Date of Award


First Advisor

Chris Coggins

Second Advisor

Nancy Bonvillain


This thesis is an analysis of perception, language, and practice regarding sustainable development and glocal (global-local) grassroots movements. These movements comprise the primary means of changing perceptions and enhancing the sustainability of development. Conceptions of nature and wilderness, and practices of nature conservation have largely been premised on the reification of wilderness as a domain untouched by humans. I analyze the sociocultural significance of terms such as “virgin forest” and “wilderness” and show how they are objectified and commodified. Modern ideas and practices of wilderness and nature conservation have emerged in a sociocultural context in which private property is held as a fundamental value. Conservation and sustainable development discourse cannot be analyzed effectively without consideration of the histories of private property, common property resources (CPRs), and core-periphery power relations. In this context, definitions of “poverty” and “global development” must be carefully differentiated in regard to more recent conceptions of “abject poverty” and “material poverty.” I use the UN Millennium Development Goals as a means to delineate the complexity of poverty, standards of living, and how conceptions of poverty change over time. The thesis examines “Knowledge Poverty” (ignorance), which includes loss of language and culture, and the costs and benefits of formal education. These issues are becoming more local as they become more global in a process called glocalization. Glocalization is not linear but hybrid, and this is why “development” must not continue to be conceptualized in linear fashion. For instance, “skipping” the grid phase (typical grid-based production and distribution of energy and communication services, including electrical, gas, and phone services) can dramatically enhance local productive activities such as agroecology, grassroots social organization, and other bottom-up approaches that recognize and empower local knowledge, while increasing security and cash income for rural families. All of these factors point toward the grassroots as the best option for sustainable development, and indicate that continuing development of glocal grassroots networks will catalyze positive effects worldwide.

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