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Special Issue "Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (29 February 2016)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Md Saidul Islam

Assistant Professor, Division of Sociology, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Website | E-Mail
Interests: environmental sustainability; nature-society relationship; sustainable food; industrial aquaculture; international development; climate change; neoliberalism; green discourse

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Our planet is undergoing radical environmental and social changes. Sustainability has now been put into question by, for example, our consumption patterns, loss of biodiversity, depletion of resources, and exploitative power relations. With apparent ecological and social limits to globalization and development, current levels of consumption are known to be unsustainable, inequitable, and inaccessible to the majority of humans. Understanding and achieving sustainability is a crucial matter at a time when our planet is in peril—environmentally, economically, socially, and politically. Since its official inception in the 1970s, environmental sociology has provided a powerful lens to understanding the challenges, possibilities, and modes of sustainability.

This Special Issue of Sustainability will provide an environmental sociology approach to understanding and achieving the widely used notion of “Sustainability.” The Special Issue will focus on, among other topics, the inherent discursive formations of environmental sociology, conceptual tools and paradoxes, competing theories and practices, and their complex implications on our society at large. We invite papers that will specifically focus on how Sustainable Development has been understood through different theoretical lenses in environmental sociology, such as ecological modernization, policy/reformist sustainable development, and critical structural approaches (such as the treadmill of production, ecological Marxism, metabolic rift theory, etc.). Also, review papers and original manuscripts may draw on how sustainable development has been practiced in, or by, various stakeholders, such as states, corporations, and local communities, for various ends, through the use of specific case studies, showing, for example, the discursive shifts, dynamic formations, and diverse contours of sustainable development.

The range of relevant topics includes:

  • Environmental sociology as a field of inquiry for sustainability Historical context of sustainable development in environmental sociology
  • Nature-society relationship in environmental sociology
  • Theories/approaches to sustainability discourse in environmental sociology
  • Environmentalism/environmental movements for sustainability
  • Empirical cases (such as climate change, biodiversity, food, certification, etc.) through the lens of environmental sociology

Dr. Md Saidul Islam
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

References:

  • Brulle, Robert J. and J. Craig Jenkins. 2006. "Spinning Our Way to Sustainability?" Organization and Environment 19:82-87.
  • Estes, R. J. “Toward Sustainable Development: From Theory to Praxis.” Available online at: http://www.sp2.upenn.edu/restes/Estes%20Papers/Toward%20Sustainable%20Development_1993.pdf
  • Gould, K.A. and Tammy L. Lewis. 2009. “The paradoxes of sustainable development” in Gould, K.A. and Tammy L. Lewis (eds), pp. 269-289. Twenty Lessons in Environmental Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Lele, S. M. 2004. “Sustainable Development: A Critical Review” in Conca, K. and G. D. Debalko (eds). Pp. 252-264. Green Planet Blues: Environemntal Politics from Stockholm to Johannesburg. Boulder: Westview Press.
  • Catton, William and Riley Dunlap. 1980. A New Ecological Paradigm for a Post-Exuberant Sociology American Behavioral Scientist 24 15-47
  • Dunlap, Riley 1980 Paradigmatic Change in Social Science: From Human Exemptionalism to an Ecological Paradigm American Behavioral Scientist 24 5-14
  • Cohen, Maurie. 1997. "Risk Society and Ecological Modernisation." Futures 29:105-119.
  • Mol, Arthur. 1996. "Ecological Modernisation and Institutional Reflexivity: Environmental Reform in the Late Modern Age." Environmental Politics 5:302-323.
  • Mol, Arthur and David Sonnenfeld. 2000. "Ecological Modernization: An Introduction." Environmental Politics 9:3-14.
  • Alexander, Jeffery. 1996. "Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order." Theory, Culture and Society 13:133-138.
  • Bell, Michael Mayerfeld. 2004. An Invitation to Environmental Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press
  • Brand, Karl-Werner. 1997. "Environmental Consciousness and Behavior: The Greening of Lifestyles." Pp. 204-217 in International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, edited by M. Redcliff and G. Woodgate. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Dunlap, Riley and Robert Jones. 2002. "Environmental Concern:  Conceptual and Measurement Issues." Pp. 482-524 in Handbook of Environmental Sociology, edited by R. Dunlap and W. Michelson. CT: Greenwood Press.
  • Schahn, Joachim and Erwin Holzer. 1900. "Studies of Individual Environmental Concern: The Role of Knowledge, Gender and Background Variables." Environment and Behavior 22:767-786.
  • Kalof, Linda, Thomas Dietz and Gregory Guagnano. 2002. "Race, Gender and Environmentalism: The Atypical Values and Beliefs of White Men." Race, Class, Gender 9:1-19.
  • Mertig, Angela and Riley Dunlap. 2001. "Environmentalism, New Social Movements, and the New Class: A Cross-National Investigation." Rural Sociology 66:113-136.
  • Hunter, Lori and Joan Brehm. 2004. "Qualitative Insight into Public Knowledge of, and Concern with, Biodiversity." Human Ecology Review 11:13-26.

