This chapter explores how geographic information systems (GIS) can be used in diverse economies research by first tracing how debates about GIS methods and associated epistemologies have changed since the 1980s. Although initially seen as a tool limited to quantitative spatial analysis, GIS has since expanded in scope to support and extend a variety of interpretivist modes of knowledge. Participatory, qualitative, and critical GIS emerged as some diverse ways to use GIS and spatial data. Scholars using a diverse economies approach participated in this expansion of the scope of GIS.
Much of the debate over sustainable development revolves around how to balance the competing demands of economic development, social well-being, and environmental protection. “Jobs vs. environment” is only one of the many forms that such struggles take. But what if the very terms of this debate are part of the problem? Reimagining Livelihoods argues that the “hegemonic trio” of economy, society, and environment not only fails to describe the actual world around us but poses a tremendous obstacle to enacting a truly sustainable future.
Deepening ecological crisis alongside a half century of widening inequality and economic instability are evidence that Business as Usual cannot go on. Transformation is required, particularly in the realm of corporate activity, the business of business. Shareholder primacy is a powerful social norm that constrains transformation. It positions publicly traded corporations as compelled by competitive necessity and bound by law to place shareholder returns first.
Today the planet faces a genuine tragedy of the unmanaged “commons.” For decades an open access and unmanaged resource has been treated with the same sort of disregard as Hardin’s pasture was treated. The planet’s life-supporting atmosphere has been spoiled by “‘help yourself’ or ‘feel free’ attitudes” (Hardin 1998: 683). We are now faced with the seemingly impossible task of transforming an open access and unmanaged planetary resource into a commons which is managed and cared for.
This chapter, written for the Thinking in the World Reader (Bloomsbury Press), seeks to challenge and think beyond a key blockage in contemporary life: the conventional distinction between economy and ecology. As we argue, the distinction between these two domains severs us from transformative, ethically-infused encounters with our constitutive interdependencies. We explore one possible way to affirm and expand the politicization of this interdependence: a notion of "ecological livelihoods" linked with an ethics and politics of commoning.