Towards Sustainable Development: On the Goals of Development by William M. Lafferty, Oluf Langhelle

By William M. Lafferty, Oluf Langhelle

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28 Towards Sustainable Development In Chapter 9, Geir B. Asheim presents the first of two economic perspectives on the problem, looking most specifically at the issue of economics and generational obligations. How can we conceptualise these obligations within current economic discourse, and how can we be sure that we have found effective ways to fulfil the obligations? This cross-generational analysis is then followed up by Stein Hansen in Chapter 10 with a comprehensive problematisation of the gap between rich and poor countries, and an action-oriented discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of various developmental strategies aiming towards closing the gap.

While the goals are closely linked to the definition itself, the strategy for realising them is less dependent on the definition's content. We will here concentrate, therefore, on the question of central goals for environment and development policy which are implied by the sustainable development concept. First, the issue of growth. Much of the criticism aimed at the Brundtland Report is directly related to the status of economic growth (Reid 1995). The report lists the following major goals (WCED, 1987:49).

It contains within it two key concepts: • • the concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organisation on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs (WCED, 1987:43). When one interprets this descriptively, as I do, sustainable development must be understood as an economic and social process of change which can be maintained over many generations without undermining itself.

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