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Living with NatureEnvironmental Politics as Cultural Discourse$
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Frank Fischer and Maarten Hajer

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198295099

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019829509X.001.0001

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Sustainable Development and the Crisis of Nature: On the Political Anatomy of an Oxymoron

Sustainable Development and the Crisis of Nature: On the Political Anatomy of an Oxymoron

Chapter:
(p.23) 1 Sustainable Development and the Crisis of Nature: On the Political Anatomy of an Oxymoron
Source:
Living with Nature
Author(s):

Wolfgang Sachs

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/019829509X.003.0002

The current environmental crisis is a long‐delayed ‘boomerang effect’ of the North's exploitation of the South, which began with Christopher Columbus. Economic development has started to bump up against the limits imposed by resource constraints, and the stopgap concept of sustainable development raises the central issue of economic distributive justice by proposing that the development that made the North rich should now be arrested or controlled so that it can stay that way. Development is a finite concept that no longer meets the global social requirement. There are three ways of looking at sustainable development, which clarify the cultural values involved in responding to it. First, the contest perspective, which simply acknowledges that the North has won the development race. Second, the astronaut's perspective, which regards the globe as an object to be managed and envisages various possibilities of global cooperation to that effect; unfortunately, it presupposes a non‐existent cultural and legislative framework that constrains the rich for the benefit of the poor. Third, the home perspective, which envisages a self‐restraint on the part of the North in pushing a concept of development that protects ‘moral economies’ and searches for decentralized rather than accumulation‐centred forms of society.

Keywords:   environmental culture, environmental politics, sustainable development

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