In recent decades, the environmental movement has contributed to the development of personal and social identity. Traditionally viewed through the lens of three core elements— social inclusion, economic growth, and environmental protection—the concept of sustainable development This paper discusses the concept of sustainable development, and specifically its three main dimensions. Explicit consideration of personal aspects or ‘personscapes’ in the sustainability triangle can also be seen as a challenge to the idea that nature and society are opposites. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with their 169 targets, form the core of the 2030 Agenda. Building on some of these debates, I will try to show that the limitations of the WCED definition of sustainable development could be mitigated if sustainability is seen as the conceptual framework within which the territorial, temporal, and personal aspects of development can be openly discussed. More than two decades after the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) defined ‘sustainable development’ and put the concept of sustainability on the global agenda, the concrete meaning of these terms and their suitability for specific cases remains disputed. Sustainable development: development which considers the long term perspectives of the socioeconomic system, to ensure that improveme- nts occurring in the short term will not be detrimental to the future status or development potential of the system, i.e. Wilber (1998) argues the basic problem of modern societies (especially western) is not a development-related issue or even a social one. In her view, the ‘modern world’ has threatened the ‘foundations of freedom and the person by seeking to eliminate the transcendent framework altogether’. M.M. A clear distinction between the Human Exemptionalism Paradigm (HEP) and the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) was proposed by Dunlap and Catton Jr. (1979). 1996, Ostrom 1990). Targets. The sense of belonging to a given place is often related to things that occurred at different, sometimes distant moments (Macnaghten and Urry 1998). As compensating future generations may be impossible as well, the possibility that the ‘winners’ can compensate the ‘losers’ and still be better off with the changes produced by the project, one of the foundations of CBA, is significantly reduced. 58–63). The sustainability debate has been greatly influenced by previous divisions in the environmental movement between anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric worldviews (Pepper 1996). People tend to see the environment as the place in which they live and interact. Понимание компонентов устойчивого развития. Environmental issues entered the international agenda and began to shape personal attitudes and governmental policies. Place provides an important share of the sense of belonging and identity that are partly responsible for the generation of culture. It even goes on to say ‘the international economy must speed up world growth’ that is allegedly ‘essential’ to ‘avert economic, social, and environmental catastrophes’ in ‘large parts of the developing world’ (WCED 1987, p. 89). The 2030 Agenda commits the global community to “achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions—economic, social and environmental—in a balanced and integrated manner”. Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services on which the economy and society depend. 2007, p. 1). The principles are articulated in a general fashion but can receive a specific The importance of time in the complexities associated with problem solving is also acknowledged (Tainter 2006). Fruitful debates held over the last two decades pointed out the prominence of space and place in environmental justice debates (Agyeman et al. Want to develop an explainer video for your country team, agency or organisation? The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been an integral part of the global development agenda. The academic world seems reluctant to rethink the WCED paradigm although, as pointed out by Reitan (2005), this vision of development does not appear to be working in practice. Please send us an email at sustainable-development@unssc.org. The author is a full-time researcher at The National Council of Scientific and Technical Research of Argentina (CONICET) (www.conicet.gov.ar). Therefore, it can be argued the very concept of place is not complete until we attach to it a certain temporal component. It can include radical lines like ‘ecocentrism’ or ‘biocentrism’, which consider that nature has value in itself (intrinsic value). Operational tools such as sustainability indicators are usually defined only in economic, environmental, and social terms (Bell and Morse 2008). There are four dimensions to sustainable development – society, environment, culture and economy – which are intertwined, not separate. According to Dresner (2002), unhappiness is related largely to the impossibility of fulfilling socially created desires. Only individuals, with their morals and values, can achieve the ‘change of consciousness’ that, according to Dryzek (1987, pp. Nonetheless, it has to be considered as well that a world defined only in terms of place and permanence can be a very sad place for many people. Place