Keywords

  • Environmentalism
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Ecological modernization
  • Treadmill of production
  • Sustainable food
  • Green movement
  • New Ecological Paradigm
  • Environmental Governmentality

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

Jump to: Research

Open AccessEditorial Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology: An Introduction
Sustainability 2017, 9(3), 474; doi:10.3390/su9030474
Received: 10 March 2017 / Revised: 15 March 2017 / Accepted: 15 March 2017 / Published: 22 March 2017
PDF Full-text (195 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Our planet is undergoing radical environmental and social changes. Sustainability has now been put into question by, for example, our consumption patterns, loss of biodiversity, depletion of resources, and exploitative power relations. With apparent ecological and social limits to globalization and development, current
[...] Read more.
Our planet is undergoing radical environmental and social changes. Sustainability has now been put into question by, for example, our consumption patterns, loss of biodiversity, depletion of resources, and exploitative power relations. With apparent ecological and social limits to globalization and development, current levels of consumption are known to be unsustainable, inequitable, and inaccessible to the majority of humans. Understanding and achieving sustainability is a crucial matter at a time when our planet is in peril—environmentally, economically, socially, and politically. Since its official inception in the 1970s, environmental sociology has provided a powerful lens to understanding the challenges, possibilities, and modes of sustainability. This editorial, accompanying the Special Issue on “sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology”, first highlights the evolution of environmental sociology as a distinct field of inquiry, focusing on how it addresses the environmental challenges of our time. It then adumbrates the rich theoretical traditions of environmental sociology, and finally examines sustainability through the lens of environmental sociology, referring to various case studies and empirical analyses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Open AccessArticle Trans-Boundary Haze Pollution in Southeast Asia: Sustainability through Plural Environmental Governance
Sustainability 2016, 8(5), 499; doi:10.3390/su8050499
Received: 29 February 2016 / Revised: 4 May 2016 / Accepted: 13 May 2016 / Published: 21 May 2016
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (413 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Recurrent haze in Southeast Asian countries including Singapore is largely attributable to rampant forest fires in Indonesia due to, for example, extensive slash-and-burn (S & B) culture. Drawing on the “treadmill of production” and environmental governance approach, we examine causes and consequences of
[...] Read more.
Recurrent haze in Southeast Asian countries including Singapore is largely attributable to rampant forest fires in Indonesia due to, for example, extensive slash-and-burn (S & B) culture. Drawing on the “treadmill of production” and environmental governance approach, we examine causes and consequences of this culture. We found that, despite some perceived benefits, its environmental consequences include deforestation, soil erosion and degradation, global warming, threats to biodiversity, and trans-boundary haze pollution, while the societal consequences comprise regional tension, health risks, economic and productivity losses, as well as food insecurity. We propose sustainability through a plural coexistence framework of governance for targeting S & B that incorporates strategies of incentives, education and community resource management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)
Open AccessArticle The Making of Sustainable Urban Development: A Synthesis Framework
Sustainability 2016, 8(5), 492; doi:10.3390/su8050492
Received: 29 February 2016 / Revised: 7 May 2016 / Accepted: 14 May 2016 / Published: 19 May 2016
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (2441 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In a time of rapid climate change and environmental degradation, planning and building an ecologically sustainable environment have become imperative. In particular, urban settlements, as a densely populated built environment, are the center of attention. This study aims to build a clear and
[...] Read more.
In a time of rapid climate change and environmental degradation, planning and building an ecologically sustainable environment have become imperative. In particular, urban settlements, as a densely populated built environment, are the center of attention. This study aims to build a clear and concise synthesis of sustainable urban development not only to serve as an essential reference for decision and policy makers, but also encourage more strategically organized sustainability efforts. The extensive similarities between environmental planning and a policy-making/decision-making/problem-solving process will be carefully examined to confirm the fundamental need to build a synthesis. Major global urban sustainability rankings/standards will be presented, discussed, and integrated to produce a holistic synthesis with ten themes and three dimensions. The study will assemble disparate information across time, space, and disciplines to guide and to facilitate sustainable urban development in which both environmental concerns and human wellbeing are addressed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)
