Unison to Post-modernism or a Risky Radicalized Approach? Environmental Citizenship for Waste Management as a Reflex of Identity Claims in Wolkite Town
If waste is to be managed properly in alignment with the grand republican definitions of environmental citizenship, the citizen as an “I” and “We” has to be re-imagined and re-defined in the turbulent identity quests that are challenging the conventional post-modernist axioms. In Wolkite Town, environmental citizenship as a pivotal apparatus of managing wastes, has been suffering from the identity related politicizations, and the resulting inclusion and exclusion with their attendant risks of divergence from the mainstream post-modernist approaches. A proliferating set of waste management frameworks seem to be incapable of residing in the socio-political context of Wolkite Town, deficient of some golden normative ideals: sustainability, all inclusive andhetero-cultural considerations subscribed largely by the post-modernist philosophy. Accordingly, the study revealed that stakeholders’ commitment as environmental citizens has been at political skepticisms and anxieties, leading to the lack of a common spirit to address waste related concerns in the town. The identity of environmental citizenship whether of privately or organizationally expressed for waste management behaviors is subject of unsettled political ontologies. The establishment of cross-communal organizations, the effort of traditional community associations, the role of academic institutions, the responsibility of administrative organs, and a variety of other non-governmental organizations in dealing with waste management is a reflex of identity quests that are abusing the post-modernists’ definition of environmental citizenship.
Keywords: Environmental Citizenship; Identity; Urban; Waste Management
Though Wolkite Town is now featuring the development of a multi-nuclear set of unprecedented waste management problems, what is persistently underlying all such phenomenon is the question of who is a citizen and shall engage in environmental citizenship behaviors? Waste management transcends the conventional principles or natural notions that “waste has to be properly eliminated for the purposeful goals of preserving the ecosystem, maintaining biotic health, establishing urban beauty” and so forth. Some other fundamental obvious questions or issues are appearing as a formidable concern: The definition of who is a responsible citizen in the town to care for the environmental concerns. Therefore, urban waste management now embroiled a wide array of concerns, including but not limited to land ownership, urban belongingness, intra-ethnic disagreements, and sandwiched political positions of municipal officials [1-5].
Hobson, in his article on the Making of the Environmental Citizen, has summarized some of the basic environmental citizenship questions that are occupying the field of environmental citizenship behaviors . It is quoted as follows. What could, should, and does an environmental citizen look like? To what extent can contemporary environmental concerns be aligned with citizen rights and duties across a range of political and socio-cultural contexts? Is it possible and/or desirable to encourage en masse enactments of particular attitudes and practices that could be labeled as acts of environmental citizenship? Indeed, are the actions of such urban inhabitants as much as can be expected and hoped for from twenty-first century citizens…?
In Wolkite Town, the above set of questions seems to reside in a more powerful, political orientations and identity theologies. A deterministic way of forwarding judgments on how should individuals behave vis-à-vis waste concerns is strongly ignited by identity claims, which are primordial, preliminary, and essentialist in nature. Perhaps closer to these issues, the situations of political barriers that are complicating waste management programs in Ireland are noted by Reams and Templet as “Incinerator Politics” . Davies also explained how the community’s conflict perceptions are creating a barrier in the move towards a better deployment of waste management theories and technologies. Empirical investigation of incineration conflicts in Ireland reveals the centrality of a dynamic and evolving spatial dimension, both in the governing strategies adopted by the state in support of a system of waste management that involves a commitment to incineration, and in the transnational advocacy coalition approach adopted by anti-incineration campaigners seeking alternatives to incineration .
The substance of the situation at Wolkite Town is a sort of community perceptions that are boiled up identity quests. Identity related claims, flatly and squarely born of the federal political arrangement, made by some groups is making waste management programs and projects more complex and difficult than the normative models of urban waste management that involves the increasing use of technology, post-modern environmental preservation methodologies, and stakeholders’ responsive engagement. A plurality of scholarship works have flooded the academia arguing that waste can be addressed through the development of the inner concepts of environmental citizenship. By making citizens environmentally responsible that is legalized and institutionalized, waste collection and elimination programs could be implemented. For this sake, a plenty of scholars provide suggestive comments and prescriptive normative packages that make an explicit concern on the joint, involving all the stakeholders’ as a citizen either individually or collectively through public or private organizations, development of schemes and integrated plans. Nevertheless, very unfortunately, the reality at Wolkite town is beyond this.
