Nature, power and participation : an exploration of ecology and equity in Kingston, Jamaica
Kingston is a city facing serious environmental challenges. In common with other Third World cities, these have usually been documented from the perspective of affluent and powerful urban residents. Very little research has explored the spatial and social distribution of environmental problems in the city, or has examined the ways that individual citizens from a variety of backgrounds understand the urban environment. These problems have often been packaged as discrete issues, when in fact they cannot be understood or alleviated without knowledge of their economic, political, and cultural aspects. Urban environmental problems require political solutions that address uneven power relations and ineffective structures of urban governance. In this thesis, I address these issues in Kingston through an application of the themes of nature, power and participation. A mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods were used to explore the ways in which urban residents from different age, gender and class backgrounds construct the city and its environmental problems. The knowledge of marginalised individuals and groups is placed in the foreground and is used to provide an alternative analysis of Kingston’s ecology. These understandings are then used to assess critically the structures of urban governance, and to suggest possible changes that could be made to these. The research confirms that there are significant environmental problems in Kingston, and that these have serious negative impacts on many urban residents. It shows that these problems are understood differently by the various social groups within the city, and that the burdens of environmental problems vary socio-spatially across the Kingston Metropolitan Area. Despite this, there is a general consensus that environmental improvement is desirable. However, for this to be achieved there need to be fundamental alterations in the social structures and political organisation of the city.