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Local Sustainability: Balancing Quality and Equality?

  • Julian Agyeman (a1)


This paper attempts to link four themes which are interrelated, but not often discussed together in local sustainability discourses. They are: the tension between achieving both environmental quality and human equality; the possibilities offered by Local Agenda 21 (LA21); what a sustainable community or society might look like and some good practice guidelines for local governments in their pivotal role as key facilitators of local sustainability.

Environmentalists and environmental educators are good on notions of what they perceive as ‘environmental quality’, but are poor, or very poor on notions of ‘human equality’. Human equality has always been an implicit agreement as opposed to an explicit goal, safely tucked away in the notion of ‘quality of life’.

One of the guiding principles of LA21 is that people normally excluded from the decision making process (women, indigenous people and young people) need to be integrally involved in decision making within a framework which stresses the importance of public participation. The reason for this inclusive form of participation is that these groups are seen as having had little impact on the production of local environments, although they are sometimes disproportionately affected by them, by virtue of their social role.

Using a set of 13 themes that were developed by community consultations In Britain that would feature in a sustainable community or society, the paper looks at the potential for integrating quality and equality concerns. The paper finishes by looking at some good practice guidelines or ways that local governments, as decision makers nearest local peoples, could be integrating quality and equality concerns into emerging local sustainability strategies.



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