Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

'Sustainable Development': Is it a Useful Concept?

Contents:

Author Info

  • Wilfred Beckerman

Abstract

It is argued that 'sustainable development' has been defined in such a way as to be either morally repugnant or logically redundant. 'Strong' sustainability, overriding all other considerations, is morally unacceptable as well as totally impractical; and 'weak' sustainability, in which compensation is made for resources consumed, offers nothing beyond traditional economic welfare maximisation. The 'sustainability' requirement that human well-being should never be allowed to decline is shown to be irrational. Welfare economics can accommodate distributional considerations, and, suitably defined, the concept of welfare can include the subjective effects of changes in - as well as the levels of - well-being. Hence there is no reason why welfare maximisation should not remain an overriding policy objective. Nor can sustainability be regarded as a 'constraint' on welfare maximisation unless there is a clear conflict between the two - which has yet to be demonstrated. This is not to deny the importance of intergenerational justice, nor the need for economic incentives to correct market imperfections if the environment is to be managed in a socially optimal manner. Apart from a few small developing countries heavily dependent on minerals or other finite primary products, the measurement of some wider concept of 'sustainable' GNP is a waste of time and such estimates as have been made are virtually worthless.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/whp/ev/1994/00000003/00000003/art00001
Download Restriction: downloads of articles require payment or registration of paid subscription

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Bibliographic Info

Article provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.

Volume (Year): 3 (1994)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 191-209

as in new window
Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev3:ev311

Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://www.erica.demon.co.uk

Related research

Keywords: environmental policy; intergenerational justice; measurement of GNP; optimality; social discount rate; sustainability constraints; sustainable development; welfare maximisation;

Find related papers by JEL classification:

References

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Gamini Herath, 2006. "Sustainable Development and the Precautionary Principle: the Australian Experience," Economics Series 2006_15, Deakin University, Faculty of Business and Law, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance.
  2. Richard Cowell & Susan Owens, 1998. "Suitable Locations: Equity and Sustainability in the Minerals Planning Process," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(9), pages 797-811.
  3. Lawn, Philip & Clarke, Matthew, 2010. "The end of economic growth? A contracting threshold hypothesis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 69(11), pages 2213-2223, September.
  4. Surendra R. Devkota, 2005. "Is strong sustainability operational? An example from Nepal," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(5), pages 297-310.
  5. Gowdy, John, 2005. "Toward a new welfare economics for sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 211-222, April.
  6. Howarth, Richard B., 2007. "Towards an operational sustainability criterion," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 656-663, September.
  7. Pulido San Román, A., 2003. "Desarrollo sostenible: un reto central para el pensamiento económico," Estudios de Economía Aplicada, Estudios de Economía Aplicada, vol. 21, pages 203-220, Agosto.
  8. Gowdy, John M., 2007. "Toward an experimental foundation for benefit-cost analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 649-655, September.
  9. John M. Gowdy, 2004. "Toward a New Welfare Foundation for Sustainability," Rensselaer Working Papers in Economics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Economics 0401, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Economics.
  10. Franck-Dominique Vivien, 2003. "Jalons pour une histoire de la notion de développement durable," Mondes en développement, De Boeck Université, De Boeck Université, vol. 121(1), pages 1-21.
  11. Kjell Arne Brekke & Richard B. Howarth, 1996. "Is welfarism compatible with sustainability?," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 23, pages 69-74.
  12. Sardar Islam & Matthew Clarke, 2002. "The Relationship between Economic Development and Social Welfare: A New Adjusted GDP Measure of Welfare," Social Indicators Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 57(2), pages 201-229, February.
  13. Döring, Ralf & von Egan-Krieger, Tanja & Ott, Konrad, 2007. "Eine Naturkapitaldefinition oder Natur in der Kapitaltheorie," Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Diskussionspapiere 10/2007, Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, Faculty of Law and Economics.
  14. Musters, C. J. M. & de Graaf, H. J. & ter Keurs, W. J., 1998. "Defining socio-environmental systems for sustainable development," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 243-258, September.
  15. Wen, Zongguo & Chen, Jining, 2008. "A cost-benefit analysis for the economic growth in China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 356-366, April.
  16. Erling Holden & Kristin Linnerud, 2007. "The sustainable development area: satisfying basic needs and safeguarding ecological sustainability," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(3), pages 174-187.
  17. Bowers, John, 2005. "Instrument choice for sustainable development: an application to the forestry sector," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 97-107, January.
  18. Harte, M. J., 1995. "Ecology, sustainability, and environment as capital," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 157-164, November.
  19. Van Passel, Steven, 2008. "Assessing farm sustainability with value oriented methods," 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium, European Association of Agricultural Economists 44141, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
  20. Toman, Michael & Pezzey, John C., 2002. "The Economics of Sustainability: A Review of Journal Articles," Discussion Papers, Resources For the Future dp-02-03, Resources For the Future.
  21. Michael Redclift, 2005. "Sustainable development (1987-2005): an oxymoron comes of age," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(4), pages 212-227.

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev3:ev311. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Andrew Johnson).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.