Sunday, December 15, 2013

North and South and "sustainable development"

Over at "The View from the South", Charles McKelvey recently posted on the history of the idea of sustainable development. An excerpt:
Vinales Valley, Cuba
(Eco Cuba Network)
The evolution from development to sustainable development was tied to what Pearce and Warford (1993) [World Without End: Economics, Environment, and Sustainable Development, OUP] have called the second environmental revolution.  The first environmental revolution of the 1960s had seen economic growth and environmental protection as irreconcilable opposites, always in conflict.  But the second revolution of the 1980s did not question the need for growth.  Rather, it sought to define how to grow, or how to develop in a form that is sustainable.
The Cuban scholar and environmental specialist Ramon Pichs (2006) [“Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo, 1964-2004” in Libre Comercio y subdesarrollo, La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.] maintains that the turn to sustainable development occurred as a result of the participation of organizations and movements of the Third World in the global process of reflection on environmental issues.  From the point of view of the Third World, the ecological revolution of the 1960s, with its call for conservation and for constraints on economic growth, made sense in the context of the developed societies, characterized by over-production and irrational patterns of consumption.  But limiting growth was not a reasonable approach for the underdeveloped societies, which did not have productive patterns that could provide even basic human needs, as a consequence of the neocolonial situation.  However, the Third World discerned from the outset the importance of the ecological revolution as it developed from the 1960s through the 1980s, given its consciousness of the contaminating effects of the prevailing patterns of production and of the global scope of environmental problems.  Thus, Third World participation in the discussion led to a reformulation of the issue, and sustainable development emerged as a new consensual understanding. 

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