Sustainability and Government – A Case Study of the South Australian Government

Don Clifton


Purpose of the paper: This paper reports on a PhD project (the Project) concerned with what it means for humans to live sustainably, that is, for there to be a sustainable-world. In particular, the Project considers why, despite the need for humans to live sustainably having been of international concern for many years, humanity is still living unsustainably and this situation is worsening.


Research method: A literature review using inductive and theoretical thematic analysis was conducted to develop a typology representing different approaches to a sustainable-world. A case study of the South Australian Government's (SAG's) sustainable-world approach was also conducted.


Findings: Two main sustainable-world approaches are evident: a Reformist approach and a Transformational approach. Reformism is the current dominant approach. A Footprint-Analysis and socio-ecological resilience critique of Reformism casts doubt on its ability to see the primary sustainable-world goal achieved regardless of how aggressively it is pursued. The SAG's sustainable-world approach follows the Reformist theme. Concerns at Reformism's ability to see the primary sustainable-world goal achieved flow through to the SAG setting.


Implications: The findings have important social implications, including policy implications for government, strategic decision making for business, through to day-to-day lifestyle decisions for communities, households, and individuals. The key point is that pursuit of the Reformist approach may, rather than see a sustainable-world come about, continue to drive humanity towards a social and ecological sustainability crisis point, whilst simultaneously acting as a barrier to the more decisive action that it needed.

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