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Degradation of the human resource base

Generational studies expensive and impractical, scientific paradigms and belief systems differ in terms of sets of specific health indicators and ways of measuring them,5 and there a few public funds available for research (Heaton, 2001 Niggli et al, 2007 IFOAM, 2008a). Nevertheless, there is no body of evidence to show any human health advantages of consuming industrially produced foods. Conversely, there is a substantial and still-growing body of evidence demonstrating the converse that ecologically based, organic foods contain more desirable components and fewer harmful ones.6 Several studies and reviews have compared the levels of nutritionally relevant compounds in food produced along organic and industrial lines (Diver, 2000 Heaton, 2001 Worthington, 2001 Magkos et al, 2003 Rembialkowska, 2005). Although results are variable, the trend shows organic plant foods to have higher levels of vitamin C, minerals including iron and magnesium, plant-secondary metabolites or...

Seeds of change the New Economics in practice

There then follows a series of thematic discussions on aspects of sustainable consumption within the New Economics approach, looking at three fundamental areas of provision food, housing and finance. Each of these chapters presents case studies of grassroots innovations which attempt to actualise the theory through practice, and brings empirical research to bear on theory through evaluative studies. Chapter 5 examines sustainable food, and reports on a local organic food cooperative which aims to provide a socially just and ecologically responsible system of food provision, bypassing supermarket distribution channels in favour of farmers' markets and directly supplying consumers. The threats posed by mainstream supermarkets seeking to attract customers interested in local and organic foods are outlined, to assess the scope for alternative initiatives like this to survive mainstream competition. Chapter 6 addresses housing provision and presents cases of innovative builders aiming to...

Paying More for Green

Of course, there is no guarantee that higher incomes will translate into greener consumption. Higher-quality products are more expensive than lower quality products, and consumers will only purchase them if they believe that doing so increases their well-being. Consider the choice between conventional and organic foods. Assume that an organically grown lettuce costs 2.00, a conventionally grown lettuce costs 1.50,

Income Growth and Greener Governance

Despite the forces outlined in the previous chapter, market-driven choices are unlikely to produce green cities on their own. For example, despite the tendency of richer consumers to trade up to lower-emission cars, it's hard to imagine that car manufacturers would have focused on reducing emissions to the same extent in the absence of legislation like the Clean Air Act.1 Similarly, left to their own devices, consumers may have difficulty determining which products are truly green. Regulation, such as the Organic Foods Production Act, which sets standards for the production and processing of organic products, can help with such tasks.

How Green Does Your Garden Grow

One way to know exactly how your food was produced is to grow it yourself. Organic gardening isn't just for professional farmers and hippies on communes All kinds of people grow their own food, from suburbanites with back-yard vegetable patches to city folk growing tomatoes on fire escapes. This section gets you up to speed on basic organic gardening techniques.

Evaluating a grassroots sustainable food initiative

The sustainable consumption rationales for local and organic food networks are manifold and wide-ranging, as the discussion so far has shown. But how effective are such practices at achieving their goals, and what is the scope for grassroots niche practices in sustainable food to influence mainstream provisioning To answer these questions, the findings of an investigation into an organic food producer cooperative in the UK are now presented.1 This East Anglian organisation, named Eostre Organics (pronounced 'easter', and named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess of regeneration), aims to build a 'fair, ecological and cooperative' food system, and sells to local businesses and hospitals as well as through market stalls and weekly subscription boxes of mixed vegetables and fruit delivered direct to consumers throughout the region. Eostre won the Local Food Initiative of the Year award in the Soil Association's Organic Food Awards in 2003, given to the business or venture considered to have...

An alternative strategy for sustainable consumption

A second example of tools for alternative sustainable consumption is that of localised food supply chains. These aim to strengthen local economies against dependence upon external forces, avoid unnecessary global food transportation (cutting 'food miles') and reconnect local communities with farmers and the landscape. In the case of local organic production, there is the added environmental benefit of improved land management, and consumers identify organic food strongly with better health, nutrition, and food safety (Jones, 2001 Pretty, 2001 Saltmarsh, 2004). In these cases, consumers are overcoming the limitations of market pricing regimes by voluntarily internalising the normally externalised environmental and social costs and benefits of local organic food production, and are making consumption choices according to these new relative values rather than market signals. They are giving a positive value to local economic and social connectivity, environmental conservation, and known...

