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Human Development and Sustainability

Author

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  • Eric Neumayer

    () (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Abstract

The literatures and debates on human development on the one hand and sustainability on the other share much in common. Human development is essentially what sustainability advocates want to sustain and without sustainability, human development is not true human development. Yet the two strands of research have largely been separate and this paper shows how they can learn from each other. I put forward a concrete proposal on how human development and its measurement in the form of the Human Development Index (HDI) can be linked with measures of both weak and strong sustainability. Weak sustainability is built on the assumption that different forms of capital are substitutable, whereas strong sustainability rejects the notion of substitutability for certain critical forms of natural capital. Empirical results over the period 1980 to 2006 show that many of the lowest performing countries on the HDI also face problems of weak unsustainability, as measured by genuine savings. Countries with high to very high HDI performance, on the other hand, typically appear to be strongly unsustainable, as measured by ecological footprints, mostly because of unsustainably large carbon dioxide emissions. Two of the biggest challenges facing mankind this century will be to break the link between high human development and strongly unsustainable damage to natural capital on the one hand, requiring a very significant and rapid decarbonisation of their economies, and assisting countries with very low human development to overcome weak unsustainability by raising their investment levels into all forms of capital on the other.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Neumayer, 2010. "Human Development and Sustainability," Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) HDRP-2010-05, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • Handle: RePEc:hdr:papers:hdrp-2010-05
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    File URL: http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2010/papers/HDRP_2010_05.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Cristina Balaceanu & Diana Apostol, 2014. "Gdp As A Measuring Instrument For The Human Development," Annals - Economy Series, Constantin Brancusi University, Faculty of Economics, vol. 6, pages 69-72, December.
    2. Leßmann, Ortrud & Masson, Torsten, 2015. "Sustainable consumption in capability perspective: Operationalization and empirical illustration," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 64-72.
    3. Jeni Klugman & Francisco Rodríguez & Hyung-Jin Choi, 2011. "The HDI 2010: new controversies, old critiques," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(2), pages 249-288, June.
    4. Pelenc, Jérôme & Ballet, Jérôme, 2015. "Strong sustainability, critical natural capital and the capability approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 36-44.
    5. Pelenc, Jérôme & Bazile, Didier & Ceruti, Cristian, 2015. "Collective capability and collective agency for sustainability: A case study," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 226-239.
    6. Roman, Philippe & Thiry, Géraldine, 2016. "The inclusive wealth index. A critical appraisal," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 185-192.
    7. Pelenc, Jérôme, 2014. "Développement humain responsable et aménagement du territoire. Réflexions à partir de deux réserves de biosphère périurbaines en France et au Chili
      [Responsible Human Development and Land-Use Plann
      ," MPRA Paper 56094, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Giménez, Víctor & Ayvar-Campos, Francisco Javier & Navarro-Chávez, José César Lenin, 2017. "Efficiency in the generation of social welfare in Mexico: A proposal in the presence of bad outputs," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 43-52.
    9. Ângelo Barroso & Cristina Chaves & Francisco Vitorino Martins & Manuel Castelo Branco, 2016. "On the possibility of sustainable development with less economic growth: a research note," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 18(5), pages 1399-1414, October.
    10. repec:spr:endesu:v:19:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10668-016-9764-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Isabel NOVO-CORTI & Diana-Mihaela POCIOVALISTEANU & Raluca-Ioana IORGULESCU, 2015. "Social Sustainability In Higher Education. The Role Of Institutions From Students’ Point Of View," Journal for Economic Forecasting, Institute for Economic Forecasting, vol. 0(3), pages 166-180, September.
    12. Rita Silva & Alexandra Ferreira-Lopes, 2014. "A Regional Development Index for Portugal," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 118(3), pages 1055-1085, September.
    13. Mark Roseland & Maria Spiliotopoulou, 2016. "Converging Urban Agendas: Toward Healthy and Sustainable Communities," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(3), pages 1-20, July.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    weak sustainability; strong sustainability; Human Development Index; genuine savings; ecological footprints; climate change;

    JEL classification:

    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • 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
    • Q4 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy

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