The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology is a major interdisciplinary reference work on the developing field of environmental sociology. It consists of over 30 specially commissioned essays by leading scholars from around the world. These original essays examine a wide range of environmental issues in the developed and developing world as well as formerly centrally planned countries to present a truly international perspective. Together they analyse theory and concepts, philosophical and empirical issues as well as offering practical policy advice.
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Chapter 4: Sustainable development'

Wolfgang Sachs


4. ‘Sustainable development’ Wolfgang Sachs INTRODUCTION ‘Sustainable development’ is the late twentieth-century expression for ‘progress’. It extends the long-standing hope for universal social improvement into an era faced with a divided world and a finite nature. The rise of the concept to a key idea of international politics reflects the growing awareness that the two founding assumptions of the postwar development era have lost their validity. Ever since President Harry S. Truman coined the notion of ‘underdevelopment’ in his inaugural address in January 1949, and promised assistance to the countries of the Southern hemisphere in their efforts to catch up with the North, it has been taken for granted that, first, development could be universalized in space and, second, that it would be durable in time. This belief has proved to be wrong. Development has in fact, notwithstanding the strides made by OPEC and Southeast Asia, deepened the crisis of injustice between North and South, just as it has provoked a manifold crisis of nature which undercuts its prospects for the future. It has revealed itself as finite in (global) space as well as in time, and it is precisely this insight which constitutes the dilemma that has pervaded many international debates since the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. The crisis of justice and the crisis of nature stand in an inverse relationship to one another. Those who demand more agricultural land, energy, housing or purchasing power for the poor find themselves in contradiction to...

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