3 “Framing the Concept of Sustainability: A Sustainability Hierarchy” Julian D. Marshall Michael W. Toffel
4 Sustainability Discourses Historically linked to I = PAT.Conceptually linked to the question of obligations/responsibilities to future generations of people.s: Typically couched in terms of sustainable development.1990s-today: Typically couched in terms of weak sustainability or strong sustainability.
5 I = P x A x T I = Impact P = Population A = Affluence (consumption) T = Technology (includes pollution) Paul R. Ehrlich John P. Holdren
6 Obligations to Future Generations: Five Central Problems 1. Ignorance Problem: How can we know what future people will really need and want,what rights they might insist upon, and what they will blame us for doing right andwrong?2. Typology of Effects Problem: How can we determine which of our actions will reallyhave moral implications for the future?3. Problem of Intergenerational Trade-Offs: How should a particular generation balanceconcern for its own moral and prudential concerns with concern for future generations?4. Distance Problem: How far into the future do our moral obligations extend?5. Saving Stuff Problem: What should we save for future generations—actual naturalresources or monetary investments?
7 Sustainable Development: Some Overview Inaugural Address (1949): President Harry S. Truman claims that the United States has to extend foreign aid to “underdeveloped areas” of the world for humanitarian reasons and to prevent communism from expanding. The U.S. is assumed to be a “developed area.”UN Stockholm Declaration (1972), Principle 13: “In order to achieve a more rational management of resources and thus to improve the environment, States should adopt an integrated and coordinated approach to their development planning so as to ensure that development is compatible with the need to protect and improve environment for the benefit of their population.”World Conservation Strategy (1980), International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: The term ‘sustainable development” first appears and is presented as the central goal of the strategy.
8 Sustainable Development: Some More Overview Our Common Future (1987), World Commission and Environment and Development (WCED) provides the most-often cited definition of sustainable development:“The ability of humanity to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”The Rio Declaration (1992):There are many definitions of sustainable development today.
9 Precursors to Sustainable Development: Environmentalism into the 1970s Limits to Growth (1972) by the Club of Rome articulates an influential anti-(economic) growth position.Much skepticism about the modernist model of progress.Stress on impending ecological/environmental catastrophe/crisis, including pessimism from Paul Ehrlich.Northern mainstream environmentalists set out to “save the world.”Rise of Southern grassroots environmentalism; some examples include India’s Chipko Movement (1973) and Kenya’s Green Belt Movement (1977).Corporate and business backlash.
10 Popularization of Sustainable Development: late 1970s to early 1990s Environmentalism Managerial environmental ethics: zone the planet for conservation.Corporate activism: the greening of business.Green consumerism: consumption will save the Earth.Much environmentalism becomes married to technological progress: win-win outcomes.Much focus on intergenerational equity.
11 Sustainable Development (SD) in the 1990s United Nations Environmentalism:1. Rio Declaration.2. Agenda 21: The real non-implemented work of the Rio Earth Summit.3. Actual financial development assistance between nation-states declines.Rise of the global marketplace and free trade: business approaches to SD.SD becomes technological proliferation:1. Belief that technology is neutral and will expand wealth and productivity.2. Belief that nature needs human technology to sustain itself and us.SD discourse is dominated by Northern talk about eco-efficiency:1. If we become more efficient, we don’t have to reduce consumption.2. More efficient consumption becomes the solution.Northern and Southern development and ecological agendas continue to compete.
12 Refresher: Two Kinds of Sustainability Substitutability: Are natural resources—from the more-than-human world—interchangeable with human-produced goods and monetary assets?Weak Sustainability: Yes! All we need to sustain are non-declining stocks of utility for people.Strong Sustainability: No! We need to sustain (at least some of) the more-than-human world.
13 Holland: Values of Sustainability 1. Human well-being:a. Sustainable development discourse is typically couched inanthropocentric terms.b. But human well-being might require strong sustainability.2. Justice:a. Intragenerational justice does not guaranteeintergenerational justice.b. Sustaining non-declining stocks of utility for people might becompatible with enormous per capita inequalities.3. Nonhuman nature itself (intrinsic value):a. It’s not clear if sustainability supplants or matches up well withnature protection.
14 Holland’s ConclusionThe real importance of sustainability may lie in providing a new conceptual context within which issues of growth and environment can be debated, and in provoking us to reassess our notions of quality of life and environment. It answers also to a need, visceral as well as pragmatic, to do something in the face of loss. But as a guiding principle, it must be judged ultimately unsatisfying. It seems too closely locked in to conceptions of the world—a storehouse that must be filled, a machine that must be maintained—that are themselves no longer sustainable. In the wake of Darwin, the world looks much more like an open-ended historical process ill-suited for filling or maintaining. Our more modest task is how not to blight the interlocking futures of the human and the natural community that we have the power profoundly to affect but lack the capacity and the wisdom to manage.(“Sustainability,” page 400)