Introduction A Consuming Issue

Sustainable consumption has been studied from a range of perspectives economic, sociological, psychological and environmental. This book opens up a new field of enquiry by presenting a 'New Economics' model of sustainable consumption which offers the potential for radical change in socio-economic practices it challenges many tenets of mainstream policy and individualistic green consumerism. The book examines how an alternative vision of sustainable consumption is practiced through innovative grassroots community action, such as local organic food markets, and community time banks. It investigates how new social institutions and infrastructure are created from the bottom up, to allow people to make more sustainable choices in concert with others. The central aim of this book is to examine some of these 'seeds of change' and assess their potential for growth and influence in wider society, as part of a transition to more sustainable consumption.

Diffusing the benefits of sustainable food niches

Eostre's market stall customers felt that the principal drawbacks of sourcing organic food through Eostre compared to supermarkets were related to convenience and accessibility (56 of stall customer respondents cited this problem). This included limited opening hours (the stall is open from 9am till 5pm, 6 days a week), and the difficulty of carrying heavy shopping bags back from the city centre. Higher prices was the second-most often reported disadvantage of Eostre over supermarkets (26 ), followed by poorer quality of produce (20 ). In contrast, box scheme customers felt that the limited choice and inability to select produce was the biggest drawback compared to using a supermarket (50 gave this response) although many said that they personally did not find it a problem. Price was again the second-most cited disadvantage (20 ), followed by an acknowledgement that the range of produce available was more limited than a supermarket would offer (10 ).

The rationale for organic and local foods

Organic production refers to agriculture which does not use artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and animals reared in more natural conditions, without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive livestock farming. Consumer demand for organic produce has risen enormously over the last 15 years in the UK, growing from a niche activity to a mainstream consumption choice (Smith, 2006). Sales of organic products in the UK amounted to 1.213 billion in 2004, a rise of 11 on the previous year (Soil Association, 2005b), and the most commonly cited reasons for consuming organic food are food safety, the environment, animal welfare, and taste (Soil Association, 2003). Simultaneously the area of land within the UK certified (or in conversion) for organic production has risen dramatically in 1998 there were under 100,000 hectares and by 2005 this had risen to 690,000 hectares (DEFRA, 2005c). In its efforts towards a sustainable food and farming system, the UK...

Some characteristics of grassroots innovations

The institutional forms for grassroots innovative niches are also complex, but in different ways. There are diverse organisational forms cooperatives, voluntary associations, mutuals, informal community groups, social enterprises. Their resource base is similarly pluralistic, including grant funding, limited commercial activity, voluntary input and mutual exchanges. The spectrum of organisations exhibit varying degrees of professionalisation, funding and official recognition. Chanan (2004) finds four out of five identifiable groups in the grassroots sector are small, low-profile, voluntary, citizen-led and community-driven groups (cf. high-profile professionally-led voluntary organisations). Official and quasi-official groups operate alongside informal, voluntary activities, and their relationships can be both complementary and competitive. Grassroots innovations are driven by two motives more forgiving towards sustainable innovation compared to rent seeking firms. These are social...

Slavery and Southern Agriculture

The wealth produced by this system of labor is suggested by Virginia planter William Fitzhugh's letter describing his tobacco plantation in 1686. He had a thousand acres, most of it in marshes and thickets not yet cleared, but 300 acres of which were plantable. Beyond this plantation, he had another 22,000 acres on which the soil had not yet been broken and another 1,500 acres in several different places. He had thirty young, vigorous slaves capable of mating and reproducing and therefore of adding to his capital. His thirteen-room plantation house was surrounded by dairies, stables, barns, and hen houses. He had a large orchard with apple and other fruit trees, which could be harvested to feed plantation workers, and a large vegetable garden, as well as cattle, hogs, horses, and sheep. He also had a grist mill for grinding corn and wheat for the plantation's grain supply. He had 250,000 pounds of tobacco on hand, and his plantation could be expected to produce 60,000 pounds per year.