and Persons, the base of the triangle, represent ‘real’, objective and concrete things that exist in the present time. In September 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were formally adopted by the UN General Assembly with the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Many types of needs have been identified, such as safety, love, esteem, and the desire for self-fulfilment (Chuengsatiansup 2003, Holden and Linnerud 2007, Maslow 1943). They balance the economic, social and ecological dimensions of sustainable development, and place the fight against poverty and sustainable development on the same agenda for the first time. Seven connected dimensions. It is my contention that the suitability of this paradigm to explain and solve environmental, social, and economic problems needs to be reconsidered. Events. In this section, I address some characteristics of the WCED definition of sustainable development that would represent serious theoretical and practical limitations that undermine its usefulness as a comprehensive conceptual framework for sustainability. Time is therefore, as the concept of nature itself, a contested and culture-dependent issue that plays an important role in the way we perceive and define nature (Macnaghten and Urry 1998). At the heart of the 2030 Agenda are five critical dimensions: people, prosperity, planet, partnership and peace, also known as the 5P’s. There are consequently as many ‘environments’ or ‘places’ as visions people have of the space around them (Macnaghten and Urry 1998). for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities1 The 2030 Agenda advocates sustainable . The five-dimensional sustainability framework is arguably more inclusive, plural, and useful to outline specific policies towards sustainability. Discounting is a particularly contentious issue, especially in terms of intertemporal equity and distributive implications. Conceptions of time, as notions of space and territory, can differ greatly in different cultures and at different historical moments (Adam 1990, Bates 2006, Giddens 1984, Hubert and Mauss 1905). The WCED paradigm of sustainable development advocates the environmental and social implications of economic growth must be included in the decision-making process. The SDGs were set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. Here, I will discuss the three spheres of sustainability and how these interrelated concepts ultimately affect you and society as a whole. This contradiction implies that, unless intergenerational equity becomes a more central issue in the analysis, the economic approach used in isolation might not be very useful to address issues of sustainability. Yet the additional reasons provided (aesthetic, ethical, cultural, and scientific considerations) are markedly anthropocentric. Even though the essential anthropocentrism and technological optimism of the WCED definition could be alleviated by more moderate positions, some non-anthropocentric authors might still feel uncomfortable. As discussed in the preceding section, the WCED concept of sustainable development has contradictions and limitations. Watch the explainer video in 8 languages. It is possible, as some authors have suggested, that ‘ecological rationality’ could also be met within a classical liberal framework (Pennington 2008). This empowerment might come at the expense of those who believe that open discussions and (some) agreement on values are, if not indispensable, at least highly desirable before specific policies are implemented. Many of the challenges facing humankind, such as climate change, water scarcity, inequality and hunger, can only be resolved at a global level and by promoting sustainable development: a commitment to social progress, environmental balance and economic growth. McShane (2007, 2008), for instance, without discarding Norton's ‘convergence theory’ on practical policy issues, insists that some ethical objections can still be raised against strong and weak anthropocentrism alike. Others have pointed out that CBA ‘should not be viewed as either necessary or sufficient for designing sensible public policy’ (Arrow et al. A sustainable development ‘triangle’ formed by People, Planet, and Profit (the three Ps), with Profit sometimes replaced by the more moderate ‘Prosperity’, is common use in business and governments (European Commission 2002). A significant additional drawback of the inclusion of an economic dimension in the definition of sustainability is that a purely economic approach is, in some respects, incompatible with the long-term thinking required to attain inter-generational justice. This ambivalence between the concepts of economic growth and environmental scarcity has been seen as a major flaw of the idea of sustainable development articulated by the WCED (Tijmes and Luijf 1995). The primer is available in 3 languages and can be downloaded through the links below: We have also launched an explainer video on Understanding the Human Security Approach, produced in partnership with United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security and Towards Agenda 2030, and another explainer video on Women’s Access to Justice, produced in partnership with UN Women. Place: the three dimensions of space (x, y, and z); Permanence: the fourth dimension