Skip to main content

Contesting sustainability in the Valley of the Grizzly Spirit: Models of justice in environmental conflict and assessment

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
This dissertation examines the conflict within and around the environmental assessment of the controversial proposal to develop Jumbo Glacier Resort in an uninhabited valley in southeast BC. Taking bearings from philosophical pragmatism the research attends to the various arguments of supporters and opponents of the project – both Native and settler - and the creative means by which they represent this place and what is to be done there. In particular it shows how sustainable development as a transcendent planning ideal comes to be variously articulated and contested in specific contexts of the ground. Following Boltanski and Thévenot (2006), I show how this conflict can be articulated as competing representations of various models of justice legitimated with respect to location, the market, technical-rationality, equality and accessibility; tradition, inspiration, popularity and environmental concern. This research demonstrates the usefulness of such an approach for geographers examining environmental conflicts, but also shows how the geographer’s attention to the contested reproduction of place sharpens this analytical tool. More immediately the research tells the intriguing story (or stories) of the struggle over the Jumbo Valley, or what the Ktunaxa Nation recognize as the “Valley of the Grizzly Spirit”, seeking to explain the intensity of the conflict and the factors that have confounded decision-makers over the past twenty years. The extent to which both supporters and opponents are able to plausibly mobilize economic, social, ecological and other arguments to buttress their positions insinuates a muddling of public-political credibility around sustainability. The field-based research took me to the communities of southeast BC, the high country above them and to the halls of power in the provincial capital of Victoria over three summers. Data from extensive document analysis and in-depth interviews with key actors, including proponents, supporters, opposition, First Nations and local and provincial officials provided the basis for this ethnography.
Copyright statement
Copyright is held by the author.
The author granted permission for the file to be printed and for the text to be copied and pasted.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Holden, Meg
Member of collection
Download file Size
etd7006_COwens.pdf 139.14 MB

Views & downloads - as of June 2023

Views: 28
Downloads: 0