Nations, Cities and Organizations
The Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei series on Economics, the Environment and Sustainable Development
Edited by Maddy Janssens, Myriam Bechtoldt, Arie de Ruijter, Dino Pinello, Giovanni Prarolo and Vanja M.K. Stenius
Chapter 2: An Historical Perspective on Sustainable Diversity: Market and Nation as Catalysts of Diversity in Modern Europe (1800–1950)
Francesco Chiapparino and Roberto Giulianelli1 2.1 SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY? Sustainability is a widespread concept, today used frequently in debates about politics and culture. Though specialists and international institutions often refer to its social and economic dimensions (WCED, 1987 – The Brundtland Report; UN General Assembly, 2005), the first, more diffused understanding of sustainability is in relation to natural systems and the limits it poses to human development. Generally speaking, the concept of sustainability has helped to clarify the negative impacts that the social, economic and technological development of human societies can have on the natural environment. It appears that productive and technological growth, as well as the growth of populations and/or consumption in some parts of the world, cannot be pursued indefinitely. These kinds of growth clash with the limits of the ecosystems in which human societies live. As a result, in the absence of correctives that guarantee sustainability, the equilibrium which favors human existence is at risk along with the quality of life for future generations. The wide diffusion of the concept of (environmental) sustainability has been motivated by significant transformations in our contemporary world and by their ‘global’ connotation, concerning the entire world ecosystem, along with very complex cause–effect relations. From an historical point of view, problems with the compatibility of human development and the integrity of natural systems are not new, though they have never involved the whole planet. One can argue that in the past there have been global environmental crises, but these crises were caused by...
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