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Bibliography in Sustainable Development

Biology and Ecology Ethics and Philosophy Population
Case Studies General Social Issues
Economics History Tourism
Energy Industry Urban Planning
Environmental Justice Policy Water

Go to Index page, including Alphabetical Organization and Entire Bibliography File.


Angell, D. J. R., J. D. Corner, et al., Eds. (1991). Sustaining earth: response to the environmental threat. New York, St. Martin's Press.

Attfield, R. and B. Wilkins (1994). "Sustainability." Environmental Values 3(2): 155-158.

This article argues that there are ethical criteria independent of the criterion of sustainability, and counters Nigel Dower's position that practices which should not be followed are not sustainable. The authors suggest that sustainability should not include moral weight, that a procedure may be sustainable even though it may not be worth sustaining. See the previous and response articles by Dower for more of the discussion.

Beckerman, W. (1994). "Sustainable development: is it a useful concept?" Environmental Values 3(3): 191-209.

Welfare maximization in economics should remain a top policy objective because it can accommodate distributional considerations without going to the extremes that sustainability inevitably ends. The strong sustainability argument, where sustainability takes priority over everything is totally impractical, and weak sustainability in which compensation is made for resources that are consumed is just a form of welfare maximization. Too much time and effort is being spent on developing the idea of sustainability when economics can take care of all of our problems.

Beckerman, W. (1995). "How Would you Like your 'Sustainability', Sir? Weak or Strong? A Reply to my Critics." Environmental Values 4(2): 169-179.

Herman Daly and Michel Jacobs critiqued Beckerman's article In Environmental Values, Autumn 1994, and this is his response to their critique. I have not yet obtained their article, so will not evaluate this article at this time.

Carroll, J. E. (1995). "Envisioning Ecological Sustainability: The Need and a Method." Environmental Values 4(2): 1995.

Carroll proposes that we cannot deal effectively with environmental problems because we do not have a vision of what life would be like without such problems, and consequently have no goal. Thus, he advocates establishing a "composite paradise" made of at least the following characteristics: places, and patterns which promote inspiration and fulfillment on all levels; things or ideas which promote sustainability, particularly through efficiency and helping humans without harming the natural ecosystem. Such a composite paradise must be related to each individual, and yet have broad elements on which we can agree. By forming such a consensus, Carroll believes that we will be able to structure environmental activities productively.

Chanarun, P. (2001). Natural resources management under the alternative view: toward sustainable development. Bangkok, Faculty of Economics Thammasat University: 5, 188 leaves.

Chiras, D. D. (1995). "Principles of sustainable development: a new paradigm for the twenty-first century, environmental carcinogenesis and ecotoxicology reviews." Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part C 13(2): 143-178.

Clarke, J. (1993). "Education, population, environment and sustainable development." International Review of Education 39(1-2): 53-61.

Clayton, A. M. H. and N. J. Radcliffe (1996). Sustainability: a systems approach. Boulder, WestviewPress.

This book attempts to fill a gap between materials about sustainability written for businesses or local authorities which give many concrete suggestions, but little theory, and those publications by specialists in the natural and social scientists that are theoretically important but are not very accessible to the average person. This book works with the basic Brundtland definition. Given the complex nature of environmental and economic systems, this book advocates a dynamic approach in which many factors are considered and sustainability assessment maps (SAM) are used to make decisions about sustainability. SAMs identify critical axes of change in a particular problem, assess each development option on the same basis, and graph the scores on each axis so the results are displayed graphically. A very interesting plot type is generated. (see attached picture).

This book also talk about the limits of such models and the practical changes in politics and society that need to be made to attain sustainability.

Common, M. S. (1995). "Beckerman and his Critics on Strong and Weak Sustainability: Confusing Concepts and Conditions." Environmental Values 5(1): 83-88.

This is a response to the Beckerman, Daly and Jacobs debate about sustainability. I will review this when I have read all preceding articles.

Costanza, R. and B. C. Patten (1995). "Defining and Predicting Sustainability." Ecological Economics 15: 193-196.

