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Sustainable Development: Between Moral Injunctions and Natural Constraints


  • Charles Figuières

    () (INRA—LAMETA, 2 place Viala, 34060 Montpellier, France)

  • Hervé Guyomard

    () (INRA—Scientific Directorate for Agriculture, 147 rue de l'Université, 75338 Paris Cedex 07, France)

  • Gilles Rotillon

    () (EconomiX, Université Paris Ouest, Nanterre—La Défense, Bâtiments K et G, 200, Avenue de la République, 92001 Nanterre Cedex, France)


Sustainable development must satisfy the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Although it looks at the economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability, this article focuses specifically on an analysis of the concept in conjunction with the use and protection of natural resources. It shows how taking account of environmental goods, including the finite nature of certain natural resources, can change the way economists deal with the issues of growth, development and equity between generations. In this context, after a brief historical perspective on the concept of development, the paper shows how the potential for substitutability between natural and manufactured capital, for example in production technologies, lead to two paradigms, that of weak sustainability and that of strong sustainability. These two approaches are presented in an effort to explain how their merits can be mutually reinforcing.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Figuières & Hervé Guyomard & Gilles Rotillon, 2010. "Sustainable Development: Between Moral Injunctions and Natural Constraints," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(11), pages 1-15, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:11:p:3608-3622:d:10304

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alvarez-Cuadrado, Francisco & Van Long, Ngo, 2009. "A mixed Bentham-Rawls criterion for intergenerational equity: Theory and implications," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 154-168, September.
    2. Roger Guesnerie, 2004. "Calcul économique et développement durable," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 55(3), pages 363-382.
    3. Hartwick, John M, 1977. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investing of Rents from Exhaustible Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 972-974, December.
    4. Graciela Chichilnisky, 1996. "An axiomatic approach to sustainable development," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 13(2), pages 231-257, April.
    5. Chichilnisky, Graciela, 1977. "Development patterns and the international order," MPRA Paper 7991, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Lauwers, Luc, 2010. "Ordering infinite utility streams comes at the cost of a non-Ramsey set," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 32-37, January.
    7. R. M. Solow, 1974. "Intergenerational Equity and Exhaustible Resources," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(5), pages 29-45.
    8. Chichilnisky, Graciela & Heal, Geoffrey & Beltratti, Andrea, 1995. "The Green Golden Rule," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 175-179, August.
    9. Richard Howarth & Richard Norgaard, 1993. "Intergenerational transfers and the social discount rate," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 3(4), pages 337-358, August.
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    More about this item


    development; sustainable development; weak and strong sustainability; intergenerational equity; natural resources; indicators;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products


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