International Handbook on Social Policy and the Environment
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International Handbook on Social Policy and the Environment

Edited by Tony Fitzpatrick

Environmental change is central to the global social policy challenges of the twenty-first century. This comprehensive Handbook brings together leading experts from around the world to address the most important questions and issues we face. How should welfare states adapt to environmental change? To what extent are the ecological and social policy agendas compatible? Must we contemplate radical reforms to the principles and organisation of welfare services? Combining cutting-edge theory and data in an interdisciplinary approach, this Handbook both summarises existing developments and suggests how debates and research must develop in the future.
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Chapter 10: Sustainability and the social economy in Canada: from resource reliance to resilience?

Julie L. MacArthur


Canadians are caught in the classic sustainability double bind: on the one hand, the economy is uniquely dependent on natural resource exploitation for a G8 country; on the other, the environmental risk these activities pose to ecosystems requires them to be scaled back significantly. Narrowly construed economic growth has long won out in this competition over environmental protection and sustainability. This prioritization has intensified since 2007 with a federal Conservative government in Ottawa. Instead of grappling with the systemic socio-economic restructuring required to build towards economic, environmental and social sustainability, Canadian policymakers are increasingly focused on voluntarism and market-based governance (Girard et al. 2010). These policy choices exacerbate rather than solve sustainability challenges, contributing to what ecological footprint scholar William Rees calls this 'generalized human ecological dysfunction' (Rees 2012). It is within this context that bottom-up social innovations from civil society and social economy actors have emerged across Canada. This chapter assesses whether institutional innovations taking place in the Canadian social economy provide a mechanism to facilitate sustainability in the face of an environmentally hostile federal policy regime. An account of progress towards sustainability in Canada based on the elite corridors of Ottawa is certainly grim. This sparsely populated country disproportionately influences the world's climate. In the energy sector alone it holds the world's third-largest oil reserves.

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