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Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) Research Report #12: In Pursuit of Just Sustainability in the Gauteng City-Region


Year published: 2021
Categories: Report
URL Link: https://www.gcro.ac.za/outputs/research-reports/detail/pursuit-just-sustainability/

Author / Authors:

  • Christina Culwick Fatti
  • Brett Cohen
  • Gail Jennings
  • Lisa Kane
  • Margot Rubin
  • Emily Tyler Simpson


Editor: Christina Culwick Fatti

We are confronted with the challenge of developing cities and societies that respond to the key challenges of our age – climate change, resource scarcity, poverty and inequality. In essence, what is being called for is a transition towards just sustainability. Despite assertions that it is possible to develop in a way that is concurrently socially just and environmentally sustainable, in reality, achieving this alignment has proved elusive.

The GCRO’s 12th Research Report, In pursuit of just sustainability, presents empirical case study research from a range of sectors, perspectives and approaches to advance just sustainability theory and inform practice. The report sets out to examine the interactions between social justice and environmental sustainability using the Gauteng City-Region as the case study context. The first substantive chapter in this collection (Chapter 2) provides a theoretical contribution to understanding just sustainability and proposes a set of considerations for applying it in practice. This chapter is followed by five empirical case studies, with two focused on the energy sector (Chapters 3 and 4), one on housing and urban form (Chapter 5) and the final two cases concentrating on the transport sector (Chapters 6 and 7).

Gauteng provides an appropriate focus for examining interconnections between social justice and environmental sustainability because it is one of the world’s most unequal societies, where wealth inequality strongly correlates with resource consumption and with those who bear the burden of the environmental ills. However, the research does not argue for the uniqueness of the GCR in this regard, but rather that the number of relevant examples in just one small corner of the world, clearly demonstrates the significant need to engage issues of just sustainability in a deeper and more robust way.
This collection of case studies aims to further the discourse on just sustainability by focusing attention on the complexities and potential trade-offs inherent in making progress towards a society that is both socially just and environmentally sustainable. Each chapter argues against simplification, and tries to demonstrate that while a crucial objective, building just sustainability is neither simple nor straightforward.


  • Report