Negotiating Green Space for Capital Accumulation: The Case of North Port Quay

By Thor Kerr.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Published online: April 4, 2014 Free Download

With ecological threats being used to legitimize the introduction of radical forms of property development, it is important to understand their discursive operation. An analysis of media texts, meetings and places around the North Port Quay “sustainable development” project – proposed by a consortium of property developers for a 345-hectare seabed site off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia – found that global ecological threats were read by local citizens in heterogeneous ways influenced by their sensual experience of space. Attempts to legitimize North Port Quay through representation of scientifically-demonstrable future phenomena threatening the world were not rejected by engaged citizens but, rather, reinscribed as development threats to sensually experienced objects such as “our beaches”. These citizens responded conservatively and antagonistically when they felt that “our beaches” and other objects of affective investment were being threatened. Their desire to restore experience of such objects served to unify a popular movement that prevented North Port Quay through localized practices of institutional democracy. This study suggests that attempts to shift local planning decisions to regional decision-making bodies in the name of solving global ecological threats should be resisted because of the open meaning of these threats and their relation to sensually experienced objects of local environments; which, when threatened, produce powerful antagonisms.

Keywords: Green Built Environment, Sustainable Development, Environmental Discourse, Ecological Threats, Cultural Studies, Urban Planning

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 4, Issue 2, June 2014, pp.31-37. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: April 4, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 192.466KB)).

Dr. Thor Kerr

Early Career Development Fellow, School of Media, Culture, & Creative Arts, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Thor's research is focused on furthering understandings of representation in struggles over access to urban spaces. He is particularly interested in how affective investments in urban environmental objects operate in the production of identity, antagonism, and contingent unification of a social movement. Thor is also interested in how these identities and antagonisms negotiate practices of institutional democracy and as practices approaching radical plural democracy. Besides undertaking research on green built environments, he is investigating the criminalization and entrapment of people exercising Aboriginal sovereignty in Perth, Western Australia. Before entering academia, Thor was managing director of a Singapore-based construction media group and he remains a commissioner for its Indonesian subsidiary. Previously, he worked as a journalist and editor in the Hague, Jakarta, and Melbourne.