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After development? In defence of sustainability

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The Paris Agreement was a success only for the carbon traders, sequestrators and geoengineers who are now expected to ‘balance emissions with removals’ by 2050, against a background of continued economic growth. If this is sustainable development, it is indeed discredited. But the problem is with the ‘sustainable development’ paradigm, not with the idea of sustainability. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals explicitly call for intensified economic growth and are clearly incompatible with the allegedly overarching goal of ecological sustainability. To aim at this very different goal is simply to aim at living in a way that does not contain the seeds of its own destruction. Far from invalidating this objective, diagnoses of crisis make its pursuit more urgent than ever. ‘Why aim at sustainability?’ is an odd question to pose, but one that may nonetheless produce illuminating answers. One answer derives from intergenerational obligations, but this may not even be the most important. An orientation towards sustainability is also beneficial in its own right, since it is a key part of aiming at the good life.
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Keywords: Anthropocene; Sustainability; climate change; development; ecomodernism; sustainable development

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 2017

More about this publication?
  • Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented journal of applied contemporary thought operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The Journal's scope is broad, encouraging interrogation of current affairs with regard to core questions of distributive justice, wellbeing, cultural diversity, autonomy, sovereignty, security and recognition. All issues are themed and aimed at addressing pressing issues as they emerge. Rejecting the notion that publication is the final stage in the research process, Global Discourse seeks to foster discussion and debate between often artificially isolated disciplines and paradigms, with responses to articles encouraged and conversations continued across issues.

    The Journal features a mix of full-length articles, each accompanied by one or more replies, policy papers commissioned by organizations and institutions and book review symposia, typically consisting of three reviews and a reply by the author(s). With an international advisory editorial board consisting of experienced, highly-cited academics, Global Discourse publishes themed issues on topics as they emerge. Authors are encouraged to explore the international dimensions and implications of their work.

    All research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening and double-blind peer review. All submissions must be in response to a specific call for papers.

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