What Is (Un)Sustainable Development?

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What Is (Un)Sustainable Development?

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What Is Sustainable Development?

What Is Sustainable Development Under Capitalism?

With environmental disaster and degradation on the rise, the end of the 20th century proposed a new framework to advance global development: sustainable development.

Throughout the past 25-30 years, sustainable development has become a political phenomenon within development discourse as an alternative theory to industrialization but has also been subject to rightful critique on its empirical roots and continual practical implementation .

What Is (Un)Sustainable Development?

While sustainable development can, in particular contexts, be seen as rooted within good intentions, as an alternative praxis within development discourse it remains contradictory to its original claims.

This is done through its perpetuation of knowledge and power rooted within Western biases, the lack of clarity on its meaning and implementation framework, and its lack of addressing structural inequities within our capitalist frame, which allow for mass exploitation and consumption by the West at the expense of the rest.

Throughout this piece, I will introduce the key international policies and agreements that have emerged from theories of sustainable development, and then move onto discussing the practical critiques of this approach, specifically the policies that have been implemented by Western orientated agencies, such as the United Nations.

Finally, culminating with a discussion on the empirical and theoretical contradictions and flaws operating within the paradigm of sustainable development, and the subsequent theories emerging from it.

I hope by the end of this piece you are able to critically discuss what sustainable development means and how it can operate as a modern day colonial perpetrator.

What Is (Un)Sustainable Development?

Historical Roots of Sustainable Development

With the rise of sustainable development as a universal doctrine, there have been four major periods of its discourse and implementation: the start of sustainable discourse ; the “stagnation” period from the early 1980s-1986; the implementation period of policies and conferences ; and finally, the current period we are in, consisting of stagnation, and eventual decline .

The following policies have emerged within these periods.

The United Nations Conference on Human Environment was held in Stockholm, and concluded with the development of the Stockholm Declaration, consisting of 26 principles regarding our physical human environment and how it can be protected, as well as the eventual creation of the United Nations Environmental Protection Sector .

Moving forward, the World Conservation Strategy allowed for accessible discourse on the challenges surrounding the reconciliation of development and the environment, with a primary focus on natural resource protection .

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