What sticks? Ephemerality, permanence and local transition pathways
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions. 2020, 36, 72-82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2020.04.008
Climate change is increasingly governed through local configurations that are characterised by voluntary action, weak institutions and uncoordinated efforts. The impermanent and iterative nature of such initiatives makes it difficult to determine their enduring and potentially transformative impact. This review systematises how the sustainability transitions field has approached temporary initiatives. It finds broad agreement on the difficulty of sustaining local transitions, but little analytical engagement with how temporary initiatives shape transition pathways over time. The review therefore proposes a typology of temporal dimensions to help assess the dynamics between ephemerality and permanence in local transitions. By mapping the recent empirical sustainability transitions literature along these dimensions, ephemerality is found to be ubiquitous in local initiatives–there is a lot happening that does not endure but serves other functions. Actors deploy a range of local strategies directed at either formalising initiatives or retaining relevance by reinventing themselves, thus routinising sustainability transitions.