Wicked Problems and Educative Spaces for Urban Sustainability Transition: The Case Study of Housing Roar in Uppsala, Sweden

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper

Abstract: For the first time in history, the global urban population now exceeds the global rural population, meaning that more than 50 % of the world’s population now live in cities. Much attention has been paid to the discourse of sustainable development during the last decades, however, many environmental and social scientists point to an increasing problematic realted to climate change. Greehouse gas emissions are rising, water levels are rising and drought periods are becoming longer, and urban areas are becoming more and more populated. Due to an increasing urbanisation, cities now have the highest demand, compared to rural areas, for food, water, energy and healthcare. At the same time, cities are the biggest threats when it comes to environmental impacts, being responsible for 75 % of all resource consumption and 70 % of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing from sustainability transition theory, new modes of political governance theory and finally, pragmatist educational theory, this paper attempts to analyze the type of learning taking place in political spaces that exist within an institutional void. Learning, as a concept, is in this paper relating both to the type or learning the participants in the case study are experiencing, as well as what society can learn concerning Urban Sustainability Transitions (USTs). The aim of this paper is to explore theoretically and empirically how political spaces of USTs may function as educative spaces. It poses as its research question: How can pragmatist educational theory be used to understand transition for sustainability in institutional voids? As a case study, Housing Roar Uppsala is investigated as a political space where learning occurs. Two meetings have been recorded and four semi- structured interviews have been made in order to analyze the conversations using Practical Epistemology Analysis. A dramaturgical analysis has also been made in order to understand the setting and staging in which the meetings took place. The paper identifies as its results that there is a lingering gap, a lack of knowledge, occurring throughout the meetings, which in turn leads to another gap: that nothing is happening within the network. Furthermore, the ultimate purpose of the network does not always correlate with the proximate purposes of the participants. This is a source for the lingering gap. Through these findings, this paper suggests that the structure of the meetings might not always be the most beneficial one when trying to transition into sustainability, however, it might be the only one participants have when faced with complex, wicked issues. Wicked issues are problems that do not have a simple, single solution. It also finds that the type of learning taking place within the network might be a negotiation of purposes between participants. Finally, the paper concludes that, in relation to USTs, the type of learning that is taking place is that perhaps a totally open, nonhierarchical, network-type organization in a completely open setting, that bans political figures and private companies from entering into the conversation is not the most successful way of reaching sustainability.

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