Court, T. d. l. (1990). Beyond Brundtland: Green Development in the 1990s. Atlantic Highlands, NJ, Zed Books Ltd.

A commentary on the Brundtland report that summarizes the report and the remarks of its critics from environmental groups and developing countries. The main critique is that Brundtland focuses on Western linear modes of development which have often led to environmental destruction and increasing poverty in developing nations, rather than to decreasing poverty and increasing living conditions which are goals of sustainable development. Many factual reports are presented as are case studies and opinions from around the world. A simple but very informative text.

Dalal-Clayton, B. and S. Bass (2002). Sustainable development strategies: a resource book. London, Earthscan.

Dower, N. (1994). "Worth Sustaining? Reply to Attfield and Wilkins." Environmental Values 3(2): 159-60.

Robin Attfield and Barry Wilkins have critiqued Dower's use of the term sustainable since they think he means "worthy of being sustained" and that it should mean "capable of being sustained." This is Dower's reply to their attack.

Dower clarifies that sustainability means "ought to be sustained" in certain, but not all contexts. Such contexts are those when sustainable development is presented as an "object of commitment or planning or a form of development which one is prepared to endorse." Dower acknowledges that after a process is determined to be sustainable, it must certainly be evaluated further to see if it is in fact desirable to have such a process. He also discusses other terms such as "desirable" and "development" which have multiple meanings, concluding that we must be aware of how language can influence policy decisions and not be too quick to adopt sustainable practices before they are evaluated to see if they are desired.

I find it interesting that this debate completely ignores the fact that it is very difficult to evaluate whether or not a process is in fact sustainable.

Dower, N. (2000). "Human Development - Friend or Foe to Environmental Ethics." Environmental Values 9(1): 39-54.

Dower asserts that by focusing on human development, we are focusing somewhat less on economic growth than we traditionally do when discussing development, an important shift since increased wealth does not necessarily correlate with increased human well-being. Though he focuses on the concept of human development for its universal nature, he notes that the anthropocentrism inherent in human development is problematic. Dower suggests that two conceptual shifts (widening the conception of society to include the natural environment, and recognizing a link between the environment and development) will make the adequate environmental care more likely.

As a side note, Dower argues that sustainability isn't enough to make development appropriate even if it is necessary because a practice could be sustainable but undemocratic, socially unjust, or cruel to animals. He is also wary of focusing too much on sustainability because he thinks it focuses so much on the future that not enough emphasis is spent on changing attitudes and behaviors now.

Downs, A. (1972). "Up and down with ecology: The issue-attention cycle." Public Interest 28(Summer).

El Serafy, S. (1995). "In Defense of Weak Sustainability: A Response to Beckerman." Environmental Values 5(1): 75-81.

This is a response to the Beckerman, Daly and Jacobs debate about sustainability. I will review this when I have read all preceding articles.

Faucheux, S. F., G; Noel, J-F (1995). "What forms of rationality for sustainable development?" Journal of Socio-Economics 24(1): 169-209.

Graf, W. D. (1992). "Sustainable Ideologies and Interests: beyond Brundtland." Third World Quarterly 13(3): 553-559.

Henderson, H. (1994). "Paths to sustainable development: the role of social indicators." Futures 26(2): 125-137.

Himle Horner Inc. and Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance. (1996). Summary and report on research conducted on sustainable development. S.l., Himle Horner Inc.

Hosaka, M. (1993). "Sharing local development experiences transnationally: networking in support of community and local initiatives." Environment & Urbanization 5(1): 132-147.

Sharing Local Development Experiences Transnationally: Networking in Support of Community and Local Initiatives This paper discusses the ways in which international networks can help community based organizations, NGOs and local governments share experiences in housing and settlement improvement. It describes two types of networks that have been established, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as some theory about what characteristics make a strong and effective such network. It is only tangentially about sustainability, in that people in such networks are trying to achieve housing conditions that are adequate and sustainable. This article may also be helpful for anyone working with local initiatives to promote social change.

Jackson, T. (2003). "Sustainability and the 'Struggle for Existence': The Critical Role of Metaphor in Society's Metabolism." Environmental Values 12(3): 289-316.

