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Title: Survive or thrive: creating options for sustainable communities in rural Scotland
Author(s): Winther, Anne M
Supervisor(s): McCulloch, Robert
Hanley, Nicholas
Keywords: sustainable rural development
energy justice
ecological footprint
sustainable transport
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Environmental and socio-economic crises are creating compelling needs for radical social change. This project investigated the options and barriers for three Scottish rural communities (Fintry, Killin and Kinlochleven) to become sustainable and thrive in a future resource-constrained world. A unique, holistic and mixed methods approach was used to assess baseline sustainability, envision and model futures and develop possible options for sustainability. Central to this investigation was the development of a strong and holistic model of a sustainable community: the sustainable community design (SCD). This framework shaped the assessment of each community’s baseline sustainability. Sustainability was measured for the ten aspects of the SCD using a scorecard approach with a basket of indicators populated by primary data (collected in a household survey) and secondary data (national statistics). Sustainable consumption was analysed using the Resources and Energy Analysis Programme (REAP) to generate each community’s ecological footprint (EF) and results were compared to current estimates of per capita world biocapacity to gauge sustainability. Even the most sustainable community was only sustainable in three out of ten of the SCD’s aspects and this community had the highest EF. Although the most deprived community had the lowest EF, it was unsustainable in all ten SCD aspects. The results reflected the heterogeneity of rural communities and complexity of sustainability measurement. The SCD scorecard approach for sustainability measurement was shown to be sensitive and robust and can be applied to rural communities across Scotland. Future visions were created in focus groups, in which participants were asked to envision what their community would need to thrive in 2030 under the scenario of peak oil and a low carbon economy. Vision ideas and examples of best practice and technological innovation were used to create narrative scenarios for modelling transport, food and energy futures. The scenarios’ EFs were calculated in REAP for three discrete levels of change: a marginal change, a step change and radical transformation. The results suggested that radical transformation is required for communities to become sustainable. Key features are likely to be re-localised and highly co-operative societies, which utilise technological innovations (such as electric cars powered by renewable energy) and share resources to maximise opportunities for living in rural areas. A community’s transformation is likely to be bespoke and require local control, requiring changes to governance and supportive policy. Key barriers identified were availability of affordable technological innovations, energy injustice, power to achieve self-determination, community governance, property rights and sustainability literacy. A process model, incorporating the SCD scorecard approach, was proposed for furthering sustainable community development and research. In taking an interdisciplinary and mixed methods approach, this study has pioneered a novel approach to the holistic enquiry of the options for creating sustainable rural communities.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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