Open AccessArticle Sustainability and Environmental Sociology: Putting the Economy in its Place and Moving Toward an Integrative Socio-Ecology
Sustainability 2016, 8(5), 437; doi:10.3390/su8050437
Received: 22 February 2016 / Revised: 8 April 2016 / Accepted: 27 April 2016 / Published: 3 May 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (233 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The vague, yet undoubtedly desirable, notion of sustainability has been discussed and debated by many natural and social scientists. We argue that mainstream conceptions of sustainability, and the related concept of sustainable development, are mired in a “pre-analytic vision” that naturalizes capitalist social
[...] Read more.
The vague, yet undoubtedly desirable, notion of sustainability has been discussed and debated by many natural and social scientists. We argue that mainstream conceptions of sustainability, and the related concept of sustainable development, are mired in a “pre-analytic vision” that naturalizes capitalist social relations, closes off important questions regarding economic growth, and thus limits the potential for an integrative socio-ecological analysis. Theoretical and empirical research within environmental sociology provides key insights to overcome the aforementioned problems, whereby the social, historical, and environmental relationships associated with the tendencies and qualities of the dominant economic system are analyzed. We highlight how several environmental sociology perspectives—such as human ecology, the treadmill of production, and metabolic analysis—can serve as the basis for a more integrative socio-ecological conception and can help advance the field of sustainability science. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)
Open AccessArticle Sustainability within the Academic EcoHealth Literature: Existing Engagement and Future Prospects
Sustainability 2016, 8(3), 202; doi:10.3390/su8030202
Received: 11 December 2015 / Revised: 17 February 2016 / Accepted: 18 February 2016 / Published: 25 February 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (262 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
In September 2015, 193 Member States of the United Nations agreed on a new sustainable development agenda, which is outlined in the outcome document Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. EcoHealth is an emerging field of academic inquiry and
[...] Read more.
In September 2015, 193 Member States of the United Nations agreed on a new sustainable development agenda, which is outlined in the outcome document Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. EcoHealth is an emerging field of academic inquiry and practice that seeks to improve the health and well-being of people, animals, and ecosystems and is informed in part by the principle of sustainability. The purpose of this study is to investigate which sustainability terms and phrases were engaged in the academic EcoHealth literature, and whether the engagement was conceptual or non-conceptual. To fulfill the purpose, we searched four academic databases (EBSCO All, Scopus, Science Direct, and Web of Science) for the term “ecohealth” in the article title, article abstract, or in the title of the journal. Following the search, we generated descriptive quantitative and qualitative data on n = 647 academic EcoHealth articles. We discuss our findings through the document Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Based on n = 647 articles, our findings suggest that although the academic EcoHealth literature mentions n = 162 sustainability discourse terms and phrases, the vast majority are mentioned in less than 1% of the articles and are not investigated in a conceptual way. We posit that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development gives an opening to the EcoHealth scholars and practitioners to engage more with various sustainability discourses including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)
Open AccessArticle Sustaining without Changing: The Metabolic Rift of Certified Organic Farming
Sustainability 2016, 8(2), 115; doi:10.3390/su8020115
Received: 21 October 2015 / Revised: 10 December 2015 / Accepted: 15 December 2015 / Published: 27 January 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (204 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Many proponents of organic farming claim that it is a sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture due to its reliance on natural agro-inputs, such as manure based fertilizers and organic pesticides. However, in this analysis we argue that although particular organic farming practices clearly
[...] Read more.
Many proponents of organic farming claim that it is a sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture due to its reliance on natural agro-inputs, such as manure based fertilizers and organic pesticides. However, in this analysis we argue that although particular organic farming practices clearly benefit ecosystems and human consumers, the social context in which some organic farms develop, limit the potential environmental benefits of organic agriculture. Specifically, we argue that certified organic farming’s increased reliance on agro-inputs, such as organic fertilizers and pesticides, reduces its ability to decrease global water pollution. We review recent research that demonstrates the environmental consequences of specific organic practices, as well as literature showing that global organic farming is increasing its reliance on agro-inputs, and contend that organic farming has its own metabolic rift with natural water systems similar to conventional agriculture. We use a fixed-effects panel regression model to explore how recent rises in certified organic farmland correlate to water pollution (measured as biochemical oxygen demand). Our findings indicate that increases in the proportion of organic farmland over time increases water pollution. We conclude that this may be a result of organic farms increasing their reliance on non-farm agro-inputs, such as fertilizers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Hybrid Arrangements as a Form of Ecological Modernization: The Case of the US Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grants
