In pursuit of sustainable development: Class differences and contested interpretations

Mr Jerome Jeffison Ofori1

1University Of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia


“Sustainable development means different things to ecologists, environmental planners, economists and environmental activists…Like ‘motherhood” and “God” sustainable development is invoked by different groups of people in support of various projects and goals, both abstract and concrete” (Redclift, 2015, p. 44). Yet very limited studies document how sustainable development is understood and practiced at the community level taking into account contextual socioeconomic and political differences. This paper responds to this limitation by revealing that in spite of the presentation of sustainable development as a technical and eco-scientific construct in academic and policy literature, sustainable development is essentially a social question  and very subjective. A nuanced analysis of interview data from mining communities shows the construction of sustainable development parallels social class stratification within the communities. It is evident from the study analysis that socioeconomic status has considerable influence on how sustainable development is construed in practice. Ensuring a just sustainability as outlined by Agyeman 2013 is thus contingent on understanding differences in how sustainable development is perceived by different people and responding appropriately.


Ofori Jerome Jeffison is a Ph.D. research student at the University of Adelaide. His research interests straddle around the extractive industries and community development in Africa.


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