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Introducing Just Sustainabilities: Policy, Planning, and Practice Paperback – June 4, 2013
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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The book starts with a well-thought-out essay on a topic Agyeman has been writing about for over a decade, and constitutes an elaboration on earlier works that results in a well-considered treatment of the issues. He sets out by referencing Our Common Future - more commonly known as the Brundtland Commission Report - issued over a quarter century ago. Its main contribution is on integration of environmental principles to economic and social development, but the notion of intergenerational equity is also a fundamental element. Social and economic justice are fundamental elements of the notion of greatly equity, but as ‘sustainability’ as a concept has evolved in policy and practice, this leg of the stool seems to have gotten shorter. As a result, the environmental justice discourse, including food justice, has become somewhat separated from the core framework of sustainability, building almost in parallel.
What Agyeman does is put justice issues right back on the sustainability table, with statements such as: “Similarly, the environmental movement with its dominant ‘green’
or environmental sustainability discourse does not include strategies for dealing with current or intra-generational inequalities and injustice issues within its analysis or theory of change”. The narrative’s strength includes making the case for just sustainabilities from both theoretical and applied perspectives. He explains human needs and values scales developed by Max-Neef, S.H. Schwartz, and others that argue for a much broader approach to meeting human needs than simply the consumptionist paradigm that pervades the globe today, including a lot of sustainable development policy. In that context, he argues for a reconsideration of what justice means along broader dimensions of human welfare.
Where I also find real substance is in Agyeman’s smooth weaving between the issues at the global scale and the local. On the subject of food (which is my area), he discusses how overconsumption and waste are salient features of the global food supply, as is widespread hunger and malnutrition. In context, we are at a juncture where the human material footprint exceeds the earth’s carrying capacity, some thing needs to give in the inequalities of access to material resources in order to address the problems of hunger and other basic human needs for all the world’s population, and not just the privileged. To that end, as discussed above, he focuses on also addressing other vital dimensions of human existence that sustainable development in particular hasn’t adequately addressed.
Agyeman then takes on local food systems (LFS), reviewing the limitations of this paradigm from a food justice perspective. He reviews critiques of localism and then incorporates his own perspective by asking “when, if ever, is the localization of food production and consumption an appropriate means for achieving social justice within food systems?” He then follows with chapters on space and place, and then on culture more broadly.
In summary, this book does a fine job of capturing the essence of the multiple dimensions of environmental justice and argues for its rightful elevation and greater prominence within the sustainability discourse. It has the style and depth suited to use in college classrooms as well as for a broader public, and in particular should be read by policy-makers and planners both here and abroad.