Exploring the Limits of Two Opposing Paradigms, Third Edition
Chapter 2: Sustainable Development: Conceptual, Ethical and Paradigmatic Issues
This chapter will lay the foundation for the main analysis in the subsequent chapters. Section 2.1 defines the major terms used, describes the main simplifying assumptions and the methodology that will be employed. Section 2.2 discusses a few ethical issues of SD. It provides some justification for choosing SD, discusses a time-inconsistency problem of SD and resolves two misunderstandings about SD. Those readers who are most interested in WS versus SS itself might want to skip this section and go straight to Section 2.3, which introduces in more detail the two opposing paradigms. There it is explained what their major differences are with respect to the possibilities of substituting for natural capital. Section 2.4 provides a case study on climate change, which illustrates vividly the importance of the substitutability assumption. It is argued that the conflict between those who demand drastic emission reductions and those who demand only minor reductions should really be about the substitutability of natural capital rather than about the right rate of discount. 2.1 DEFINITIONS, ASSUMPTIONS, METHODOLOGY In this book the analysis is confined to two starkly differing economic paradigms of SD, namely weak and strong sustainability.1 They are the most influential paradigms within debates and policy discussions about SD. Let us start with some definitions and assumptions. In some sense, SD is a vague concept - so much so that Pezzey (1992b) can present a whole gallery of differing defmitions. Nevertheless, a definition most proponents of an economic concept of SD would be likely to...
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