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Thinking about Ecological Sustainability

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Lele, Sharachchandra
Journal: Seminar
Volume: 564
Date: 2006
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2474
Sector: Social Organization
Subject(s): sustainability
Abstract: "The concept of sustainability emerged in the mid-20th century as a fairly straightforward notion in the management of renewable natural resources such as forests and fisheries. In this narrower context, the term simply meant extracting from a resource stock at a rate below the stock's natural growth rate. In the 1980s, however, the term began to be used in broader context. A (re)defining moment came when the 1987 World Commission on Environment and Development (also known as the Brundtland Commission) popularised the term as sustainable development, which it defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (WCED, 1987). Today, the term has become ubiquitous. People are talking about sustainable health, livelihoods, communities, transport, cities and even defence! "While such indiscriminate usage undermines the power of the concept, there is no doubt that the idea of sustainability has touched a chord somewhere. Indeed, it has almost replaced or become synonymous with environmental soundness amongst activists, analysts and policy-makers alike. Sustainability science is the new buzzword amongst environmental scientists abroad. But what does sustainability really mean? What are its nuances, underlying assumptions, strengths and limitations? This article is an attempt to explore these questions."

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