Keywords: discourses, regenerative eco-localism, industrial ecology, spatial competition, metaphor, eco-industrial parks, sustainable development, local development, policy
Innovative discourse for sustainable local development: a critical analysis of eco-industrialism
For many years, the problem to be resolved by those charged with achieving local economic development has been 'How does this locality become competitive against other localities?' The processes of economic and spatial integration, understood generally as globalisation, have only served to broaden the definition of those localities that could be described as competitors. Equally, the policy prescriptions that surround this discourse follow an internal logic dominated by market liberalisation in the context of creating some form of competitive advantage over other localities. The research and policy-making process involves scouring the world for examples of best practice to measure, codify, emulate and transfer. Inevitably, under this conceptualisation, most localities are doomed to fail. More recently, the concept of eco-industrialisation has come into prominence as a means to achieve sustainable local development, but again the discourse is one dominated by place promotion and a narrowly determinist interpretation of the ecology metaphor. That is, eco-industrialism as local development has been difficult to distinguish from other forms of place promotion. This paper argues that sustainable local development requires an innovative discourse predicated on the ecological metaphors of diversity, difference and 'fit' with unique local characterisations. It is a discourse that must reach beyond the confines of contemporary economic rationality, and in so doing lay the foundations for a radically redefined concept of local development.