There exist an ever perplexing and flaming discontent and disagreement on the epistemological discourses of who is a “Citizen” and who is “immigrant” in the local context. Having such dispositions, the argument brewed a set of sharp and very dangerous conflicts. Henceforth, the question of waste management is now bound up with the very questions of who is the original settler (citizen) of Wolkite town, and thus the attendant claims of land ownership, town ownership, balkanization of political posts, and so forth. A contentious wave of arguments has created, at the apex of the dissimilitude discourse, inclusion and exclusion. There is a dearth of research that specifically assesses the underlying factors for the lack of waste management program that brings various actors together in a formidable manner. Even worse the systematic and structural relationship between identity cleavages and waste management modalities are not yet addressed systematically. Though such researchers as Ahmedin and Tesfaye investigated some technical aspects of waste management, the philosophical and identity claims that shape the matter are not investigated [9,10]. Therefore, in this study, strong care and emphasis has been given on how environmental citizenship is being defined as a politically born theoretical opposition to the existing largely applauded post-modernist conception of environmental citizenship. Specific emphasis has been given, thenceforth, on how environmental citizenship is being redefined, in stark contrast to civic- republican conceptions, as a consequence of identity politicizations.
This study is a qualitative grounded theory study. Themes, long-held and widely held cultural perceptions, organizational stances, and authoritative governing contemplations were generated from a wide variety of interviewees and focus group participants, and drawn in to some metanarrative theoretical frameworks and conceptual packages to produce an overarching principle and set of concepts. Driven by the existing very complex political ontology and oriented towards the shaping of the same, this study was intended to develop matrixes whereby environmental citizenship could be studied in the light of existing turbulent identity related contentions, thereby leading to the establishment of an understanding.
Interviewees and focus group participants were selected from a diverse set of stakeholders. It is illustrated as follows. The basic criterion for the selection of the interview and focus group discussion is made on the basis of the expertise, experience and exposure in urban waste management practices. Hence purposive sampling was used to select some of the participants. In this regard, based on snow ball sampling technique, the recommendation of community members and organizational directors was used to identify potential participants (Table 1).
Since the major emphasis made in this paper is on the organizational procedures, structures, and principles that supported urban waste management, the views of individual residents was not included. During the in depth interview and focus group discussion sessions, considerable emphasis has been given to environmental behavior, specifically waste management responsibilities, as a “nucleus of environmental citizenship” (strongly emphasized by a wide array of researchers, such as Asilsoy and Oktay) in the light of the existing identity quests . By virtue of this, this study thoroughly and systematically pursued some very conflicting, contradicting, opposing realities that divided the community in to two poles. These are: The quest of some communities for environmental virtue in addressing waste problems, resembling the post-modernist idea, and the quest of some other communities for the realization of identity (ownership) treasuries, which is much like an extreme (abusive) application of post-modernist thought. Therefore, this study assessed the awareness of both groups, to clarify detail sources of quarrel.
Finally, the understanding of the community is analyzed in accordance with the basic normative ideals of post-modernist thinking. And so, empirical divergences are explained in this study, necessitating the acquisition of more fundamental institutional structure and theoretical framework to address the issue at hand.
Environmental Citizenship is one of the highly valued and credited concepts that are increasingly being attached with the concept of urban waste management. A myriad of literatures with a profound and powerful rhetorical appeal for environmental protection talk about environmental citizenship as a valuable tool of urban waste management. Nevertheless, another layer of concern, deficient of adequately pursued systematic researches, is coming in to the urban waste management limelight: identity and its attendant risks. The possession of environmental citizenship as an instrumental and cohesive perception is being under the strains of identity related quests and bon of contentions. Identity related quests that are being presented across various corners of the world are emerging as a threat and barrier against the exhibition of environmental citizenship behaviors, as well dealt with in a universe of ecologically concerned literatures. Therefore, environmentally driven exploration and investigation projects could barely bear a fruit unless some of the emerging group based identity related quests are provided a consolidated attention, to break the shell of environmental citizenship behaviors.