Sustainability 2016, 8(1), 88; doi:10.3390/su8010088
Received: 31 October 2015 / Revised: 8 January 2016 / Accepted: 12 January 2016 / Published: 18 January 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (592 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
How are environmental policy goals implemented and sustained in the context of political stagnation surrounding national climate policies in the United States? In this paper, we discuss Ecological Modernization Theory as a tool for understanding the complexity of climate governance at the sub-national
[...] Read more.
How are environmental policy goals implemented and sustained in the context of political stagnation surrounding national climate policies in the United States? In this paper, we discuss Ecological Modernization Theory as a tool for understanding the complexity of climate governance at the sub-national level. In particular, we explore the emergence of hybrid governance arrangements during the local implementation of federal energy efficiency programs in US cities. We analyze the formation and advancement of programs associated with one effort to establish a sub-national low carbon energy policy: the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program administered by the US Department of Energy. Our findings highlight the diverse range of partnerships between state, private, and civil society actors that emerged through this program and point to some of the challenges associated with collaborative climate governance initiatives at the city level. Although some programs reflected ecologically modern outcomes, other cities were constrained in their ability to move beyond the status quo due to the demands of state bureaucracies and the challenges associated with inconsistent funding. We find that these programs cultivated hybrid arrangements in an effort to sustain the projects following the termination of federal grant funding. Overall, hybrid governance plays an important role in the implementation and long-term sustainability of climate-related policies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)
Open AccessArticle Nature–Culture Relations: Early Globalization, Climate Changes, and System Crisis
Sustainability 2016, 8(1), 78; doi:10.3390/su8010078
Received: 19 October 2015 / Revised: 7 January 2016 / Accepted: 11 January 2016 / Published: 14 January 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (282 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Globalization has been on everyone’s lips in light of the contemporary conditions. It has been viewed mostly as a stage reached as a result of long-term societal changes over the course of world history. For us, globalization has been an ongoing process for
[...] Read more.
Globalization has been on everyone’s lips in light of the contemporary conditions. It has been viewed mostly as a stage reached as a result of long-term societal changes over the course of world history. For us, globalization has been an ongoing process for at least the last 5000 years. Little attention has been paid to the socioeconomic and natural processes that led to the current transformation. With the exception of historical sociologists, there is less interest in examining the long-term past as it is often assumed that the past has nothing to teach us, and it is the future that we have to turn our intellectual gaze. This paper will argue the opposite. We believe a long-term tracing of the socioeconomic and political processes of the making of the modern world will allow us to have a more incisive understanding of the current trajectory of world development and transformations. To plead our case, we outline the emergence of the first Eurasian World Economy linking seven regions (Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, South Asia, Ceylon, Southeast Asia, and China) of the world, with the exception of the Americas, starting as early as 200 BC, and the sequence of structural crises and transformations (trading networks and commodities) that has circumscribed the structures and trends of the current global system. Such consideration in our view is limited if we do not also include the relations between social systems and Nature, and the rhythms of the climate. For the latter, an awareness of the natural rhythms of the climate as well as human induced changes or climate forcing have triggered system-wide level collapses during certain early historical periods. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)
Open AccessArticle The Anthropocenic Turn: Theorizing Sustainability in a Postnatural Age
Sustainability 2016, 8(1), 10; doi:10.3390/su8010010
Received: 30 October 2015 / Revised: 29 November 2015 / Accepted: 30 November 2015 / Published: 24 December 2015
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (211 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
