International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 52: Gender and sustainable development
The concept of sustainable development came to prominence in the early 1990s and remains a buzzword for (inter)national environmental politics, yet the definition of sustainable development is vague and contestable. Nonetheless, this chapter focuses on the United Nations (UN) definition of sustainable development in order to reflect on the relationship between gender and contemporary environmental management. The chapter begins by outlining some background to the concept of sustainable development on the international stage. Next, the chapter discusses the roles of women in environmental decision making more broadly. The chapter then addresses feminist interventions relating to sustainable development. Finally, the chapter considers contemporary scholarship relating to gender and sustainable development, specifically gender and climate change, before concluding. Overall, this chapter demonstrates how sustainable development, which is perhaps the most prolifically used framework for managing environmental problems, is based on gendered assumptions and produces gendered outcomes that feminists and gender scholars have sought to identify and correct. Concerned with issues such as pollution and resource limits, the UN held the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. This was the first international conference to consider the relationship between human activities and environmental degradation, and here the tension between economic development and environmental sustainability was strongly acknowledged. Indeed, prior to the 1970s it was generally accepted that economic growth was of paramount concern, and little reflection was given to the environmental consequences of unregulated growth.
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