This study is theoretically designed to explore urban waste management in Wolkite Town by combining two fold conceptions: environmental citizenship towards urban waste management behavior as a reflex of identity. Environmental citizenship towards urban waste management should be strongly grounded in a presupposition that identity claims are central and discursive ones that shape and determine, very significantly, the turn towards environmental agendas. Thus corporate social responsibility different across cultural settings tend to have variations. Religious and identity differences create different approaches on how to deal with common corporate social responsibility, such as urban waste management . Basically, an approach that specifically focuses on the creation of a common regulatory and governance framework across various cultural settings is so crucial . In this regard, cross-cultural organization for corporate environmental responsibility requires preliminary training, consensus making dialogues, provision of financial incentives, and resettling identity claims as a step towards coordination .
To clearly understand the way identity quests are making waste management as a perplexing phenomenon, due concern was given for cross-societal, non-governmental, governmental, and traditional institutional frameworks that embody such cross-cutting issues as land ownership, town ownership, inter-ethnic attitudes, and communal perceptions. In due course of which, the level of divergence has been identified with the mainstream environmental citizenship discourses using post-modernist though as a benchmark and guiding framework.
In Wolkite town, there is scarcity of waste collection containers at various sections of the town. The problem is not so much about lack of budget and resources as about that of the existence of a radicalized post-modernist contemplation of environmental citizenship which is aligned with the substantive elements of political ontology, identity claims over land and town. The phenomenon that is happening in Wolkite Town is a byproduct of the existing overarching rhythm: the political ontology and its attendant identity overtones declared widely. Some of the Administration Directors and other professionals expressed their concern as follows.
Wolkite Town Administration Office in collaboration with Urban Municipality, as a legal and public organization, has made some initiatives to create a collaborative structure through which waste could become a common stake. Nevertheless, the response from various residents has been worthless. The establishment of waste dumping and recycling center has been effectively reacted and resisted by different groups. The group explained their basic concern contradictory the principles of public ownership of land, stipulated by the constitution (Urban Administration Officer; Municipality Official).
Waste management is part of the mainstream green political ideology that is intended to produce environmental citizens as a mechanism of making up, legally, socially, and ecologically, residents to adhere to the basic principles of preserving the environment, contributing for the maintenance of the ecological balance, and the development of the resilience of the town. However, waste management is beyond the grand theoretical and normative principles of caring and serving the serving urban environment .
The questions of identity and lack of common societal spirit is threatening the very basic ideas of who should reside and then care for the town. Therefore, the question of waste management is coalescing fundamentally to some grand ontological concerns: who is the owner, the original settler, and immigrant? And then, who should care for? Where to dump whose waste? Together, such questions are a prerequisite and an overriding norm (whether we like it or not) that have to be addressed aptly before moving in to the idea of fostering an environmental citizen.
Waste management concern is being radicalized rather than being seen as a formula that embodies the stakes of all responsible stakeholders. However, the conventional view among Wolkite Town residents spans over a wide range of algorithms and extreme interests: some claiming teleological concerns, some questioning land legitimacy and settlement, while others are facing the extremism and shallow, ill-treated conception of post-modernism (modern scientific environmental concerns as challenged by the concern for the voice of various groups) by the others . Thus, waste management is suffering from the radical definition of environmental citizenship that off limit other groups as irrelevant, immigrants, illegal and powerless. The Table 2 below confirms this fact.
Because of lack of answer to the identity claims of some groups, living with wastes is becoming the reality of Wolkite Town residents, predestined by such priori identity claims. This stands in stark contrast to the basic notions of post-modernist conceptualization of environmental citizenship. It is very less accommodative of societal diversities; as a consequence, making environmental citizenship a risky behavior. Any individual efforts either privately pursued or organizationally directed are nothing more than a reflex of the existing identity concerns. Henceforth, Wolkite Town residents are positioned neither to be judged against a post-modernist conceptual landscape nor to be discredited as having apathy, environmental insensitivity, and crime. The central theme of -are we preparing our citizens to assume environmental citizenship behaviors and responsibilities? - Barker could not be simple or straightforward to answer in the midst of a surfacing public opinion and claims of less significance to the agendas of post-modernists . The fact that environmentally responsible citizenship behaviors are constructed by attitude along with others, as identified by Hawthorne and Alabaster and Pallet, is too the fact at Wolkite Town [14,17]. What transcends at Wolkite Town is that such attitudes and beliefs are shaped by the existing more primordial phenomenon: identity quests over town. The touching stones of environmental citizenship that are prominently figuring in the twenty first century literatures are increasingly related to the existing socio-political contexts. The underlying socio-political realities in Wolkite Town are, however, more transcendental and antecedent to the existing concerns. Pro-environmental virtues and responsibilities that have found their expression in various conservation and ecological movements are disposed in the context of Wolkite Town by historicity and identity incarnation .
