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Mario Petrucci

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Sustainability — Long View or Long Word?

Petrucci closely examines the notion of sustainability and reviews the options for an alternative environmental ethic. He sees an ongoing need in theoretical environmentalism to examine concepts and assumptions that surround the term “sustainability” and to examine the key issues governing its expression in mainstream developmental and political policy toward the developing world. The central theme of this article is that the epithet of sustainability, as currently understood in the “Northern” public arena and by many development agencies, is too loaded to be of any authentic or practical use. Its current deployment on the global scene as a political catchphrase engendering a vague sense of goodwill toward the “Third World,” and the environment generally, has done little to engender any radical shift in top-down development strategy and oppressive global trading practice. The conceptual and ethical limitations of the rallying cry of sustainability within our free-market global economic system therefore need to be made evident, so that genuine developmental alternatives may be more fully voiced for, and by, oppressed peoples. This commentary delineates what those alternative forms of class/capital-conscious sustainability might be. The first step in this process is to explore the origins and associations of sustainability in a discursive manner, and thereby to map out the extent to which it underpins the status quo in the current ideological landscape. Although the issues covered are global in scope, this article has a European emphasis.

environment, sustainability, environment alternatives, cost-benefit analysis, economic growth, economic policy — free market model, environmental ethics, sustainable societies

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 29, Nos. 1-2 (2002): 103-115