So long as sustainability represents the attempt to pacify the relationship between societies and their natural environments, the concept must remain attentive to any findings about the character of such relation. In this regard, the rise of the Anthropocene cannot be ignored by
[...] Read more.
So long as sustainability represents the attempt to pacify the relationship between societies and their natural environments, the concept must remain attentive to any findings about the character of such relation. In this regard, the rise of the Anthropocene cannot be ignored by environmental sociologists if a realistic understanding of sustainability is to be produced. The Anthropocene is a scientific notion, grounded on geology and Earth-system science, that plausibly suggests that human beings have colonized nature in a degree that has irreversibly altered the functioning of planetary systems. As a result, social and natural systems have become “coupled”. This paper tries to elucidate the consequences that an “Anthropocenic turn” would have for sustainability studies. To such end, it will explore the related notions of hybridity and relational agency as key aspects of a renewed view of nature. Correspondingly, it argues that cultivated capital (rather than natural or manmade) must be the most important unit for measuring sustainability and devising sustainable policies in a postnatural age. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)
Open AccessArticle Managing Nature–Business as Usual: Resource Extraction Companies and Their Representations of Natural Landscapes
Sustainability 2015, 7(12), 15900-15922; doi:10.3390/su71215791
Received: 20 July 2015 / Revised: 16 November 2015 / Accepted: 24 November 2015 / Published: 30 November 2015
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (372 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article contributes to knowledge of how one category of business organization, very large, British-based, natural resource extraction corporations, has begun to manage its operations for sustainability. The object of study is a large volume of texts that make representations of the managing-for-sustainability
[...] Read more.
This article contributes to knowledge of how one category of business organization, very large, British-based, natural resource extraction corporations, has begun to manage its operations for sustainability. The object of study is a large volume of texts that make representations of the managing-for-sustainability practices of these multinational corporations (MNCs). The macro-level textual analysis identifies patterns in the wording of the representations of practice. Hajer’s understanding of discourse, in which ideas are contextualized within social processes of practice, provides the theoretical approach for discourse analysis that gives an insight into how they understand and practice sustainability. Through this large-scale discourse analysis, illustrated in the article with specific textual examples, one can see that these natural resource MNCs are developing a vocabulary and a “grammar” which enables them to manage natural spaces in the same way that they are able to manage their own far-flung business operations. They make simplified representations of the much more complex natural landscapes in which their operations are sited and these models of nature can then be incorporated into the corporations’ operational management processes. Their journey towards sustainability delivers, in practice, the management of nature as business continues as usual. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)
Open AccessArticle Certification of Markets, Markets of Certificates: Tracing Sustainability in Global Agro-Food Value Chains
Sustainability 2015, 7(9), 12258-12278; doi:10.3390/su70912258
Received: 30 July 2015 / Revised: 1 September 2015 / Accepted: 2 September 2015 / Published: 8 September 2015
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (761 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
There is a blossoming of voluntary certification initiatives for sustainable agro-food products and production processes. With these certification initiatives come traceability in supply chains, to guarantee the sustainability of the products consumed. No systematic analysis exists of traceability systems for sustainability in agro-food
[...] Read more.
There is a blossoming of voluntary certification initiatives for sustainable agro-food products and production processes. With these certification initiatives come traceability in supply chains, to guarantee the sustainability of the products consumed. No systematic analysis exists of traceability systems for sustainability in agro-food supply chains. Hence, the purpose of this article is to analyze the prevalence of four different traceability systems to guarantee sustainability; to identify the factors that determine the kind of traceability systems applied in particular supply chains; and to assess what the emergence of economic and market logics in traceability mean for sustainability. Two conclusions are drawn. Globalizing markets for sustainable agro-food products induces the emergence of book-and-claim traceability systems, but the other three systems (identity preservation, segregation and mass balance) will continue to exist as different factors drive traceability requirements in different supply chains. Secondly, traceability itself is becoming a market driven by economic and market logics, and this may have consequences for sustainability in agro-food supply chains in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology)

