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How Would you Like your 'Sustainability', Sir? Weak or Strong? A Reply to my Critics

Author

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  • Wilfred Beckerman

Abstract

This article concentrates on the Jacobs and Daly criticisms (Environmental Values, Spring 1994) of my earlier article in the same journal (Autumn 1994) criticising the concept of 'sustainable development'. Daly and Jacobs agreed with my criticisms of 'weak' sustainability, but defended 'strong' sustainability on the grounds that natural and manmade capital were 'complements' in the productive process and that economists are wrong, therefore, in assuming that they are infinitely substitutable. This article maintains that they are confusing different concepts of 'complementarity' and 'substitutability'. It is also argued that, in fact, they do both sell crucial passes in their defence of strong sustainability without providing any clear criteria for their abandonment of it in certain cases. It is also denied that the fact that environmental services may provide different satisfactions from those obtained from other goods and services elevates it to the status of some over-riding moral value, or that discounting future costs and benefits is 'unfair' to future generations.

Suggested Citation

  • Wilfred Beckerman, 1995. "How Would you Like your 'Sustainability', Sir? Weak or Strong? A Reply to my Critics," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 4(2), pages 169-179, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev4:ev409
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Herman E. Daly, 1972. "In Defense of a Steady-State Economy," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 54(5), pages 945-954.
    2. Maddison, Angus, 2007. "Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199227204.
    3. repec:eee:ecolec:v:138:y:2017:i:c:p:74-81 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Elizabeth Shove, 2010. "Beyond the ABC: climate change policy and theories of social change," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 42(6), pages 1273-1285, June.
    5. Viviana Asara & Emanuele Profumi & Giorgos Kallis, 2013. "Degrowth, Democracy and Autonomy," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 22(2), pages 217-239, April.
    6. repec:env:journl:ev25:editev253 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Scott Cameron Lougheed & Myra J. Hird & Kerry R. Rowe, 2016. "Governing Household Waste Management: An Empirical Analysis and Critique," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(3), pages 287-308, June.
    8. Elizabeth Shove, 2010. "Beyond the ABC: Climate Change Policy and Theories of Social Change," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 42(6), pages 1273-1285, June.
    9. Peter Ferguson, 2016. "Liberalism and Economic Growth: A Theoretical Exploration," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(5), pages 593-619, October.
    10. Ulrich Brand, 2016. "How to Get Out of the Multiple Crisis? Contours of a Critical Theory of Social-Ecological Transformation," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(5), pages 503-525, October.
    11. Clive L. Spash, 2015. "The Future Post-Growth Society," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 46(2), pages 366-380, March.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Discounting; economic welfare; environmental values; inter-generational justice; natural capital; scarce resources; sustainability;

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics

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