The metaphor "struggle for existence" used by Darwin is shown to have had incredible influence on two strands of thought now relevant to sustainable development. First, the biophysical critique of conventional development advocated by ecological economists, in which traditional economics and development theory are shown to neglect the biological and physical constraints on development and suggestions made for how to reverse these trends. Second is modern evolutionary psychology which suggests that in certain ways the economic system, and the individuals within it behave similarly to an ecological system driven by evolution.

As an interesting side note, Jackson examines the two strands of thought in his article as responses to Ludwig Boltzmann's definition of the struggle for existence of living beings as a struggle for available energy. With this connection of disciplines, Boltzmann metaphorically connected diverse branches of science, and suggested a way of reasoning about environmental limits to human development. Jackson traces the history of the development of these ideas to arrive at the two positions.

Jackson finds that while most people examining sustainable development follow the first pathway (ecological economics), the second (developmental psychology) must not be neglected since it demonstrates that there is a relationship between social evolution and the appropriation of material resources. Namely, the evolutionary psychology path indicates that our chances for achieving sustainable development are remote at best since the struggle for existence never ceases in nature, or in the marketplace. Neo-Darwinian theories of human behavior also suggest that consumption is an important part of evolution in that through consumption we distinguish ourselves in relation to the opposite sex and with respect to our sexual competitors, offering our genes the best chance of success. From this perspective, consumption is necessary and cannot be successfully stopped through technological or behavioral changes.

Jackson suggests several responses to the bleakness of the implications of evolutionary psychology for sustainable development. First, we can accept the conceptual framework of struggling for existence and recognize the limits placed on the possibility of sustainable development by the biological sciences and evolutionary psychology. Second, the framework of struggle as a part of development can be accepted but balanced to some degree by models of evolution such as cooperation, altruism, and symbiosis (for example, the work of Lynn Margulis). A third possible response is to try to break out of the conceptual framework, rejecting the image of struggle for existence. Jackson suggests that this option would involve such an incredible amount of work given the influence of "struggle for existence" on so many areas of scientific thought, and leaves the development of a new worldview to someone else.

James, V. U. (1996). Sustainable development in Third World countries: applied and theoretical perspectives. Westport, Conn., Praeger.

Karshenas, M. (1994). "Environment, technology, and employment: towards an new definition of sustainable development." Development and Change 25(4): 723-756.

Korten, D. C. (1992). "Sustainable development: a review essay." World Policy Journal 9(1): 181-212.

Lele, S. M. (1991). "Sustainable development: a critical review." World Development 19(6): 607-621.

Lindner, W. (1989). "Sustainable Development: From Theory to Practice." Development 2(3): special issue.

Litsios, S. (1994). "Sustainable development is healthy development." World Health Forum 15(2): 193-195.

Meadows, D. H. (1991). The global citizen. Washington, DC, Island Press.

This book is written by a person in environmental systems dynamics who became a journalist writing a weekly column called the global citizen. The book is a collection of her columns arranged in topical chapters with a brief introduction to each chapter providing commentary, reflection, and summary. While the facts of the book are a bit dated (from the mid 1980s to early 1990s), it provides great pieces on various environmental topics from a systems point of view. It is quite interesting to see Meadows' attempts to indicate the interrelatedness of environmental problems while writing short, compelling articles. Her perspective often strays from the polar positions often trumpeted when environmental, or any political issues are discussed as she strives to assert positions that take a wider look at the problems, including the deep reasons for conflict. This book is a welcome breath of fresh air after so many technical pieces. "The Man Who Planted Trees and Grew Happiness" is a great story of inspiration that invites a deep reflection on the meaning and promise of myths. It is also interesting to read a collection of articles from twenty years ago and realize that in some ways things have not really changed at all, and in others, (the widespread availability of recycling) they have. Also, to realize that some subjects so popular a few years ago such as rainforest beef, have fallen off the radar screens, which makes one wonder if the implemented changes were really adequate, or just enough to shut people up.