The normative idea is that waste is the concern of all stakeholders; and, thus, has to be addressed through a scheme that brings the resources, knowledge, idea, and concern of all responsible stakeholders [11,18]. And, equally, organizational structures are the rooms in which individual environmental citizenship behaviors are voiced colorfully. Nevertheless, waste management is given very limited room for discussion and concern in terms of assuming and allocating citizenship responsibility on the part of various governmental and non-governmental organizations. The problem of poor stakeholder engagement is also infected by the politicization of waste management, leading to the abundance of pro-social waste engagement behavior. Notwithstanding the unfolding and evolving concept in the academia of forming institutional and organizational structures to instill sense of responsibility towards addressing urban waste related problems, the situation at Wolkite town is far from this, partly shadowed with unpleasant community perceptions and anxieties that grew out of structural and political problems. Some of the interviewees and focus group participants provided their concerns as quoted below.
Community based organizations which help to organize participation among various town residents ware not established. Though attempts were made to create procedures to create community organizations among various identity groups in the town, it has failed partly because of lack of common spirit. The residents are divided on the question of ownership of the town. Even, the prerequisites that facilitate communication and common consensus among residents are not well established. The establishment of task force becomes very difficult to establish, for many guerilla fighting and bullying among youth groups of various villages made it difficult. Understandably, waste is an issue of health and ecosystem balance. However, the issue of clan identity is resumed, time and again, as a primordial concern. Because of this, the level of care given for environmental citizenship is left behind as a secondary or irrelevant matter of fact (Municipality Official; Member of Kebele 01; Community members, Kebele 01, and 03).
The engagement of academic institutions (which are understood to play a significant role as expressed in; Dam and Volman “Critical Thinking for Environmental Citizenship” in waste management practices has suffered from stiff resistance from the students that are divided across ethnically drawn and developed concepts. Two authorities from the Woreda Education Bureau and some school directors have provided a note in this regard .
It has been a failed and dangerous attempt to instigate the issue of urban waste management in various schools. Proposals were rejected, sometimes because of security threats from identity based conflicts or other related factors. Trust, consensus, and common spirit are essentially the necessary preconditions for the establishment of a forum or panel discussion through which ideas are aggregated. Apart from this, Creating a community structure and institution by which the whole community can cooperatively engage as one for the sake of a common residential space is being degraded by the absence of ownership. (School Director; Community Based Organization Member; Zonal Education Bureau).
On the other dimension of the shell, environmental citizenship towards urban waste management is suffering from a negative affectivity of identity related politicizations. One more thing seems obvious in this regard: the existence of a weak procedure of creating regular and programmed community based sanitation events, either weakly or otherwise. Some of the traditional community association (Idir and Iqub-indigenous social organizations) leaders have provided the following remarks.
Based on initiatives made by the town administrators, some practices have been undertaken. However, a reversing trend has been an impediment in this regard. Therefore, sustainable urban waste management and governance suffered from strong resistance coming from various groups (Leader of Social organization; Leader of social organization, Community Association organizer Member).
Organizationally posited environmental agendas are effective tools to enhance individual’s awareness of environmental citizenship behaviors [20,21]. The practice of exchanging environmental citizenship responsibilities towards waste management is handicapped by the lack of a structure that crosses over various organizations and community residents. Individual commitments provide unbridled scale of inertia for the exhibition of environmental citizenship behaviors. Such environmental citizenship behaviors cannot be overlooked as though separated and distinct from organizational structures and social identity perspectives [22-25]. In Wolkite Town, socio-economic and political structures that tie various sections of the community are absent owing to lack of a democratic process of understanding each other signified by communication, consensus making dialogues and compromising of interests, which is presupposed to play a pivotal role in the establishment of a new political ontology . The Table 3 below provides a description of how initiatives failed to be materialized.
