2020-03-28Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/23709
Defining sustainability? Insights from a small village in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The term “sustainability” is flexible as it needs to function in many different contexts and across many issues. At the same time, this flexibility makes it difficult to assess and easy to misuse. Over the last three decades, numerous sustainability assessment tools have been developed to better define the term. In this paper, we critically address these attempts and argue that the flexibility of the term is not solely problematic, but allow people to create their own sustainability imaginaries, by which we mean a society’s understanding of how environmental resources should be used. We show this through a case study, the Martin Brod village in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where, within a few years, the inhabitants changed their sustainability imaginaries in parallel with shifting external socio-economic conditions and expectations. We primarily applied qualitative research methods. Our results show that changing sustainability imaginaries was made possible due to the flexibility of the term which enabled otherwise disempowered local inhabitants to have agency. Consequently, a stricter definition of sustainability may have unintended consequences for people struggling to maintain a political voice in settings such as Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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