Miller, R. M. (1994). "Interactions and collaboration in global change across the social and natural sciences." Ambio 23(1): 17-24.

Mitlin, D. (1992). "Sustainable development: a guide to the literature." Environment & Urbanization 4(1): 111-124.

Mitlin, D. and J. Bicknel (1992). "Will UNCED Sustain Development?" Environment & Urbanization 4(1): 3-7.

Before the Earth Summit (the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992) people were hopeful about environmental change because many countries were moving toward democratic and accountable government, many environmental issues had been clarified, and the North-South divide and connection had been recognized. However, many of these insights were overlooked at the conference itself. The rest of this article clarifies these issues that should be addressed, particularly focusing on the differences of the North and South with respect to environmental problems and solutions, and ends on a hopeful note that there is still time for change.

National Commission on the Environment. (1993). Choosing a sustainable future: the report of the National Commission on the Environment. Washington, D.C., Island Press.

Norton, B. (1992). "Sustainability, Human Welfare and Ecosystem Health." Environmental Values 1(2): 97-111.

Norton contrasts two definitions of sustainability. Social scientific definitions such as the one used by the Brundtland Commission define sustainability as a relationship between the present and future welfare of people. The limits of this approach are that it assumes infinite substitutability of resources and unlimited resources. Instead of critiquing the possibility of mainstream economics (as presumed by the Brundtland Commission) incorporating intergenerational equity, Norton suggests a new approach, scientific contextualism. This approach "recognizes that there are non-negotiable obligations regarding our use of resources and that those obligations can be understood as the obligations the present has to perpetuate the conditions necessary for the continuation of the human species and of its culture." This approach uses a variety of moral rules which are applied under content and context dependent conditions. Norton admits that determining when a practice is sustainable scientifically, is very difficult, but maintains that using scientific models to protect the health and integrity of the ecosystem is still a necessary goal. Additionally, as the ecosystem including living and nonliving processes continually changes, Norton advocates the development of an ecological paradigm that will protect and restore the integrity of ecological systems to preserve the total diversity of the system, defined as the sum of species and associations and the autonomous processes that maintain such diversity. He suggests five axioms of ecosystem management:

1. The Axiom of Dynamism: all is in flux

2. The Axiom of Relatedness: all processes are related to all other processes

3. The Axiom of Hierarchy: processes are not related equally, rather systems exist within system

4. The Axiom of Creativity: "The autonomous processes of nature are creative and represent the basis for all biologically based productivity. The vehicle of that creativity is energy flowing through systems which in turn find stable contexts in larger systems, which provide sufficient stability to allow self-organization within them, through repetition and duplication."

5. The Axiom of Differential Fragility: ecological systems can absorb human wastes and disruptions to various degrees.

By using these axioms, Norton demonstrates that his scientific contextualist approach to sustainability approaches sustainability at a variety of levels as opposed to the social scientific definitions which focus on people, and consequently that his approach can be merged with moral obligations to act sustainability.

As with many discussions of sustainability, Norton recognizes that ecosystems change, but assumes that through this change they naturally preserve diversity. Is this always the case?

O'Neill, J. (1993). Ecology, policy, and politics: human well-being and the natural world. London; New York, Routledge.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2000). Towards sustainable development: indicators to measure progress: proceedings of the OECD Rome conference. Paris, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Orr, D. W. (1992). Ecological literacy: education and the transition to a postmodern world. Albany, State University of New York Press.

Parikh, K. S. (2001). Enjoy it by giving it up: toward sustainable development patterns. Bombay, India, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research.

Pezzey, J. (1992). "Sustainability: An Interdisciplinary Guide." Environmental Values 1(4): 321-362.

