Understanding Sustainability

Sustainability References

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Spotts, Pete. 2013. "Why has global warming paused? Pacific Ocean's 'engine room' running cool. Despite years of record heat, the rate of global warming has been almost zero in recent years, puzzling scientists. The cycles of the tropical Pacific could hold the answer." The Christian Science Monitor 28 August. 

Springer, Simon, K. Birch, and J. MacLeavy (eds.). 2016. The Handbook of Neoliberalism. Routledge, London. [book proposal with chapter proposals]

Springer, Simon. 2010. "Neoliberalism and Geography: Expansions, Variegations, Formations." Geography Compass 4(8):1025-1038. [PDF]

Springer, Simon. 2016. "Fuck Neoliberalism." ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 15(2):285-292. [video presentation] [alternative publication with additional comments]

  • "In this neoliberal moment it’s not a case of mere problematic individuals being in power. Instead, it is our very belief in the system itself that epitomizes the core of the problem. We produce and enable the institutional conditions for 'the Lucifer effect' to play itself out (Zimbardo 2007). 'The banality of evil' is such that these politicians are just doing their jobs in a system that rewards perversions of power because it is all designed to serve the laws of capitalism (Arendt 1971). But we don’t have to obey. We’re not beholden to this order. Through our direct action and the organization of alternatives we can indict the entire structure and break this vicious cycle of abuse." (p. 289) [The Lucifer effect suggests that good people may turn evil under the right conditions.]
  • My note: The problem, of course, is that neoliberal thinking pervades the culture to such a degree that many would-be supporters of reform are unaware of their complicity in serving the neoliberal agenda. Promoting and encouraging voluntary individual responsibility at the expense of broad, mutually agreed upon, collective societal responsibility is to promote the neoliberal agenda.

Springer, Simon. 2016. "The violence of neoliberalism." Pages 153-163 in S. Springer, K. Birch, and J. MacLeavy (eds.), The Handbook of Neoliberalism. Routledge, London. [PDF]

  • "When we bear witness to violence, what we are seeing is not a 'thing', but a moment with a past, present, and future that is determined by its elaborate relations with other moments of social process (Springer 2011). The material 'act' of violence itself is merely a confluence in the flows of oppressive social relations, and one that is persistently marked with absolutist accounts of space and time, when instead violence should be recognized as being temporally dispersed through a whole series of 'troubling geographies' (Gregory 2006). Nonetheless, understanding the resonances of violence within the now orthodox political economic model of neoliberalism … is of critical importance to social justice. Only through a conceptualization of fluidity and process can we begin to recognize how violence and neoliberalism might actually converge." (p. 154)
  • My note: Sustainability has become a field of discourse largely focused on moments in time and space expressed in soundbites, greenwashing, tokenism and feel-good behaviors, but rarely connected to the larger human-environmental system with its deep histories and the many distractions and complicities in the human realm. Just as Springer connects today’s violence to the temporally dispersed “troubling geographies” of neoliberalism, so too can one see unsustainability similarly influenced. “Violence” in its many guises, whether against individuals, communities, countries, or nature is imposed by the world’s power brokers and a handful of rogue criminals through mechanisms of the dominant political economy of neoliberalism.

Springett, Delyse. 2003. "Business conceptions of sustainable development: a perspective from critical theory." Business Strategy and the Environment 12(2):71-86. [related Ph.D. thesis by author (PDF)]

  • "It is argued that the predominating 'green business' discourse engages only superficially with sustainable development, and that what is now needed is a discourse of business and sustainable development framed in critical theory."

Springett, Delyse. 2005. "Critical Perspectives on Sustainable Development." Sustainable Development 13(4):209-211. [abstract]

Springett, Delyse. 2006. "Managing the narrative of sustainable development: 'discipline' of an 'inefficient' concept." International Journal of Green Economics 1(1-2). [abstract]

  • Neoliberal managerialism is largely driving the debate. 

Springett, Delyse. 2013. "Critical Perspectives on Sustainable Development." Sustainable Development 21:73-82.

  • "...sustainable development is ... the progeny of the free market – the means by which corporations may appropriate the environmental agenda to one focused on growth and maintaining the social relations of capital."
  • "... corporations have long known that, to appropriate and manage an agenda that calls into question the basic paradigm of capitalist business, it is vital to work at institutional level, through powerful administrative coalitions between business organizations themselves and between business and government. This has not gone undetected. In the years immediately following UNCED (1992) and the exhibition of corporate power at that forum, the ability of executive cliques to appropriate and contain or subvert the agenda of sustainable development was clearly revealed (see, for example, Korten, 1995; Beder, 1997; Welford, 1997)."

Sta. Maria, Magdalena R.V. and Mark Z. Jacobson. 2009. "Investigating the Effect of Large Wind Farms on Energy in the Atmosphere." Energies 2:816-838. [abstract] [PDF]  

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