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Keywords:

  • Sustainability;
  • technology;
  • knowledge construction;
  • ecological modernization;
  • power;
  • Sweden

Abstract

Far removed from a direct connection to the land and environmental feedback, most urban inhabitants have little choice but to rely on external sources of information as they formulate their understanding of sustainability. This reliance on analytical, scientifically produced, and highly technical sources of information—such as life-cycle analyses, carbon footprints and climate change projections—solidifies definitions of sustainable living centered on technological resource efficiencies while concentrating the power to define sustainability with experts and the industrial and political elite. Drawing on 14 months of ethnographic field work in and around Stockholm, Sweden, this paper explores how urban alienation shapes ideas about sustainable living among ecologically concerned citizen-consumers and how the urban focus on efficiency has led many to argue that the grass is now greener in the city. Meanwhile this ethnographic research demonstrates that the efficiency-based perspectives so dominant in urban settings are contested by other Swedes who argue that sustainable living also depends on localized connections to the land and communal self-sufficiency. Despite these contrasting perspectives, research presented here suggests that these views are united in the Swedish context by a historically-rooted concern for global equity. As such, the concept of “a fair share of environmental space” resonates with many Swedes who are concerned about human and environmental health, regardless of where they live or how they define or practice sustainable living.