Handbook on Development and Social Change
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Handbook on Development and Social Change

Edited by G. H. Fagan and Ronaldo Munck

This Handbook provides an accessible critical review of the complex issues surrounding development and social change today. With chapters from recognized experts, examining economic, political and social aspects, and covering key topics and developing regions, it goes beyond current theory and sets out the debates which will shape an approach better suited to the modern world.
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Chapter 2: Towards an ecology of development

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.

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