This paper examines local sustainability concepts in Connemara, a predominantly rural region in the West of Ireland (in this paper, the term “Ireland” refers to the Republic of Ireland), to show how they are (re-)constituted through people’s interactions with social and biophysical environments. We argue that these interactions produce diverse forms of lay environmental knowledge and expertise that encompass cognitive and emotional aspects, a fact that is frequently ignored in environmental policy-making which prioritises rational arguments over reactions rooted in people’s sense of place and community. Local people’s responses to this dominance of “official” rationaltechnical sustainability concepts are central to recent cases of environmental controversy and lack of compliance to environmental policies that have characterised the study area but that show many parallels to conflicts and disputes elsewhere. Drawing on rich qualitative evidence from interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, this paper demonstrates how communities’ responses to environmental policies depend on how well (or poorly) sustainability concepts underpinning these policies match local people’s social-ecological practices and related place-specific views of what should be sustained.
- environmental policy
- lay knowledge