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Environmental Values

Sustainability and Sustainable Development: Philosophical Distinctions and Practical Implications

Donald Charles Hector, Carleton Bruin Christensen and Jim Petrie

Environmental Values 23 (2014): 7-28. doi: 10.3197/096327114X13851122268963


The terms 'sustainability' and 'sustainable development' have become established in the popular vernacular in the 25 years or so since the publication of the report of the Brundtland Commission. Often, 'sustainability' is thought to represent some long-term goal and 'sustainable development' a means or process by which to achieve it. Two fundamental and conflicting philosophical positions underlying these terms are identified. In particular, the commonly held notion that sustainable development can be a pathway to sustainability is challenged, and the expedient view that both terms ultimately serve holistic development is questioned. Furthermore, it is argued that perpetuating the unclear and misleading distinction between the two positions will limit the development of efficacious policy, as it will not resonate with the broadest possible gamut of beliefs and value systems.


Sustainability; sustainable development; ecological philosophy

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

'Sustainable Development': Is it a Useful Concept? Wilfred Beckerman

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

DISCUSSION Herman Daly; Michael Jacobs

Environmental Economics, Ecological Economics and the Concept of Sustainable Development. Giuseppe Munda

The Development of Environmental Thinking in Economics. Clive L. Spash

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Seeking Sustainability. Clive L. Spash

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