of time (t); Persons: the fifth, human dimension (i). The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016 6 Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all Goal 6 goes beyond drinking water, sanitation and hygiene to also address the quality and sustainability of water resources. Growth should be achieved, according to the WCED, by promoting freer markets, lower interest rates, greater technology transfer, and significantly larger capital flows. To mitigate these shortcomings, I introduced a five-dimensional conceptual framework arguably more sensitive than the traditional triple-bottom-line approach to understand the complex issues of sustainability. The report acknowledges conservation of nature ‘is not only justified in economic terms’ (WCED 1987, p. 155). The new five-dimensional sustainability triangle. She proposed to pay more attention to ‘timescapes’, the temporal dimension of our environmental problems, in order to improve our understanding of their nature and impact. It has been argued most human beings have always had a ‘sense of corporal and spiritual individuality’ (Mauss 1938, p. 6) and people have always been ‘concerned with meaning and the nature of existence’ (Macnaghten and Urry 1998, p. 95). 90. Since its launch in March 2017, the English version of the video has been played 6,780 times and has received 22,000 impressions from 183 countries. The HEP is based on the assumption that the physical environment is relatively irrelevant for understanding social behaviour (humans are ‘exempt’ from nature's influence). The need for long-term thinking has always been acknowledged in the sustainability discourse. We can all be equal and have the same access to goods and services but we can also all be equally unhappy. Most of these needs involve feelings, felt by individuals, and cannot be catalogued as ‘social’. The paper finds and argues that the entire issue of sustainable development centres around inter- and intragenerational equity anchored essen- tially on three-dimensional distinct but interconnected pillars, namely the environ- ment, economy, and society. As will be discussed in more detail below, a development paradigm that fails to take these feelings into account might not guarantee that issues related to, for instance, personal happiness are incorporated in the sustainability debate. Yet, as argued by Rosenau (2003), several problems resist such categorisation. To truly achieve sustainable development, practitioners and policy-makers must consider the trade-offs and synergies created by their choices and understand how they connect with and impact each other. Complexity theories have also indicated the existence of ‘hybrid systems’ which are ‘neither natural nor social’ (Urry 2006, p. 112). Secondly, the importance of the economy is overestimated in the WCED definition. However, planning has been all too often relegated to a secondary role. For those reasons, I believe that the notion of sustainability should include a ‘personal’ dimension. If you would like to support the subtitling of existing explainer videos, or are interested in translating our 2-page primer into other languages, please send us an email. The limitations of the WCED definition could be mitigated if sustainability is seen as the conceptual framework within which the territorial, temporal, and personal aspects of development can be openly discussed. 2003). The 4-minute explainer video explains that the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are not merely items on a checklist. Places are therefore a source of facts, identities, and behaviours. Especially questioned have been the legitimacy of ‘valuation’ of some forms of nature, the acceptability of unlimited trade-offs between natural and man-made capital, and the validity of ‘discounting’ (Freeman III 2003, Hanley 2000, Mason 1999, Shechter 2000). Recommended articles lists articles that we recommend and is powered by our AI driven recommendation engine. Even strong defenders of CBA consider that a sustainability ‘constraint’ should be used as an ‘additional criterion’ to prevent the depletion of natural resources threatened by excessive exploitation (which, by their own account, is encouraged by high discount rates) (Pearce et al. (1996, p. 14), the link between growth and equity may not be so straightforward, especially in regions where it is needed most, namely where ‘the environmental costs of economic activity are borne by the poor, by future generations, or by other countries’. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked goals designed to be a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all". Sustainability is usually seen as a guide for economic and social policymaking in equilibrium with ecological conditions. The theoretical motivations to protect nature are not the only thing under discussion. Xi Jinping, President of China, attended the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit and joined other leaders in endorsing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, providing guidance to national development of member states and international development cooperation in the next 15 years. They incorporate notions of culture, local ways of life, and human physical and psychological health (Franquemagne 2007, Garavan 2007, Leff 2000). To