />DURABILITY<br />ROBUSTNESS<br />DURABILITY<br />ROBUSTNESS<br />
  25. 25. Pathways <br />For any issue, we might identify an array of narratives<br />For each narrative, we might ask:<br />Who are the actors?<br />How is the system and goals for change framed?<br />Which dynamic properties and strategies for dealing with them are prioritised?<br />Some narratives justify and become interlocked with powerful pathways – particular directions in which systems change over time<br />Alternative narratives, hidden narratives, exclusions…. <br />Constructing pathways to sustainability requires recognition and deliberation amongst multiple narratives and possible pathways<br />
  26. 26. Governance <br />Narratives and pathways co-constructed with governance <br />Intersections of power, politics and institutions, including power-knowledge<br />Shape which come to dominate, and which remain marginalised <br />Often leads to ‘lock-in’ to particular powerful narrative and associated pathway, to the exclusion of others<br />
  27. 27. Governance and pathways to sustainability<br />From government to networked, multi-levelled governance<br />Participatory governance<br />Governance in practice<br />Politics of nature and technology<br />Political cultures and contexts<br />Politics of knowledge<br />Governmentalities (environmentalities)<br />Important to understand how ‘lock-in’ happens… and how it might be averted<br />
  28. 28. The politics of ‘closing down’ <br />Towards singular narratives and pathways<br />Towards stability-focused interventions <br />style of action<br />control<br />response<br />shock (transient disruption)<br />STABILITY<br />RESILIENCE<br />POWER DYNAMICS<br />temporality of change<br />stress (enduring shift)<br />DURABILITY<br />ROBUSTNESS<br />
  29. 29. Governance pressures towards stability-focused interventions<br />Incumbent institutions tend to favour strategies which preserve the status quo – and uphold political interests<br />Deeply rooted ideas about equilibrium <br />Institutionalisation of routine responses<br />Financial and economic backing <br />Professional, disciplinary and cognitive pressures<br />Media and popular knowledge <br />Disciplining and transformation of subjectivities<br />
  30. 30. From closing down to opening up <br />Meeting sustainability challenges will require:<br />Moving beyond singular views of ‘the problem’ and ‘progress’, to recognise multiple possible goals and values and their contestation; <br />Moving beyond stability/control to embrace strategies that respond to ongoing change, with respect to sustaining the flows and benefits valued by particular groups<br />Challenge dominant narratives/pathways; highlight alternatives<br />
  31. 31. Climate change, drought and maize in Kenya<br />Understanding and challenging ‘lock in’ to the dominant pathway – breeding and commercialization of drought-tolerant maize, geared to ‘resilience in the seed’, towards farm and national food security goals <br />Opening up to alternative pathways – especially for ‘low potential’ areas (e.g. Sakai), geared to resilience of farming livelihoods<br />
  32. 32. Multiple pathways –<br />in and out of maize<br />Local maize varieties predominate and are highly valued <br />Important but under-recognised role of seed selectors<br />In future – some farmers want drought tolerant maize varieties<br />But many farmers are trying to move out of maize and into other crops – dryland staples and horticultural crops<br />
  33. 33. Multiple pathways –in and out of maize<br />Low Maize High Maize<br />1 – Alternative dryland staples for subsistence<br />3 – local improvement of local maize<br />Low-<br />External<br />Input<br />High-<br />External<br />Input<br />2 – Alternative dryland staples for market<br />5 – Assisted seed multiplication of maize<br />4 – Assisted seed multiplication of alternative dryland staples<br />6 – Individual high-value crop commercialization<br />8 – Commercial delivery of new DT maize varieties<br />7 – Group-based high-value crop commercialization<br />9 – Public delivery of new DT maize varieties<br />
  34. 34. Towards a politics for sustainability<br />Governance approaches: Deliberative, Reflexive<br />Designs – roles for new appraisal tools and methods <br />Political engagement – <br />influencing policy processes and effecting policy change; <br />citizen mobilisation, network and alliance-building<br />shaping information and communication flows in a multi-media knowledge landscape<br />Reflexive research engagements in which we take our positionality seriously<br />May involve antagonistic confrontation and challenge as well as consensus-building<br />
  35. 35. Social science and the politics of knowledge-making<br />After Burawoy, 2005<br />
  36. 36. Conference themes and areas for discussion<br />Contesting and governing sustainabilities: multi-level, deliberative, adaptive, and movement-based approaches – and beyond<br />Framing and narratives: ensuring practical connections with questions of justice, material political economy and ecology<br />Dynamics and sustainability: navigating complexities, transitions and transformations,natural science engagements <br />Addressing ‘big picture’ environmental concerns and analysis without doing violence to the richness and diversity of people’s experiences <br />Grounding concepts and approaches in diverse issues and contexts:<br />Climate change, water, agriculture, forests, fisheries, urban and peri-urban environments<br />
  37. 37. Towards Rio Plus 20 – and beyond<br />Emerging themes<br />Research-policy roundtable<br />What kinds of knowledge can today’s environmental social science contribute?<br /> What specific processes and opportunities might we engage with?<br />
  38. 38. Enjoy the debate<br /><br />