In the Shadow of Sustainability

Jamie Wang

University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

The impetus for this presentation is a walk in the garden, a city-in-a-garden, Singapore. In the Singaporean imaginary, the futuristic Supertree Grove, a cluster of tree-like structures with concrete cores and live plants, is positioned to be a technologically sustainable solution to the tensions induced by intense urbanisation, planetary pressures and liveable heritage. Singapore’s economic success despite its resource constraints, the authoritarian government and its recent pursuit of ‘the world’s leading sustainable city’ makes it an important site to explore how sustainability is imagined/practised in a highly urbanised environment that nonetheless envisions an ecological modernised future. Because Singapore is an emblematic new-world city, this has deep implications for the world. This paper focuses on some key environmental issue in this island-city-state, and the resultant multifaceted ecological challenges. Singapore’s advancement in urban solutions sees the construction of its sustainable narrative as a new model globally. I am concerned with the versions of the future imagined and created here. Which futures are we rushing into, if our vision of sustainability is to maintain the status quo centring on planning and instrumentalising human and non-human? What might it mean to reconfigure contemporary practices and ethics towards sustainability in an increasingly urbanised environment?


Jamie Wang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. She is also a writer and poet. Her research explores some of the many cultural, ethical, political, and philosophical issues that arise in the pursuit of an ecological modernised urban future.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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