דוקטורנטים מספרים - Rachel Zipper
Promoting sustainability policies in local authorities in Israel
Supervisor: Prof. Izhak Schnell
Nearly twenty years ago I discovered a new field at Tel Aviv University – Social and Environmental Studies in the Department of Geography and Human Environment. I did my M.A. in this program, and devoted a decade to promoting curricula and projects related to environmental topics and healthy lifestyles. Afterwards, I volunteered in the Life and Environment Organization, where I witnessed the political and social forces involved in promoting environmental topics in Israel. My determination to make change through research motivated me to begin my PhD. The subject of my study – the city – emerged from the deeper knowledge and ethical understanding I have acquired on social-environmental topics.
In recent decades, discourse concerning environmental issues, regards the city as the central factor in promoting and implementing environmental policies. Furthermore, most of the world’s population live in cities. Therefore, I chose to research how local authorities encourage sustainability by analyzing the discourse which shapes their activities. In general, Israeli local authorities have assumed responsibility for promoting the environmental agenda as an integral, substantive part of the urban agenda. However, a preliminary study I carried out (2013) demonstrated that their environmental management is quite weak. I also found that the Mayor has a key role in the success of these initiatives, mainly when there is a joint effort of various stakeholders to promote sustainability. The question arises whether Israeli municipalities are prepared to implement an effective policy.
To answer this, I plan to review the environmental discourse amongst key players in the municipalities, and to assess their depth of knowledge and their commitment to sustainability values. I will examine the balance of power between the players, and identify who they are, and which types of discourse they engage in to advance municipal policy.
My study will contribute to the literature on environmental discourse, by showing who is involved, describing the required stages to implement sustainability policies within local authorities, and helping us understand the process they use to promote sustainability. The main objective of this study is to arouse interest that will lead to more awareness, open discourse, and contemplation of the topic among the heads of local authorities in Israel. I also hope that the study will assist elected officials and decision makers in the local authorities to bring about change, and promote action and responsibility by policy makers regarding the sustainability agenda.