Chapter 7 - The Sociology of Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is development that meets the

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Unformatted text preview: ur Common Future. Sustainable development is “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”1 This term became a buzzword at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the “Earth Summit”). The 178 heads of state that gathered at this forum sought to address both the “environment problem” and the “development problem.” The concept of sustainable development presented a paradigm in which officials viewed environment and development as partners rather than adversaries. The WCED’s sustainable development presumed that economic growth and environmental protection could be reconciled. The idea was not new, it harked back to Pinchot’s utilitarian view of nature as a resource; as providing the “greatest good for the greatest number over the longest time.” The idea of sustainable development contrasts with development that focuses on economic gain often at the expense of the environment. Some natural resource extractive industries, such as mining and fishing, have depleted resources in the name of promoting social and economic concerns. However, unsustainable development can have devastating effects for the environment and humans. For example, in 1992 the northern cod collapsed in Newfoundland due to overfishing. In light of this, the government called for a two-year moratorium on cod fishing so that the stocks could recover. This action affected “40,000 workers and hundreds of communities.”2 In this case and others like it, the tension between biological/ecological concerns and human social/economic concerns highlights the importance of finding a balance between these systems. While WCED’s definition has the greatest recognition, a range of definitions are associated with SD. For example, David Pearce and colleagues present a thirteen-page annex of definitions of the term.3 What WCED’s brief and vague definition has in common with other treatises on SD is that the WCED identifies three main, but not equal, goals of sustainable develo...
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