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Type of Paper: Article
Title:
Hybrid Arrangements for Sustainable Governance: The Case of the Ecological Modernization of Low-Carbon Initiatives in the US
Author:
Dana R. Fisher and Anya M. Galli
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
Abstract:
How are policy mechanisms that promote sustainability implemented and sustained? This paper builds on the theory of Ecological Modernization to explore the emergence of hybrid governance arrangements during the local implementation of federal energy efficiency programs in US cities. We being by reviewing the notions of ecological modernization and hybrid governance, discussing how they are related to environmental policy implementation. Next, we present the ways that data were collected to assess a sub-national low-carbon initiative in the US. This paper concludes by discussing how these specific programs, which were established via partnerships between government, business, and civil society actors, have cultivated hybrid arrangements to sustain their projects after the federal support ends. Our findings show that hybrid governance plays an important role in both the establishment and implementation of environmental policies that promote sustainability in the US.

Type of Paper: Article
Author: Ortwin Renn
Title: Coping with Systemic Environmental Risks: Contributions of Environmental Sociology for Improved Resilience
Abstract: Current societies are challenged by a number of pressing global systemic risks arising from global environmental transfomations, in particular climate change. Responding adequately to global systemic risks is a challenge for our world society where national interests and different cultures conflict with efficient responses. Systemic risks can be characterized by four major properties: they are (1) global in nature, (2) highly interconnected and intertwined leading to complex causal structures, (3) non-linear in the cause-effect relationships and (4) stochastic in their effect structure. Governance of systemic risks require strategies that address the complexity, scientific uncertainty and socio-political ambiguity of its underlying relationships. However, national as well as international attempts to address systemic risks have decoupled risk anticipation from sustainable and resilient risk management processes and structures. This is the place where insights from environmental sociology are required. The modernization process facilitates the emergence of plural knowledge and value claims that leads to the request of multiple stakeholders to be part of the risk management process. This often includes a power-imbalance among stakeholders in decision making and communicative processes. Public participation has proven to be an important part and often key driver for successful and legitimate risk governance for advancing environmental policies. The various actors of society and the public at large can be important in providing local knowledge and experiences, informing decision making, especially with regard to uncertainty and ambiguity, and securing legitimacy for managing risk. In the end risk management and communication needs to address the four characteristics of systemic risks and develop the appropriate instruments to deal with global, interconnected, stochastic and non-linear risks.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: The Anthropocenic Turn: Theorizing Sustainability in a Postnatural Age
Author: Manuel Arias-Maldonado
Affiliation: University of Málaga, Spain
Abstract: So long as sustainability represents the attempt to pacify the relation between societies and their natural environments, the concept must remain attentive to any findings about the character of such relation. In this regard, the rise of the Anthropocene cannot be ignored by environmental sociologists if a realistic understanding of sustainability is to be produced. The Anthropocene is a scientific notion, grounded on geology and Earth-system science, that plausibly suggests that human beings have colonized nature in a degree that has irreversibly altered the functioning of planetary systems. As a result, social and natural systems have become 'coupled'. This paper tries to elucidate the consequences that an 'Anthropocenic turn' would have for sustainability studies. To such end, it will explore the related notions of hybridity and relational agency as key aspects of a renewed view of nature. Correspondingly, it argues that cultivated capital (rather than natural or man-made) must be the most important unit for measuring sustainability and devising sustainable policies in a postnatural age. Some political implications of this new theoretical framework are also considered.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Managing Nature—Business as Usual: Incorporating Sustainable Development into Corporate Operational Management
Author: Mark Brown
Affiliation: BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway
Abstract: This article contributes to knowledge of how one category of business organization: very large, British-based, natural resource extraction corporations, has begun to manage its operations for sustainability. The object of study is a large volume of texts that make representations of the managing-for-sustainability practices of these business corporations. The macro-level textual analysis identifies patterns in the wording of these representations of practice. Hajer’s understanding of discourse, in which ideas are contextualized within social processes of practice, provides the theoretical approach to gain an insight into how they understand and practice sustainability. Through this large-scale analysis, illustrated in the article with specific textual examples, one can see that these natural resource, ‘green’ MNCs are developing a vocabulary and a ‘grammar’ which enables them to manage natural spaces in the same way that they are able to manage their own far-flung business operations. They make simplified representations of the much more complex biophysical landscapes in which their operations are sited. These models of nature can then be incorporated into the corporation’s operational management processes; the journey towards sustainability delivers, in practice, the management of nature as business continues as usual.