The roots of the network

Eventually, however, unity broke apart, but the visionary seeds that had been planted continued to grow and stay alive in the collective memory. Already in the heat of the energy debate of the late 1970s renewable energy technologies became the focal point of the alternative technology movement and gradually, after the political battles had been resolved in one way or another, a number of companies emerged to commercialize what had been unleashed wind energy, solar energy, and other forms of environmentally friendly energy technology. In the 1980s several new branches of industry developed out of the alternative technology movement, such as wind energy and organic foods industries in Denmark, as well as various consulting firms in energy conservation, non-waste technology, ecological design, etc.

Ecological citizenship and sustainable food innovations

Ations expressed through purchasing food from local organic food networks Having reviewed and evaluated the activities and discussed the motivations of the participants of one such network - Eostre Organics - three things become apparent. The first is that Eostre - as envisaged and practised by its creators and users - is a niche, grassroots-based sustainable food initiative rather than a mainstream project. Furthermore, it is effectively developing new social and economic institutions for sustainable consumption, and successfully addresses all five of the sustainable consumption criteria. The alternative model of sustainable consumption demands localisation and re-embedding the economy within social networks, and Eostre is a good example of how this might work in practice. It uses food as a mechanism for community-building and social cohesion, while delivering sustainable rural livelihoods and a channel for the expression of alternative values about society, environment and the...

Dissolved organic matter DOM

Seawater, the quality of the solution as a satisfactory medium for marine life is greatly enhanced. The fact that the concentrations of organic solutes in natural seawater are low suggests that they may be continuously absorbed from the water by organisms. The importance of DOM in the organic food cycle in the sea, has only recently been appreciated. The role of DOM in the so-called 'microbial loop' is described in Section 5.1.2.

Sustainable Food Growing Carrots and Community

It could be said that local organic food is flavour of the month. In recent years there has been a growing interest in the phenomenon of 'alternative agro-food networks', and locally-sourced organically-produced food has been proposed as a model of sustainable consumption. The claimed benefits include rural regeneration, livelihood security, cutting food miles and carbon dioxide emissions from transport, social embedding, community-building, and increasing connection to the land. Consequently, the recent revival of localised food supply chains and the rise in demand for specifically local organic produce has been described as a move towards a more sustainable food and farming system in the UK, and has driven the explosion of a grassroots movement of niche direct marketing outlets (farmers markets, farm shops, and veggie box subscription schemes) where consumers buy directly from growers. Are these consumers actively engaged in creating new food supply chains based upon alternative...

The Rise Of Civilization

The beginnings of civilization can be traced back to the development of the land through the conversion of wild lands into agricultural lands. Agriculture originated around 10,000 b.c.e. in at least five different places. Turkey and the Middle East began cultivating wheat, barley, peas, and lentils. People in these areas also raised sheep and goats. In Southeast Asia, people began to grow vegetables and raise pigs and chickens. In South America, agricultural development began independently in both the Andes and the Amazon regions. Northern China and West Africa also began their own development of agriculture.

Avoiding Exposure and the Use of Green Products

Nontoxic skin care products Odor-controlling equipment Composting toilets Natural pesticides Nontoxic pet care products Unleaded gasoline Low-emission products Paints and varnishes Organic food products Air cleaning equipment Pest control equipment Nontoxic cleaning products Organic gardening supplies Recycled products Jute, coir, and woolen carpets Energy-efficient appliances

Grassroots Innovations for Sustainable Consumption

Grassroots action for sustainable consumption takes different forms, from furniture-recycling social enterprises to organic gardening cooperatives, low-impact housing developments, farmers' markets and community composting schemes. While community action addresses local problems, these are not irrelevant to wider contexts 'the global problems or perspectives are translated and fitted into the local, specific circumstances of the individuals' (Georg, 1999 460), for example through efforts to reduce personal

Why CSR Moving beyond the Business Case

CSR can also be used as a competitive advantage to differentiate a firm and its products from those of its rivals. Innovative, socially responsible firms are offering consumers fair-trade coffee, organic foods, carpeting, energy-efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars, and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings. As consumers demand more green and socially responsible products and practices, innovative companies are responding. Some companies have built reputations as socially responsible companies by being consistently responsive to a variety of social issues (e.g., homelessness, disease prevention, poverty alleviation). American companies using CSR as a competitive advantage include Ben & Jerry's, Whole Foods, Interface Carpets, and Patagonia.

