Conference Theme

Localizing Sustainability: Local Challenges, local champions.

The dilemmas of sustainability exist across multiple temporal and spatial scales: On one hand, sustainability is very much a global and globalizing phenomenon, challenging elected officials, researchers, and engaged citizens to consider how they share a destiny with people far away in time (e.g. future generations) and people far away in space (e.g. people on the other side of the planet).

On the other hand, sustainability is a highly local and localizing phenomenon: the consequences of ecosystem decline, resource scarcity, climate disruption, and economic restructuring emerge with unique consequences, in contexts shaped by different histories, cultural norms, standards of living, and decision-making systems.

Consequently, one of sustainability’s major dilemmas for policy makers, researchers, activists, and engaged citizens is balancing the needs of the temporally and spatially distant with the needs of the temporally and spatially proximate.

Nowhere is this dilemma more pronounced than at the scale of the city-region. The day to day livelihood of urban residents around the world are subject to dynamics in human migration, capital flows, armed conflict, natural and human-triggered disaster, climatic shifts, and technological transitions that are largely outside the control of local government. Yet local governments are often the first responders to the challenges of global change, and leaders at the state and local level are stepping up to fill a sustainability policy vacuum left by national governments incapable or unwilling to confront the realities of climate change, global trade, population growth, etc.

With these challenges in mind, this year’s INSS theme will be “Localizing Sustainability: Local challenges, local champions”. Over the past six years, the annual INSS conference has transitioned to a multi-site conference that allows for the focus and comparison of multiple local challenges. This year’s theme will embrace this transition, allowing each INSS site to focus on local challenges and local champions, and creating opportunities to share these experiences across the conference.

The conference will be guided by the following questions:

  • How are the social and environmental challenges in your city-region unique?
  • How do context-specific histories, norms, narratives, and geographic features mediate policy responses to these challenges?
  • How do we bridge communities within a region (urban-rural, rich-poor, segregated, etc.) to address common issues for the city-region?
  • How do local leaders reconcile (or fail to recognize) the demands the “global” stage versus addressing the needs of local residents, on the ground?
  • What are examples of city-region-scale initiatives or public-private partnerships that prioritize and improve the livelihoods of existing residents?