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What Are Just Sustainabilities?

It is a concept that urges us to place justice at the center of any effort toward environmental sustainability, says Julian Agyeman

When most of us think about sustainability, we focus on energy, water, food, and waste. But there is much more to it, says Julian Agyeman, a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts. A key component should be the inextricable links between environmental quality and social justice, he says.

To bridge that gap, Agyeman has been promoting an idea he calls just sustainabilities for two decades, arguing that sustainability can—and should—be linked with larger social justice goals.

“I define just sustainabilities 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,” says Agyeman.

He’s carried that message into the planning and policy worlds in a series of books, starting with Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World in 2003, and into the larger world of public opinion with articles and op-eds. He is a regular contributor to The Conversation, where he has written and spoken about topics ranging from removing freeways as racist infrastructure to how urban planning and housing policy helped create food deserts, or “food apartheid” in American cities.

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