It is very complex that the questions that are dividing the community are not clear by themselves. Is it for the aggregation of diverse societal commitments? Or is it more about navigating a process by which identity related quests are to be answered as a prerequisite for further communal organizational structure? It is unclear as the quests at one extreme resemble the post-modernists’ concern for “challenging the modernists’ meta-narrative” and on the other extreme look very much like the radicalized but improper interpretation of post-modernism . Establishing cross-societal organizations is requiring an imperative (i.e. affirmation of identity quests), a benchmark that ushers in a program of common environmental responsibility behavior towards waste management.
Notwithstanding the unfolding public concern for waste management, waste management that is projected to be dealt with through a societal organizational structure is assumed to be illegitimate. Communal organization, though given primacy for effective expression of environmental behaviors by some groups, lost its acceptance, and thus, its cross-societal identity as a viable approach of maintaining environmental citizenship. Accepting and then reserving the concerns of some groups whilst realizing the concerns of other groups seems like implementing two contradictory things at the same time at the same space. Henceforth, what could be drawn in this regard is that decoupling the two and treating them separately is more than what the normative principle could recommend. Thus, such identity quest has brought a sharp line of cleavage among the community, squarely contradicting to the normative principle expressed as “post-national citizenship which is explained through the participation, engagement of the community in the age of globalization” by Korfmacher, Tambini , Sabbagh et al. [28-30].
Wolkite Town, no matter how significant waste management concerns appear to be, is notoriously hosting a modus operandi that forms a cleavage across the demos very strictly. Therefore, the bold principle that is required to address the existing waste management concerns should be antecedent for, and precede the existing mainstream philosophies. Waste management could not be addressed before special attention is fed to the politicization of identity claims that underlie the overall consequent approaches towards urban development.
Civil societies are strongly assumed as organizations that play a tremendous role in introspectively engage in the establishment of a structure whereby the whole residents could participate in urban waste management programs. Nevertheless, in Wolkite Town, civil societies (Local, mostly) does reflect the interest of some section of the society. They do not have the trust and affiliation of all residents; thus, rather than serving as instruments of provisioning of various waste management ideas and projects; serve as another focal point of contention. This is substantiated by the following focal group participants and interviewees.
Different civil society associations, except in some rare cases of government organized forums and practices, do not make initiatives. They do not own some responsible process of organizing waste governance concepts. They are not well oriented or provided with appropriate procedure of working space to work along with other stakeholders (Leader of Local organization; Director of Municipality).
The concern and the verity at Wolkite town are evidently deviated from the findings of the mainstream research empirical outputs which altogether emphasized on the role of various quarters of the society [31-35]. Thus, waste management as an environmental citizenship responsibility is a contested subject and point of disagreement, requiring the development of communal convergence on prerequisites. Contracting with the stakeholders, extracting most of the provisioning potentials of sectors, untethering the irreplaceable role of diverse actors from the environmental citizenship institutional framework is a concept that is figuring in the global solid waste management discourses. Wolkite, as a curse or otherwise of identity predicaments, is facing a stiff resistance from and sharp categories among the community, with some civil societies tend to be part and parcel of just some societies while others conflate with that of other community members. Though waste has been given recognition in the plans of Municipality and Town Administration of Wolkite Town to be addressed through the ardent participation of all stakeholders, the practice is far from the targets and expectations.
The process and structure of engaging various stakeholders in waste management programs is very generic and degenerative one in the midst of a brewing and spoiling identity related quests. This signals, as one might easily intuitively contemplate, the differences among civil societies in their purchasing of environmental citizenship value sets. Though proliferating stakeholder heterogeneity is given emphasis by various scholarly works, the ascertained fact is that waste management is context specific: The underlying politicized identity claims. Viewing waste management is being cross-examined through the prism of some packaged questions, such as land utility, ownership, town ownership, and settlement patterns as well .
