In a recent post on the Rio +20 Summit, Nick said “Getting so many people together in one room to decide how to continue increasing economic growth without damaging the planet may not be possible.” Indeed there are numerous barriers, both physical and ideological, to getting all sides to the table to discuss a future in which economics, the environment, and equity – the 3 “E”s of sustainable development – are given equal weight.
The other day, Justin made the argument that “It’s not just about the environment.” He’s absolutely right, hence the 3 “E”s, not “the one E(nvironment).” Some people think indefinite economic growth is possible, while others do not (given a finite system). Some academics, and I’m speaking from personal experience, equate sustainable development with sustained growth, which is not feasible over the long run. For these people, they only think about growth, not development. I used to work under a professor of Geography and Environmental Science who espoused the view that sustainable development is an oxymoron. We touched on this last year in one of our Opinionator style pieces.
Other academics define development as an improvement in the situation, not as growth. (For full disclosure, one who sits on my dissertation committee supports this view). For instance, improving health care, education, public health, and existing building stock – as opposed to tearing down and rebuilding – serve as examples of development, not growth. Given this worldview, sustainable development is not an oxymoron; sustainable growth is.