Negotiating green urbanism in imagined communities
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A consortium of property developers set out to occupy 345 hectares of sea bed near Fremantle Port by claiming that their project, North Port Quay, would demonstrate that the community of Western Australia could ‘lead the world in sustainable development’. However, this legitimization strategy collapsed by late 2009 after the consortium’s proposed urbanism clashed with pre-existing imagining of Fremantle and environmental sustainability in a discourse of public concerns about the project. This paper describes attempts by the consortium to claim the environmental high ground and their discursive failure in public encounters In Fremantle. The ecological risk of a carbon-constrained future articulated by proponents was transformed in the minds of their target audience into the ecological risk of the project’s construction while representations about investing in the city’s future meant unacceptable risk for Fremantle community. The threat of North Port Quay became an effective discursive tool, used successfully by a Greens party candidate to win the Fremantle seat in Western Australia’s parliament; producing an historic electoral victory for the Greens and ending 85 years of continuous Labor Party representation. The paper is adapted from PhD research examining how representations of ecological threats, such as climate change, are applied as discursive resources for social action in the field of urban development. The research design consisted of a multi-method approach in which techniques of discourse analysis were applied to representations of ecological threat in public and media texts about North Point Quay. The paper provides insight into how community imagining affects the negotiation of green urbanism.
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