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Title: Sustainability : a survey and critical analysis
Author: Dresner, Simon
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1997
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The terms sustainability and sustainable development have been widely used in the context of environmental issues since the 1987 Brundtland Report, but there has been controversy about what, if anything, they mean. This thesis examines how a concept like sustainability is used to attempt to change the world and how, conversely, its meaning is changed by the political context in which it is used. Some have seen sustainable development as an attempt to co-opt environmentalist concerns, rather than a genuine shift in approach. This thesis examines the contemporary debate about sustainability and its historical origins in wider concerns about Progress since the beginning of the modern age at the end of the eighteenth century, but largely dormant until the 1970s. Following a review of literature, many of the players in the debates of the last twenty years were personally interviewed. Sustainability is shown to be a concept coined by environmentalists in the 1970s to counter criticism that concern about the environment was unimportant relative to social problems like poverty. It also had the advantage of placing opponents of environmentalism on the rhetorical defensive. The thesis explores the sharp debates in recent years as environmentalists and economists have struggled for control of the concept. It shows how adoption of the concept of sustainability requires a rethinking of the utilitarian philosophy that has been the ethical basis for economic theory to date. On the environmentalist side, there has been a retreat from simplistic neo-Malthusian thinking about economic growth. The uptake of the idea of sustainability is seen as marking a loss of confidence in the modern age's identification of Progress with crude domination of Nature. There is growing acceptance of the idea of physical limits in the face of increasing evidence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available