People-to –people dialogues are so instrumental in order to bring different understandings in to one grand and all inclusive theme. Nevertheless, in spite of various efforts, the constituencies at Wolkite Town are widening their conception of waste management topics. Youth associations, school clubs, workers’ unions, trade unions, women’s’ associations, teachers ‘associations, and plenty of other organizations are each advancing towards the basic causes of waste management. However hard they appear to stand up for environmental citizenship organizationally, they are persistently facing a challenge. The bridge is not yet build among them. They do not have a collective legal, organizational and consensual structure to work together towards accomplishing their environmental citizenship as an individual and organizational member. The following quoted statements are representatives of this phenomenon.
Associations and organizations, in terms of organizational frameworks and working principles, are already inclined to a certain group. The problem of urban waste as a common concern is ignored. Some of such associations have been engaging in some identity quest expressions which further widened an existing disagreement. There are some cases in which proposals to work together were reacted with violence. It is hard to communicate and work together on common urban waste problems (Youth Association; Teachers’ Association; Trade Union).
It is a stated fact that various organizations that aggregate a wide range of societal understandings could build up a crescendo in environmental citizenship. Environmental citizenship is an identity that is increasingly built up by the behaviors of individuals working privately and collectively along with others. What is happening at Wolkite town is undermining the potentials of various groups to run through inter-sectoral horizons to bring high-octane power to address waste management concerns. The very structures and organizational commitments are laid on sharp premises that curtail cross-associational collaborative platforms. Therefore, rather than standing as virtuous agents of environmental citizenship practices, associations are adding up another layer of divisions and clashes. The post-modernist orientation that distinctive identities have to be accommodated and then bridged with others to create a common space is radicalized and misinterpreted. Priorities of associations are invigorated with sparse concern for collective structures. Therefore, the ordering of associational interests and prime agendas is taking the very premises of post-modernist concepts in to extreme levels, thereby letting a shadow of conflict, unsettled communal interests, exchange of diverging communications, and inflationary debates surface. Socially constructed waste management concept, for it is radicalized, is serving as a frontline for disagreement and politically cracks (Table 4).
The table above describes cross-cultural communications and related problems. Environmental citizenship towards waste management at Wolkite town is not just a linear, simple projection of stakes for ecosystem balance, health maintenance, or cleanliness. The matter is complicated and abstracted by a complex interaction of identity items. Henceforth, waste management concern is conceptually defined in a way that abuses the components of post-modernist understandings. Amongst a set of such interacting absurd values, associational extremism, organizational divisions, prioritization of mere ethnic concerns exist as a problem [38-44].
In this article, I have discussed about environmental citizenship behaviors in waste management programs as essentially reflexed by the existing identity concerns. Addressing waste management could not be realized through the deployment of the conventional principles that are readily available across various literatures. An axiom that transcends the existing waste management programs has to be designed. Accordingly, waste management program in Wolkite Town requires a structural and categorical approach that took priorities, antecedents, and prerequisites in to account before directly diving in to environmental citizenship behaviors.
Identity quests that are flatly constituting and shaping the political ontology, wherein the practice of environmental citizenship identity is largely defined, have to be properly addressed in sustainable and well arranged. It is self-evident that environmental citizenship behaviors for waste management are being radicalized. Normalizing the conventional understandings and perceptions to be guided by the mainstream ideologies of post-modernist thinking has to be the primordial concern.
Architecting an organizational structure that embodies and then shapes the individual and collective environmental behaviors towards waste management is so pivotal. Planting such structures across a universe of governmental and non-governmental actors need to be oriented in a way that brings all the people in to a uniform term of agreement. Thus, consensus, trust making projects are important preconditions to create a way forward to create an organized set of tasks for waste management programs.
Environmental citizenship could not be able to proliferate in the community concerns if the antecedent prisms are not given due emphasis. The fallacy of sequence is very generic and relevant that has to be carefully and wisely dealt with in a way that brings community consensus. Political ontological practices have to be re-crafted and redesigned so that an effective pursuance of waste management behavior as an important component of environmental citizenship among Wolkite Town residents could be championed. Triumph making processes across the community are so destructive and greatly abysmal. Thus, settlement of identity quest is the sine qua no overriding principle of all other forms of environmental or otherwise projections in the town.