Climate Action in Dining Services

In addition to having many environmental and health benefits, local and organic food also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from trucking and fertilizer applications. Vegetarian options also have lower greenhouse gas emissions per serving than meat because animals produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and there are greater life-cycle emissions associated with meat production.

Reducing ecological footprints

Much of the impacts for reducing ecological footprints has been covered alongside localisation, in the previous section, but there are further aspects to consider as well. A commitment to sustainable farming and food is evident in Eostre's mission statement above, and this is forcefully supported by their customers. Of the customers who responded to the survey, 94 stated that they bought from Eostre because they believed local and organic food was better for the environment. For example, one respondent replied ' buying local organic food is important because we believe in sustainability regarding our environment, and we are committed to reducing our 'eco-footprint in any areas we can', and another stated 'I feel I owe it to the Earth'. Other comments included 'I am very concerned about the effects of pesticides and pollution on us and the environment', 'organic farming is better for wildlife' and 'I want to support a farming system that works within environmental resource limits'. As...

Facilitating change to localized systems

Understanding Cuba's adapted food and farming system and the way it developed holds relevance from several angles. Even in the face of a crisis, could Cuba have made a transition to a localized and organic food system, one that fed the population If so, what were the factors that supported this, and if it had not made this transition, then why not As well as providing a learning example for the peak-oil challenge, these insights have broad applicability for other resource-poor countries attempting to increase their food security status.

Translation of ideas from niche to mainstream

The first route for grassroots innovations to become more easily translated into mainstream contexts is by the niche adapting its practices to become more like the regime, in an attempt to overcome the obstacle of widely different socio-technical systems. In the case of food studied here, the niche project was reluctant to be main-streamed in case it meant losing their core ecological citizenship values and alienating their committed green customers. As a result the initiative appears to be niche-bound, as several internal barriers prevent them appealing to a wider customer base. However, there is a role for intermediary organisations here. For example, a smart organic supermarket in the area sells Eostre's produce in a manner more in keeping with mainstream supermarket retailing, and achieves higher standards of presentation, convenience and quality than the usual retail outlets associated with organic food, or the market stall. The second of these adaptations (where the niche takes...

Modern Environmental History

The air of industrial cities like Pittsburgh was dangerous to breathe. Los Angeles developed its own special brand of smog. Food quality, which had improved tremendously for the average citizen compared with half a century earlier, now became a new issue. The very additives that at the turn of the century had saved lives by helping to preserve food from bacterial decay were seen as unnatural chemical products with at best unknown toxic-ity. Food colorings, flavorings, the use of hormones in meat products, and other issues related to food safety led to the growth of natural and organic foods as a healthier alternative to industrially processed food.

Repertoires and logics of action

It would be impossible to understand how these groups have mobilised by focusing only on the history of organisations, whether formal or informal. Research on activists' networks in the south-west of England (Jowers et al. 1999) shows that the gestation of EDA-type protest in the 1990s is best understood through examining the wider alternative milieu and its associated networks. This is consistent with the point made above about the character of EDA groups in the USA, Australia and Britain. In the south-west of England networks connected to music-making, organic food production and distribution, festivals, and local exchange and trading schemes provided 'a seedbed for a range of transformed practices of everyday life. Political activity is but one of a range of practices which question the rationality of the state, markets and subjectivity in diverse ways' (1999 100). Jowers et al. emphasise that such networks should not be reduced to 'proto-political' forms whose real...

Harnessing grassroots innovations for sustainable consumption lessons for policy and research

Growth in local organic food initiatives, farmers' markets. Local sustainability focus encourages replication of local initiatives rather than emulation of regime national international food systems. produced and organic food, competing on grounds of convenience, presentation, and quality, but cannot deliver the social and ethical benefits of the niche.

The Greening of Job Sectors

More and more people are becoming interested in petrochemical-free, pesticide-free food and fabrics. This has increased the demand for organically grown fruits, vegetables, and grains fibers such as cotton and niche products such as baby food, and chocolates made from organic cocoa. Opportunities in these fields range from nontoxic pest management to retail of organic food and clothing.

