Winner, Student Essay Award, 2001

Winning paper: People, Politics and Planetary Health: Taking a Critical Social Science Perspective on Sustainability Evaluation

Camille attends Dalhousie University, in the Faculty of Health Professions, under the supervision of Dr. Jacqueline Gahagan.

Summary: Recent ecological understandings join traditional knowledge in motivating calls for a shift toward sustainable human activities which equitably meet human needs while preserving the integrity of natural systems (Soskolne & Bertollini, 1998; United Nations [UN], 1993; World Commission on Environment and Development [WCED], 1987; World Health Organization [WHO], 1992; Witten et al., 2000). Concomitantly comes the realization that, in order to support informed and responsible decision-making, we need to assess our progress in the move toward sustainability (National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy [NRTEE], 1995). This task is very complex. Sustainability is a value-laden concept, whose contestability, if unacknowledged, challenges the utility and integrity of evaluation efforts (World Conservation Union [IUCN], 2001; Diduck, 1999). Accordingly, I argue that evaluators should explicitly address the theoretical, political, and ethical issues involved in both sustainability and evaluation practices. To accomplish this, I examine the application of a 'critical social science perspective' (CSSP) (Eakin, Robertson, Poland, Coburn & Edwards, 1996; Poland, 1996) to investigate socio-political concerns of ideological assumptions, power, contradiction, and dialectical relationships in sustainability evaluations.