Sustainable development, universally applicable or culturally flawed? A live learning laboratory from Phuket, Thailand

Boonchai, Chantinee (2012). Sustainable development, universally applicable or culturally flawed? A live learning laboratory from Phuket, Thailand PhD Thesis, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Boonchai, Chantinee
Thesis Title Sustainable development, universally applicable or culturally flawed? A live learning laboratory from Phuket, Thailand
School, Centre or Institute School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Robert J. S. Beeton
Marcus Lane
Naiyana Srichai
Total pages 300
Total colour pages 3
Total black and white pages 297
Language eng
Subjects 050205 Environmental Management
160403 Social and Cultural Geography
200202 Asian Cultural Studies
Formatted abstract
Despite the widespread adoption of sustainable development principles in the global community, unsustainable practices persist in both developed and developing countries. Failed governance, corruption, and social and economic inequality are common causes. The symptoms are commonly biodiversity loss and pollution, especially in areas where economic growth remains the priority and chief indicator of success. The contradictions between diverse socio-cultural contexts and globalised economic-technological development pose constraints for implementing sustainable development in countries whose culture, values and ideologies are different from those found in western society. This suggests that sustainable development is a value-laden concept, which prompted this study to investigate the concept in the context of non-western scholarship and a developing country with a long-standing culture and no colonial past. The chosen case study was Phuket Island in Thailand.

The research methodology adopted a pragmatic stance using mixed methods and a grounded theory approach for qualitative data analysis. A systems approach guided the initial conceptualisation of Phuket's development. This was subsequently enriched by analysing local reports and media publications. In-depth interviews were used to gain insights from a sample of informants. The results were tested using two different social change exercises, namely four visioning workshops and two educational interventions with residents from various sectors of Phuket society. Data were contextually analysed and managed using Nvivo8 and Nvivo9 software.

The study reveals no consensus definition for sustainable development among the Phuket participants. Instead, it identifies several key social change processes described as the foundation for achieving desirable development outcomes. These include improving governance through civil society mobilisation, increasing quality of human capital, strengthening cross-sectoral partnership, empowering local leadership, integrating knowledge systems, and building a sense of community in an increasingly diverse society. The use of local culture and philosophy was also identified as a strategic action for achieving a better development direction that is "respectful" and "compassionate". Collectively, these findings allow for a recasting of the western value-laden concept of sustainable development into a form that is consistent with the setting of the case study. The wider implications of this are that an understanding of local contexts is vital for development interventions that are labelled as and have the characteristics of sustainable development to succeed.
Keyword Phuket
Sustainable development
Environmental management
Trans-disciplinary research
Social change
Knowledge management
Learning society
Psychological empowerment
Systems approach
Cultural sensitivity

 
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Created: Tue, 22 Jan 2013, 11:41:21 EST by Ms Chantinee Boonchai on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service