The Cost of Purity

An important question for American consumers is price. Organic food costs more in the stores, 57 percent more on average than nonorganic food. Why is this There are several reasons, not necessarily related to the cost of growing the crops. Conventional farms are generally larger than organic farms and are heavily subsidized by the federal government that is, nonorganic produce does not carry its full cost. American taxes subsidize it. However, this inequitable financial burden on organic farming may be changing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture budget has included an organic crop insurance program since 2001. Another reason organic foods cost more in stores is that the organic produce infrastructure has been too small to benefit from economies of scale. However, the organic products food sector is now growing at a rate of 25 percent a year, which has resulted in the emergence of large organic food supermarket chains such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Wild Oats. Whole Foods has...


(76 ) of those customers who completed the survey reported that they were motivated to purchase from Eostre because they liked to know where their food has come from, and a quarter (25 ) specifically liked the face-to-face contact with growers. This sense of community is echoed by another respondent who favours local organic food because 'purchasing it links me with a part of the community which operates in a far healthier and more ethical way than the wider economic community', and another felt that 'organic food helps bring back small community living instead of alienated individuals feeling unconnected'. Local organic food networks are builders of community and shared vision, and the Eostre market stall in Norwich is a good example of how this works it is a convenient city-centre meeting point and source of information, open to everyone. The stall is decorated with leaflets and posters advertising a range of sustainable food and other environmental initiatives, for example anti-GM...

Perfume Free

In the spring of 2005 they gathered for a conference in Philadelphia called Advancing Regional Equity The Second National Summit on Equitable Development, Social Justice and Smart Growth, organized by PolicyLink and an umbrella group called the Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and sponsored by the Ford, William Penn, W. K. Kellogg, Rockefeller, and Annie E. Casey foundations, as well as Hewlett Packard. When developers get together, it's all dark suits and polished shoes the equity summit is woven naturalfiber satchels and admonitions not to wear perfume in the breakout sessions, out of respect for indoor-air sensitivities. One of the first handouts to participants was a guide to area restaurants serving locally grown and organic food. On the bookshelves set up outside the conference rooms one can leaf through Highway Robbery Transportation Racism and New Routes to Equity, Failures of Integration, Divided We Sprawl, Wake Up, You're Liberal , and 9-11 Synthetic...

Collective action

The second collective action impact is through Eostre's inroads into public sector catering through small-scale initiatives such as providing food for a primary school kitchen, and supplying the local hospital visitor's canteen. These were important first steps, albeit an uphill struggle against the ingrained habits and beliefs among public sector catering managers, and institutional barriers such as the lack of a kitchen to feed patients in hospitals (cook-chill food being the norm). However, the changing public agenda on school meals as a result of Jamie Oliver's 'School Dinners' TV programme has thrust local organic food provision into the limelight, and Eostre and parent NGO East Anglia Food Links have been identified as pioneers with important lessons to share. Currently heads of catering from seven of the ten East of England Local Education Authorities have agreed to work together with EAFL, on a programme of work to increase the use of sustainable and local food in their school...

Intrinsic benefits

The grassroots can also be a site for action on 'unpopular' or 'fringe' issues not taken up by mainstream actors. A 'world within a world', grassroots innovations are a demonstration that another way is possible, building alternative infrastructures to the existing regime. However unlikely mainstream diffusion, the niche nevertheless stands as a symbolic embodiment of alternatives (Amin et al., 2002 Leyshon et al., 2003). Wakeman (2005) uses the metaphor of a 'green conveyor belt' to express the notion that while some grassroots innovations begin in niches, then grow and are incorporated into mainstream regimes (such as organic food), radical action on unfunded issues continuously regenerates at the grassroots.

Nu Spaarpas

Given that NU is a specific-purpose monetary tool designed to promote sustainable consumption, it is unsurprising that localisation and reducing environmental footprints are key outcomes of the initiative. As well as rewarding purchases from locally-owned businesses, extra points can be earned by purchasing 'green' or ethical' produce (such as organic food, fairly traded goods, recycled products, rental, repairs etc) at a range of participating local stores. The points are redeemed for discounts off more sustainable consumer goods, public transport passes, or cinema tickets (in other words, spare capacity in existing provision which incurs no additional costs), or donated to charity. Thus there are incentives to change consumption behaviour when both earning and spending the points, and private businesses benefit at the same time as public goals are met. However, in contrast with the other two cases examined here, there are no specific community-building impacts of NU it is an...


