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Philip McMichael

In a world increasingly challenged by structural unemployment, environmental degradation and climate emergency, the modern development paradigm appears increasingly bankrupt. While development agencies and policy-makers recognize the threats of declining biodiversity and rising greenhouse gas emissions, they are beholden to the idea of ‘sustainable development’, as if there now remains sufficient natural world to sustain. ‘Sustainable development’ focuses on sustaining ‘development’ in a compromised environment, rather than on how to actually rehabilitate degraded ecosystems, and sustain them with ecological development. In order to sustain natural cycles, development itself needs a fundamental reformulation as an ecological, rather than an economic, paradigm. This chapter addresses this issue via a critique of extant visions of development as ‘ecologically challenged’, that is, as devaluing socio-ecological relationships. In particular, it focuses on the development narrative’s disregard for the integrity of agrarian culture which remains important to sustaining ecosystems and secure and inclusive food provisioning.