Un-Sustainability: Sustainability, Power and Economic Development at the City Level

By Robert Lancaster.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Urban sustainability scholarship readily acknowledges the role economics must play if the ‘stool’ trinity is to be successful for any movement toward sustainability. Sustainability literature is replete with such movements, models of sustainability, and various means to implement local acceptance for these various sustainability models and discourses. However, few scholars recognize the threat to power sustainability holds, and even fewer address the power of the ‘seat’ that holds the stool together. While sustainability scholars “cordially” agree to the oft-argued need for a greater role for economics, some locales have encouraged the escalation of economic movements strictly in the name of sustainability, and have moved their actions “behind the scenes” where the issue of power is seldom asked. This research looks to growth machine theory to explain the weak sustainability actions and neo-classical economic results behind the ‘sustainable development’ of Chattanooga, Tennessee, by exploring the phoenix-like elevation of Chattanooga from ‘the most polluted city in the nation’ to its place as ‘shining jewel of sustainability’. Through various public-private coalitions, the local government is able to remain a ‘weak’ partner in securing a federal enforcement and a bevy of awards for its ‘sustainability’ actions that often resulted in great economic successes as promoted by the local level by government, at the behest of business. Here, anything done in the name of ‘green’ would be moving toward sustainability, and therefore is good for the city and citizens.
However, strict adherence to the implementation of such growth-driven policies and programs in the name of ‘sustainability’ will ultimately beg the questions of “Who is in charge?” and “Who reaps the greater reward?”

Keywords: Weak Sustainability, Economic Development, Sustainable Development, Growth Machine, Growth Coalition Theory, Power, Green

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp.347-364. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 979.496KB).

Dr. Robert Lancaster

Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Kentucky State University, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA

I am currently five years into my third career. My teaching interests include state and local government, presidential and legislative politics, as well as research methods and public policy. My primary scholarly interest remains urban sustainability as policy, and I a manuscript near completion for publication in the fall 2010, as I will also be presenting a paper at the ISS Conference in Cambridge 2-5 August 2010. Moreover, after 25 years as a Certified General Appraiser, I have a deep interest in the decidedly more economic issues of “market value”, as well as zoning issues (and the affect on market value), while I have outlined manuscripts for each of these areas.

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