Conceptualizing a Social Sustainability Framework for Energy Infrastructure Decisions

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whitton, john ; Parry, Ioan (2015)

The concept of social sustainability is discussed in a wide range of literatures, from urban planning to international development. Authors agree a notion of social sustainability is difficult to define, comprising numerous component parts (criteria), such as community cohesion, human wellbeing, effective dialogue and the access that citizens have to those that make important decisions on their behalf. The definition and measurement of these criteria and the role of social sustainability in energy decision making is a contentious issue. We argue that a community led, asset based approach is required to achieve any sense of how social sustainability can be defined in a community setting within the context of energy developments. We propose a conceptual framework based on a process of community group prioritization and visioning. Our earlier research on public participation and the role of dialogue for nuclear energy development in the UK, US and Japan is used to demonstrate barriers to be overcome if our systemic model of social sustainability is to become a reality. We highlight the importance of fairness and justice, place based approaches and socio-energy systems, concluding that these are necessary to promote a community and institutional awareness of social sustainability for large energy developments.
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