Critical analysis of ecologically sustainable development

Essay, 2004

7 Pages, Grade: HD


Topic I: Sustainability contested

Question I-I: Based on the various readings and websites what, if any, seem to be the core 'agreed' principles of sustainable development and what are the key areas that are contested?

Regretfully, the umbrella-term "sustainable development" is increasingly being used indiscriminately and arbitrarily, in both the scientific and the political discussion of sustainable development. The concept thus encourages increasingly arbitrary 'definitions'. For logical reasons, any concept which has to encompass almost everything (extensio n) must lose specific meaning (intensio n).

However, after more then twenty years of debate about the term, one can identify an ethical profound core meaning as well as some clear contoured basic conceptions of "sustainability"[1].

The debate about "sustainability" refers, on a high grade of abstraction, to a way of life and economic manners that are capable for the future and which are grounded in moral obligations towards future generations and their life prospects. Thus, the orientation at intergenerational equity is constitutive for "Sustainability".

In each conception of "Sustainability" there has to be answered the question which kinds of inheritance belong to a intergenerational legacy. To the pure moral perspective that deals with the question, if there are obligations towards future generations at all (e.g. Partridge 1990, Howarth 1992), there must in concreto be added power of judgement and reasoning that say something about kind, extend, and contend of the legacy. Here one moves in a scope discretion.

Legacies consists not at least of goods, or as economists say, of capitals. "Capital" is a title-like term with reference to the key-question: "What to sustain?" (Dobson 1996, p. 409). One distinguishes capital into a) real capital, b) nature capital (divided into resources, services, information), c) cultivated natural capital, d) social capital, e) human capital as well as f) knowledge capital.

In the answer to the question to the structure of the intergenerational obligatory "bequest package" the conceptions of strong sustainability and weak sustainability differ. (Dobson 1996/1998, Atkinson et al. 1997, Neumayer 1999). The main difference between these two concepts lies in the judgment of the possibilities of substitution of natural capital. In the concept of strong sustainability, natural capital shall be constant over time ("constant natural capital rule"). In opposite, an adherent of a conception of weak sustainability assumes that natural capital can in principal be substituted limitlessly. The crucial point in the weak conception is to sustain an average utility ("non declining utility rule"). These different conceptions result in consequence in different strategies of acting, aims, and bundles of indicators.

Question I-II: Describe your ideal sustainable world. How does this relate to the perspectives provided in the readings?

And to imagine a language

means to imagine a form of life.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (PI, §19)

This quote of Wittgenstein deals with the (philosophical-) problem about the connection between language and 'world'. It brings into prominence that the 'world' is revealed to someone through linguistic descriptions, thus the ontological structures are not given per se, but always linguistic interpretations.

Taking this insight seriously, it seems for me particularly important to propose, discuss, and foster language-games that express humans embeddedness and interconnectedness with the more-than-human world (e.g. Abram 1996). Furthermore, language games that convey ideas of "globality", "togetherness" (Irwin 2001, p.45), and world-family could be a connecting thread of the world religions and a way to a common world ethos. Such a world ethos could include fundamental values like human rights, social justice, gender equality, democracy, non-violence, and environmental protection (e.g. Jacobs 1999, p. 26; UNEP 2002, p. 21).

As a complement to the global awareness sketched above must come concrete action that relates to topics like population, urbanisation, food production etc. Due to the lack of space and time, only two topics are mentioned in more detail, that is the reshaping of the economy (i) and the energy production (ii).

(i) In order to diminish poverty, hunger, and the gap between poor and rich, the market access of the developing countries has to be improved and fair trade has to be guaranteed. It is crucial that trade organisations like the WTO integrate the sustainable development paradigm into their negotiations, i.e. "lower trade-distorting subsidies" (von Frantzius 2004, p.468-9), internalising environmental and social costs, as well as a tax shifting and revision of GND calculations (Brown 2001, pp. 77-97, 233-253, Milani 2000).
(ii) In order to manage ozone depletion, global warming, and air pollution, it is inevitable to shift from a carbon-based energy system to a hydrogen based one (Brown 2001, pp 97-121). The hydrogen should be produced through a diverse mix of renewable energies that is produced in a decentralized way (e.g. Milani 2000, pp. 115-133).


[1] The terms "Sustainable development" and "Sustainability" can be connected as follows:

"Sustainable development" is a development that orientates at the regulative idea of "Sustainability".

Excerpt out of 7 pages


Critical analysis of ecologically sustainable development
Murdoch University  (ISTP - Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy)
Ecologically sustainable development
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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437 KB
This essay examines, entertainingly and indroductionally, the broad field of sustainability. More specific, it answers questions related to the following topics: i) Sustainability contested ii) Global Challenges iii) Community Challenges
Critical, Ecologically
Quote paper
Stefan Krauss (Author), 2004, Critical analysis of ecologically sustainable development, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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