Essential sustainability : from utopian theory to practical application

Blincoe, Karen Sofie (2020) Essential sustainability : from utopian theory to practical application. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This research aims to examine the essence and practicability of sustainability. The impetus for undertaking the study is the conundrum that the more pressing the needs become for embarking on sustainable development the more apparent is the resistance to systemically embrace it. The current growth paradigm appears to be so ingrained and dominant in our society, that despite overwhelming evidence of the need to embark on sustainable development the required intervention has remained elusive. The study examines the critical barriers to achieving sustainability as well as the potential to overcome them. This is addressed from a theoretical as well as practical perspective through primary and secondary research methodology. Three areas of investigation are undertaken: The field of sustainability spanning the period from the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987 till today, the field of utopianism from Plato till current time and thirdly a case study consisting of three diverse, contemporary cases engaged in the process of implementing sustainability. This defines the investigative foundation from which the research questions are addressed, and the aims and objectives are met. The research indicates, that translating sustainability into practical implementation has generated significant responses, both positive and negative. A broad spectrum of barriers is uncovered in the research that hinders the advancement of sustainability. Investigating the utopian aspect of sustainability leads to a deeper understanding of the construct and defines it as a utopian theory advocating a paradigm shift. The analysis of the cases reveals key process factors for positive outcomes in a transition to sustainability and constellates them into a potential framework for wider use. Further research into the process factors based on the evidence of this investigation can consolidate their usability and validity. The research concludes that it has predominantly been smaller, intentional undertakings by civil society that has moved the sustainable development agenda forward and that it is primarily the current economic growth paradigm that is hindering the needed transition.

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