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An Historian’s Critique of Sustainability
Kathleen R. Smythe: Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
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Theme: Sustainabilities Edited by Carina Ren, Tom O’Dell & Adriana Budeanu

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The most common word-based image of sustainability is a balanced three-way relationship between the environment, society and the economy, sometimes portrayed as a triangle, sometimes as a Venn diagram. The idea is that if you consider all three equally you will have a sustainable outcome. After twenty years of use, however, it has yet to yield a radically different approach to policy, planning or business. The combination of abundant and cheap energy and an emphasis on production has resulted in the separation of economics from both social and biophysical worlds. The long-established practice of isolating the three elements makes re-associating them difficult. Even if it were possible, a more holistic approach to human welfare, both in relation to the natural and social worlds, is likely to bring societies closer to sustainability. The suggestion is that a framework that starts from the premise of providing meaningful work and meaningful lives will support the flourishing of other species as well as the human species.

Keywords: Sustainable development; Brundtland Commission; poverty; energy

Volume 6, Theme: Theme: Sustainabilities Edited by Carina Ren, Tom O’Dell & Adriana Budeanu

, Article 50, 2014

Kathleen R. Smythe
An Historian’s Critique of Sustainability:
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  • Volume 6, Theme:: Theme: Sustainabilities Edited by Carina Ren, Tom O’Dell & Adriana Budeanu

    , Article 50, 2014

    Kathleen R. Smythe
    An Historian’s Critique of Sustainability:
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