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Friday 25 November 2022 10:50am

Julian Agyeman image.jpg
Professor Julian Agyeman spoke at the annual Ron Lister Public Lecture on 17 November, hosted by Otago's School of Geography.

The Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University in Boston spoke on the topic of: Just Sustainabilities in Policy, Planning and Practice.

Professor Agyeman originated the concept of 'just sustainabilites' some two decades ago, which has become a hugely influential concept.

“I define just stainabilities as the ability of people as individuals and communities to have a good quality of life and wellbeing, delivered in a just and equitable manner while living within the limits of supporting ecosystems,” Professor Agyeman says.

In his presentation he outlined the concept of just sustainabilities as a response to the 'equity deficit' of much sustainability thinking.

“Environmental degradation around the world is not happening in a vacuum and it's not happening equally in rich and poor neighbourhoods- it's almost always happening and is attended by social injustices and human rights abuses. That's the need for a just sustainabilities approach.”

He also explored his contention that who can belong in our cities will ultimately determine what our cities will become. An example he gave is the Minneapolis paradox:

“There's a belief among a lot of environmentalists that if we somehow green our cities they will become more sustainable and socially just. Minneapolis is probably the greenest city in the US after Portland Oregon and yet, it's also one of the most racially segregated cities with one of the largest disparities in income between black and white.

“Green doesn't necessarily mean social justice. We really need to be intentional about centring social justice issues. Equity and social justice are often second order, but they really need to be configured within the initial project,” Professor Agyeman says.

This public lecture was part of the celebration of 75 years of the School of Geography at Otago, delayed from 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Head of School of Geography, Professor Etienne Nel was delighted to host Professor Agyeman.

“The Ron Lister Public Lecture is an annual memorial event, and we feel we've been cut off for the outside world for a long time. So, it's delightful to re-establish this type of engagement, and equally delightful that Julian as a very well-known international speaker has been willing to join us and share his knowledge with us,” says Professor Nel.

Professor Agyeman will be the keynote speaker at the New Zealand Geographical Society on 24 November. During his visit to Aotearoa he is presenting a series of lectures and meeting with Government agencies.

“I immediately thought I'm not just going to New Zealand to give this one talk, so I've been working my way down the country and back up next week to Christchurch. It wasn't intended to be a lecture tour but have PowerPoint will talk,” Professor Agyeman says.

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