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Kent E. Portney

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Kent E. Portney

This concept of sustainability has emerged as core idea in environmental policy and governance, and increasingly an organizing concept for decision making across many sectors of society. This chapter explores both the scientific and normative foundations of sustainability, and examines how it relates to the biophysical environment as well as to the public policies that are being developed to pursue the idea. The chapter considers many dimensions of sustainability, and argues that, while the ideas involved may seem amorphous, it has come to have many specific meanings. In practice, many notions of sustainability are now also being pursued by nations both individually and collectively, business firms large and small, and local governments and communities. These efforts are often part of broader efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, to manage the environmental impacts of industry and agriculture, and to incorporate principles of equity and justice into policymaking.

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Kent E. Portney and Jeffrey M. Berry

In the face of more than 20 years of experience in the USA, cities continue to search for ways of dealing with the fact that sustainability and its pursuit, as a matter of local public policy, is often deeply contested. This chapter examines the role of local environmental groups in this contestation with a particular eye toward understanding the role of such groups in the context of the underlying political ideology of cities. Taking advantage of patterns across 50 of the largest cities in the USA, this chapter examines the roles of pro-sustainability groups both in terms of their co-production activities and their advocacy before city government, and makes inferences about the importance of such groups independent of how progressive or conservative the city is. Consistent with mainstream understandings of the role of groups, this chapter argues that local decisions to try to become more sustainable are shaped by the roles played by environmental groups. It concludes with the suggestion that the pursuit of sustainability policies and programs moving forward will depend in large part on the extent to which environmental groups are willing and able to engage in advocacy before city policy-makers.