Pezzey defines sustainability as the “non-declining utility of a representative member of society for millennia into the future.” Where utility is “whatever people maximize when they make rational choices.” Pezzey uses the millennia condition in order to think in much longer terms than traditional political or social timelines, however he notes that such a timeline is still inadequate to allow genetic evolution in humans to adapt to changes in the environment.

sing this definition, Pezzey draws together ideas from physics, ecology, biology, anthropology, history, philosophy, economics and psychology to analyze the potential for sustaining industrial civilization. Pezzey finds that such potential is highly uncertain for various reasons, primarily because it is difficult to know how long we will be able to substitute tools and knowledge for natural resources. Additionally, with time, people adapt to technological or genetic innovations (such as sharper teeth, or a superior legal system, or leather shoes) and they become necessary in that a life without such innovations would then be worse than before. These factors must be taken into account when discussing sustainability, but often have not been.

When discussing the influence on sustainability, Pezzey argues that the evolution and adoption of a sustainable ethic will depend more on how such an ethic effects people’s perceptions of threats to their environment than on abstract philosophical arguments. He also points out that a new ethical system may not arise quickly enough to achieve sustainability.

Pezzey also analyzes the relationship between education and development, finding that during the process of industrialization, people have become more and more educated, largely to run and create the machines necessary for industrialization. He argues that this process will eventually be limited by the human capacity for education in one lifetime, if knowledge is cumulative.

(Of course, this reasoning assumes that some other factor did not limit sustaining a constant living standard first.)

Pezzey also spends a brief amount of time examining environmental methods of valuing the environment, and problems with such methods. Much more time is spent examining different types of societies (statically sustainable societies, developed societies, and developing societies) and the problems each faces with respect to sustainability. While Pezzey admits that not all hunter-gatherer societies were sustainable, he also tends to lift them up as an ideal. He could have been a bit more careful in his analysis here – especially to point out that many hunter-gatherer societies were sustainable only because their population densities were low so that the environment had ample time to regenerate.

Pezzey poses a number of difficult question about the sustainability of sectors or nations given the amount of interrelatedness in today’s global economy and in the environment. He leaves these questions to be answered by a more specific analysis elsewhere, though he does address the question of exploitation of poor countries by the rich. On this issue he advocates the development of a theory of exploitation that lays out constraints on borrowing that are needed to allow productive potential of all nations, take monopoly power into account, and allow for justice, possibly retrospectively.

After tying these analyses together, Pezzey concludes that it will be difficult to respond to challenges of sustainability quickly enough to avert potential threats. Yet, he advocates the use of our capacity for far-sighted, cooperative precautions and our ability to be clever with the hope that we will be able to effect change.

Pimentel, D., L. Westra, et al. (2000). Ecological integrity: integrating environment, conservation, and health. Washington, D.C., Island Press.

President's Council on Sustainable Development. Sustainable Communities Task Force. (1998). Sustainable Communities Task Force report. Washington, DC, President's Council on Sustainable Development: [U.S. G.P.O.

Redclift, M. R. (1987). Sustainable development: exploring the contradictions. London; New York, Methuen.

This is a fairly typical book about sustainable development in that it examines how the concept evolved, why the concept is important, the environmental problems associated with unsustainability and suggests a few, though not many ways to proceed. It gives a particularly good look at the ways international trade and "development" aid often serve to harm the countries they claim to help by fostering, dependency on aid, droughts through poor land management, and massive debts. However, the figures and examples are rather dated by this point. Energy balances, particularly how much energy is used to produce one calorie of food is one focus of the analysis of agriculture.

This book also contributes some unique things to the field. First of all, it is written during the Brundtland study, and so it offers an interesting perspective on the hope for the study. Given its timing, this volume also offers more early history of the concept of sustainability (starting in the early 1970) than later works. Finally, this book is unusual because it discusses the social theory behind sustainability, especially the reasons that Marxism aligns or does not but should align with concepts of sustainability (in contrast to capitalism). Redcliff maintains that Marxism is a fruitful place to talk about sustainability because it is based on the social construction of nature and the naturalization of human consciousness. However, Marxism still needs to address several issues to have a strong position for sustainability. First, it must address the way nature is transformed under capitalism and the implications for such transformations. Second, it must be concerned with the distribution of costs and benefits of environmental change. Third, it must be concerned about the relationship between environmental issues and central Marxist issues such as alienation and class struggle.

