Moving Beyond the Impasse
Edited by James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle and Audun Ruud
Chapter 1: Governance, democracy and sustainable development: moving beyond the impasse
This volume is concerned with governance of the environment and sustainable development. It considers progress made in addressing environmental problems and explores the difficulties developed countries have experienced in turning more decisively towards sustainability. The individual chapters discuss various dimensions of the governance challenge (political conflicts, policy design, implementation, norms, public attitudes, citizen engagement, steering and measurement, and so on) in relation to a range of environmental problems (climate change, biodiversity/nature protection, water management). Some contributions deal with specific jurisdictions while others have a comparative focus or treat more general issues. But each chapter also says something about the way contemporary democratic systems are coping with the critical challenge of sustainable development. Notions of sustainability or sustainable development have been central to the evolution of the environmental policy domain in recent decades. Subject to countless definitional wrangles, and continuing argument over their practical implications, these ideas nevertheless point to a critical problem confronting contemporary societies: how to meet continuing societal needs while avoiding damage to local and global ecosystems that could undermine the environmental foundations of long-term welfare. To put it another way, they problematize the current development trajectory: reconsidering the traditional trade-offs between social welfare, economy and environmental protection, and asking us to think about where society is headed, what constitutes genuine social progress, and what sort of world we want to live in.
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