by Nadine Ruprecht, Germany, ELP 2015
Written on July 15, 2015.

“Sustainability” was probably one of the most often used words during the ELP 2015. It was defined by the Brundtland commission as development meeting the needs of the current population without compromising the satisfaction of the future generations‘ needs (UN 1982). However, sustainability has not only an inter- but also intra-generational dimension, given the aspects of justice in resource distribution. A sustainable development path would be one that a) fosters social equality, b) is within the environmental thresholds1, and c) uses economic development to improve the livelihoods of the poor rather than to further increase overconsumption in industrialized countries. The graph (SER 2011) shows the need for policies to overcome silos between the social, ecological, and economic aspects of development in order to foster sustainable development.

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Sustainable policies need to be “eco-social-eco:” fostering economic production that meets the needs of the poor, driving social wellbeing and respecting our sensitive and interrelated ecosystem (Rockstrom 2009). State intervention not taking those three dimensions of sustainability equally into account has led to environmentally negative results (Reed 2012), e.g. in the case of fossil fuel subsidies.

A sustainable future requires more than a “technical fix” from green technology (UNRISD 2012), but a process of “greening society” towards consumption reduction in industrialized countries (Daly 2005) and socially and environmentally sustainable growth in developing and emerging economies. A global society that succeeds to build resilience (Diamond 2004) requires new measures for development beyond GDP, precaution due to the thresholds of our finite planet (Rockstrom 2009) and strong sustainability criteria (Daly 2005). Solidarity is a central part of a sustainable future based on shared prosperity: if more people need to eat from the same cake, the ones who already have a large piece need to share with those who have not yet had their fair share.


1 Thus maintaining the value of natural capital stock