justify this triangle, I try to show that: (a) Place, the three-dimensional physical and geographical, but also culturally constructed space where we live and interact, should be more adequately represented in a sustainability paradigm; (b) Permanence, the fourth, temporal dimension, has been largely neglected in the sustainability debate, in spite of the widespread recognition of the potential long-term effects of our actions, and all the inter-generational justice rhetoric; and that (c) Persons, the fifth dimension, a symbol of people as individual human beings and not as undifferentiated members of society, has been all but excluded from the WCED notion of sustainability. The important concepts of environmental, economic, and social sustainability form a basis from which good decisions and actions can be made. However, as noted by Arrow et al. As indicated by Norton (2005, p. 304), ‘sustainability, whatever else it means, has to do with our intertemporal moral relations’. Yet humans cannot be equated only to their needs. The WCED report emphasises the role of human ‘needs’ as perhaps the ultimate goal of any development policy (WCED 1987, p. 43). It has been defined as ‘the experience of a particular location with some measure of groundedness … , sense of boundaries …, and connection to everyday life’ (Escobar 2001, p. 140). Integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions is key to achieving sustainable development. Macnaghten and Urry (1998, p. 29) also believe that ‘there is no simple and sustainable distinction between nature and society’ because, to a great extent, nature is a cultural construction. We use cookies to improve your website experience. During the coming 15 years, 17 SDGs, linked to 169 targets, are to form an action plan to free humankind from poverty and return the planet to the path towards sustainability. The presence of an economic corner in that triangle is probably the reason why temporal aspects have been so neglected in practice, as discussed above. The third limitation is that space and time have been largely neglected in the WCED definition of sustainability. ‘Ecological modernisation’, a recent and well-known anthropocentric (or even ‘technocentric’) theory, postulates that technical and managerial approaches could well solve the environmental crisis. Convergence, noninstrumental value and the semantics of ‘love’: reply to Norton, Sustainability and sustainable development: historical and conceptual review, The scientific revolution and the death of nature, The concept of sustainable development: its origins and ambivalence, Where ecology, nature, and politics meet: reclaiming the death of nature, Sustainability as intergenerational equity: economic theory and environmental planning, Convergence, noninstrumental value and the semantics of ‘love’: comment on McShane, Classical liberalism and ecological rationality: the case for polycentric environmental law, Sustainable development: needs, values, rights, Sustainability science – and what's needed beyond science, Acting locally: the character, contexts and significance of local environmental mobilizations, Emancipatory accounting and sustainable development: a Gandhian–Vedic theorization of experimenting with truth, Environmentalism: spiritual, ethical, political, Sociology, environment, and modernity: ecological modernization as a theory of social change, The sustainability of our common future: an inquiry into the foundations of an ideology. Whether there is such a dichotomy at all is often questioned. The individualistic pursuit of profit, which has been usually supposed to lead to the common good (thanks to Adam Smith's ‘invisible hand’), could instead lead to environmental destruction and economic crisis, as pointed out long ago by Hardin (1968). Moreover, human needs are not only physiological. However, since it was released more than two decades ago, it is obvious that the WCED definition could not have taken into account recent and fruitful debates on sustainability that partly complement and partly counteract the ideas in the WCED report. The underlying ambiguity of the concept of sustainable development, rather than its historical foundations, has probably led to its worldwide acceptance as a framework for environmental and social action (Mebratu 1998, Mitcham 1995, Redclift 1993). Cited by lists all citing articles based on Crossref citations.Articles with the Crossref icon will open in a new tab. In contrast, happiness and personal well-being have been associated with aspects of life such as ‘autonomy, freedom, achievement, and the development of deep interpersonal relationships’ (Kahneman and Sugden 2005, p. 176). Advocates of ecological modernisation, who often present this theory as the operational tool of sustainable development in industrial societies, continue to see economic growth as a central feature for a just and equitable development (Spaargaren and Mol 1992). Instead, it is the abandonment, neglect, or rejection of the interior, spiritual dimensions of the world, a situation that leaves people in a ‘flatland’ devoid of meaning and value. 1990. As time went by, confidence on the ability of governments and corporations to solve environmental and social crises somehow faded away. 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