Type of paper: Article
Title: Human-Nature for Climate (Change) Action: Role of Biophilia and Urban Ecosystems (Services) in Promoting Behavioral Change
Author: Helen Santiago Fink
Abstract: The global climate change agenda proceeds at an incremental pace while the Earth is approaching critical tipping points in its development trajectory. Climate action at this critical juncture needs to be greatly accelerated and rooted in the fundamentals of the problem -  the Anthropocene’s’ deleterious impact on the natural environment.
This research highlights the potential to accelerate the trajectory of constructive climate action through increasing policy attention and resource commitment to behavioral change, ecosystem services and sub-national (city) engagement as strategic areas of intervention (by international and national actors).  Directed focus to these areas can reinforce (national) climate commitments to generate cost effective and sustained practices at the micro and macro levels to reduce GHG levels and enhance the resiliency of population groups while contributing to sustainability and  improved quality of life.
Cities are well positioned to accelerate the pace of tangible climate action by creating a balanced urban environments supported by rich ecosystems and bolstered by green and low-carbon infrastructures that generate both mitigation and adaptation solutions as well as valuable co-benefits for socio-economic betterment towards sustainable lifestyles.   Greener cities can strengthen the inherent human-nature relationship (or biophilia) and nudge individuals and societies towards environmental stewardship and urban environments towards carbon neutrality.
This research paper puts forth the potential collective impact of mobilizing urban populations towards increased climate action through awakening biophilia, bolstering urban ecosystems and planning green infrastructure into the built environment.   Literature review complemented by primary research on individuals’ perception of the urban ecosystems-climate change link, a review of associated country commitments to COP21 and a comparison of urban metrics that support quality of life and climate action is presented.  Policy and research recommendations are proposed for further action.
Keywords
: climate change; behavioral change; biophilia; urban ecosystems; green infrastructure; sustainability; lifestyle

 

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