Chapter 2: What is Sustainable Development?
2. What is sustainable development? DEFINING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT Sustainable development is a concept that ﬁrst gained notoriety following the release of the Brundtland Report by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. However, it was not until the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the widespread promotion of the United Nations’ Agenda 21 that sustainable development was ﬁrmly established as a desirable policy objective. Between these two events, ecological economics was formally established as a new transdisciplinary science. Perhaps it is not surprising that an edited book to emerge from an early ecological economics workshop was given the title Ecological Economics: The Science and Management of Sustainability (Costanza, 1991). A relatively short time later, a highly inﬂuential book on ecological economics was written by Herman Daly, arguably the world’s leading ecological economist. It was titled Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development (Daly, 1996). The titles of these two books suggest that the sustainable development concept is at the core of the ecological economics movement. There are two good reasons for this. In the ﬁrst instance, development conjures up an image of ‘betterment’ in what is a far from perfect world in urgent need of remediation. Development, however, is meaningless if not impossible to experience unless it can be ecologically sustained. If nothing else, the sustainable development concept is intuitively desirable. Second, most ecological economists believe that the sustainable development concept is ill-conceived and, as such, the policy measures being introduced by most national governments...
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