Chains, such as the local organic food cooperative examined in Chapter 5. Successful replication of this type of initiative is evident, as similar projects (with local foci) spring up across the country, and is enabled by the existence of national networks of grassroots innovators in food, such as the Food Links organisations.

The microbial loop

Microbial Loop Nutrient

In the marine ecosystem the foregoing elementary account of the organic food cycle must be extended to take account of the significance of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in seawater. As mentioned earlier (see Section 4.3.3) an appreciable proportion of the products of photosynthesis become released from plant cells and soon appear in the water as DOM. Although some of this component of primary production may be reabsorbed by phytoplankton, much of it is rapidly taken up by planktonic bacteria. The importance of these bacteria in the organic food cycle of the sea has only recently been realized. The development of new nucleopore filters that can retain the smallest bacteria of 0.5 m or less has shown that such free-living bacterioplankton are much more abundant in the water column than was previously thought (Hobbie and Williams, 1984).

Eostre Organics

1The research was a multi-method study carried out during the spring of 2004, and consisted of site visits to Eostre's headquarters and market stall, interviews with organisers and staff, documentary analysis of their web site and newsletters to ascertain the scope and nature of activities, objectives and values. This was complemented by two self-completed customer surveys the first survey of market stall customers achieved 65 responses out of 110 distributed over a two-week period (59 ) the second surveyed the 252 customers of three weekly box schemes supplied by Eostre (79 responded, giving a response rate of 31 ). The surveys asked about motivations for, and experiences with consuming local organic food, and are considered together here (overall response rate 39 ) unless specified otherwise. There were both closed- and open-ended questions in order to elicit the respondent's own interpretations and meanings of their actions and the discourses they used to explain them. Qualitative...


It is only in fairly recent years that the nanoplankton has been much studied, but it now appears that the quantity of living material in the water in this form sometimes exceeds that present as diatoms and dinoflagellates. The nanoplankton is now thought to make a major contribution to the primary production of organic food in the sea, and is specially important as the chief food for many larvae. Modern analytical techniques have demonstrated that the shallow waters (epipelagic zones) of many temperate and tropical seas are dominated by nanoplankton, both in terms of numbers of individuals and amount of photosynthesis. In the tropics, nanoplankton may account for more than 80 per cent of photosynthetic activity in open ocean waters. In coastal (neritic) waters, nanoplankton play a less important role.

Private Property

The second condition about completely specified rights is more complex than it appears. To be truly completely specified, we would need to establish rules for all contingencies, including those involving noisy neighbors at the theater or campground whether home owners can build additions on their homes that block the neighbor's view of the mountains or plant a tree that will cast a shadow on the neighbor's vegetable garden whether I can play my tuba in a public library or sell my gun to a child. Unless the rights related to every possible contingency are specified, then this second condition does not hold.

Urban Gardens

Urban gardens are one of the most original and revitalizing movements among urban dwellers. Making use of empty lots, small patches of private property, and public parks, urban gardens in dozens of countries in the world enable city dwellers to grow their own organic foods. Such projects are helpful in educating urban children about how food is grown. Many schools are initiating such gardens on their own property, teaching a survival skill that can bring confidence, self-reliance, and joy.


Seyfang, G. (in press) 'Avoiding Asda Exploring Consumer Motivations In Local Organic Food Networks', Local Environment (reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Taylor & Francis Ltd) Seyfang, G. and Smith, A. (2007) 'Grassroots Innovations for Sustainable Development towards a new research and policy agenda', in Environmental Politics, Vol 16(4), pp. 584-603 (reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Taylor & Francis Ltd) Seyfang, G. (2006) 'Sustainable Consumption, the New Economics and Community Currencies developing new institutions for environmental governance', in Regional Studies, Vol 40(7), pp. 781-791 (reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Taylor & Francis Ltd) Seyfang, G. (2005) 'Shopping for Sustainability Can sustainable consumption promote ecological citizenship ', Environmental Politics, Vol 14(2), pp. 290-306 (reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Taylor & Francis Ltd)