A fault of this text is that it focuses almost entirely on issues of agriculture and population. Without adequately recognizing the importance of other areas such as industry and energy use, I question whether Redcliff has too narrow a definition of sustainability.

Rydin, Y. (1999). "Can We Talk Ourselves into Sustainability? The Role of Discourse in the Environmental Policy Process." Environmental Values general(4): 467-484.

Rydin summarizes the various attitudes toward the variety of definitions of sustainability -- some aim for clarification, others think the vagueness is helpful. More helpfully, she analyzes the problems associated with the commonly advocated model of environmental policy-making in which diverse stakeholders come together to find consensus over an issue. The first major problem with this model is that some people do not want to be involved in such a process, even if they will be affected by its outcome, while others so desire to be involved that they will be over represented. Another problem is that consensus building is incredibly difficult. Finally, there is the problem of the role of professional policy makers given the desire for an informed public. It is hoped that such professionals can serve as educators and mother of the general public. However, on all of these potential problems, Rydin spends more time discussing the problematic situation than suggesting concrete ways in which such problems can be resolved or mediated. Though she focuses on the process of working towards sustainability, she points out that even if such processes work well, this will not ensure that the goal of sustainability is met.

Schor, J. B. and B. Taylor (2002). Sustainable planet: solutions for the twenty-first century. Boston, Beacon Press.

Silver, C. S., R. S. DeFries, et al. (1990). One earth, one future: our changing global environment. Washington, D.C., National Academy Press.

Smith, G. A. (1992). Education and the environment: learning to live with limits. Albany, State University of New York Press.

Starke, L. and Centre for Our Common Future. (1990). Signs of hope: working towards our common future. Oxford [England]; New York, Oxford University Press.

Templet, P. (1999). "Grazing the commons: An empirical analysis of externalities, subsidies and sustainability." Ecological Economics 12: 141-59.

Turner, R. K., Ed. (1998). Sustainable environmental management. Boulder, Westview Press.

Turpin, J. and L. A. Lorentzen (1996). The gendered new world order: militarism, development, and the environment. New York, Routledge.

United Nations Centre for Human Settlements. (1990). People, settlements, environment, and development: improving the living enviro[n]ment for a sustainable future. Nairobi, Kenya, United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).

Wilcox, B. A. (1992). "Defining sustainable development." Environmental Science & Technology 26(10): 1902-1902.

Winpenny, J. T. and Overseas Development Institute (London England) (1991). Development research: the environmental challenge. London, Overseas Development Institute; Boulder, Westview Press.

World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our common future. Oxford; New York, Oxford University Press.

This volume contains the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, commonly known as the Brundtland report. It is intended to be a "global agenda for change" which outlines long term environmental strategies for achieving sustainable development by the year 2000. Several major policy directions are discussed including population, food security, species and ecosystems, energy, industry, urbanization, the economy, and legal changes. A chapter is devoted to each of these areas. The basic definition of sustainability used by the commission, and one of the most influential since this report is that "humanity has the ability to make development sustainable -- to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The commission also says that ". in the end, sustainable development is not a fixed state of harmony, but rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological developments and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs."

Two basic concepts make up this definition of sustainability: needs and limitations. Needs are specifically "the essential needs of the world's poor to which priority should be given." Limitations are those "imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."

Each topical chapter highlights some policy directives and demonstrates why such policies are important to secure a sustainable future.

Limits of this report are discussed in great detail elsewhere (Beyond Brundtland), and my two major critiques echo these. First, the commission does not discuss in great enough detail the ways in which the problems of the developing world are linked to, and yet different from the problems in the developed world as it tends to read with the perspective of the developed world. Secondly, the report mentions the role of women only in passing, as another minority group. Given the large impact women have on agriculture, decreasing population growth, and improving literacy rates, this subject should have been addressed in much more detail. For instance, the report should have addressed why the ability to of women to affect these issues is unique, and addressed how such connections can be utilized.

Worldwatch Institute. State of the world: a Worldwatch Institute report on progress toward a sustainable society. New York, Norton.

Young, J. (1990). Sustaining the earth / John Young. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.

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