Green Development: Environment and Sustainability in a Developing World

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Gadgil and R.

3rd Edition

Guha, Routledge, London, Figure Thomson Publishing Services, for Figures 3. Carter, in The Politics of Nature: explorations in green political theory, edited by A. Dobson and P. Lucardie, Routledge, London, Figures 7.

How To Research Sustainable Development In Developing Countries

Middleton and D. Thomas Figure 8. Addo et al. Costanza and H. Daly, in Conservation Biology, 6: 37—46, for Figure 6. Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders for their permission to reprint material in this book. The publishers would be grateful to hear from any copyright holder who is not here acknowledged and will undertake to rectify any errors or omissions in future editions of this book.

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I know that. These connections between environment and human welfare are uncomfort- able for world leaders. Greenhouse gas emissions in industrial and rapidly industrializing economies were directly linked to the day-to-day problems of the poor. The connections between wealth No wonder the diplomats squab- bled over the small print.

Environmental Conservation vis-à-vis Economic Development: the Dilemma of Developing World

In the first decade of the new century, the issue of human impacts on global climate change has mostly been framed within a broader debate about sustain- ability. The challenge of doing something about this and other global issues such as biodiversity depletion and pollution , while simultaneously tackling global inequality and poverty and not letting the wheels come off the world economy, is labelled as sustainable development.

But where had it come from, and what did it mean? The idea of development attracts new concepts at a ferocious rate. New terms are coined and adapted faster than old ones are discarded Chambers This is an important process, for, as Robert Chambers observes, words change the way we think and what we do, modifying mindsets, legitimating actions and stimulating research and learning.

The last twenty years of research in devel- opment studies, influenced by postmodernism and poststructuralism, leave no doubt of the enormous power of language and discourse to structure the way we think about — and therefore take action about — development Crush ; Escobar Development action is driven forwards by texts ranging from humanitarian tracts to national development plans. The way these texts portray the world, often in a crisis of some kind, determines what knowledge and whose knowledge provides a frame for problems and solutions, constitutes the basis for action and determines who has the authority to act Crush The words we use to talk about development, and the way our arguments construct the world, are hugely significant.

Words matter — and the key question is whose words, and whose ideas, count most? There is a politics to the words we use about development: the words used by powerful global actors in central places such as Washington, New York, Paris, London or Beijing do most to shape development in the world periphery Chambers The concept of sustainability joined the lexicon of development that has been accumulating since formal development planning began following the Second World War, in the last decades of the twentieth century Scoones The capacity of the phrase to restructure development discourse and to reorganize development practice, a sure reflection of its power, will be discussed below.

Where did the new phrase come from? Its roots lie a long way back in the history of European and wider global thinking, but the concept began to be widely adopted following the United Nations Conference on the Human Envi- ronment in Stockholm in see Chapter 3. At its launch in April , it was claimed that this report, Our Common Future, set out a global agenda for change. In the s this argument became standard, the starting point for countless political speeches and student essays. The governments represented made public proclamations of support for the idea of environmentally sensitive economic development, egged on by a vast array of non-governmental organizations, meeting nearby in the parallel Global Forum Holmberg et al.

The media had built up hopes that UNCED would bring about a new environmental world order, and, once the razzmatazz had died down, many commentators reported that the chance had been blown. A series of international agreements had been signed see Chapter 4 , but had anything really changed? Over the next decade, many commentators pointed out that the world economy was carrying on much as before, rich and poor, polluter and polluted.

Fifteen years later, we still look back on this event with some bemusement. Was this a critical point in the way the world thought about itself, or just another international talking shop? Did ideas of sustainability represent a real environ- mentalist critique of development, and if so of what kind?

Sustainable Development and its Challenges in Developing Countries

Was there anything really new in this sudden interest in environment and development? In terms of Concern about the environment in the developing world had been a feature of debate about development since the late s, and awareness of the environmental dimensions of development, whether among scholars, practi- tioners or participants in development, was older than that.

But, of course, Rio was not about academic ideas, and it certainly marked a change in the level of attention given to these issues. In the last decade of the twentieth century there was a step change in the scope and sophistication of critiques of the environmental dimensions of development in practice, and the higher profile being given to the environment in the context of social and economic change McCormick Credit for the insertion of environmental concerns into development discourse in the closing decades of the twentieth century lies in the first instance with envi- ronmentalists from Northern industrialized countries Guha The loss of species and natural habitat caused by development projects had been a potent focus for the extension of environmental pressure-group politics familiar in the industrialized world since the s.

As globalization accelerated through the closing decades of the twentieth century, the media, the travel industry and improved telecommunications all brought the global South within the ambit of domestic environmental concern in the North. In the global village, the wildlife and landscapes of the developing world became the new countryside. First World environmentalism, however, did more than simply broaden its field of concern McCormick ; Guha There was a self-conscious effort to move beyond environmental protection and transform conservation thinking by appropriating ideas and concepts from the field of development.

Green development: environment and sustainability in a developing world | University of Nottingham

In extending their focus from hedgerows to rainforests, environmentalists found or claimed to have found much common ground with environmental groups in developing countries opposing development projects that threatened breakdown in indigenous and subsistence ways of life Gadgil and Guha ; Guha In environ- mental opposition by environmental groups to investment in large projects such as dams, the threats they represent to the rights and interests of indigenous peoples are likely to be at least as prominently expressed as threats to biodiversity. The links between the two began to be drawn explicitly and prominently e.

Pearce ; Gadgil and Guha It reflected several factors. Second, environmentalists began to mount a successful critique of the performance of aid donors through the s Stein and Johnson ; Goodland , ; Holden Third, the development The nagging question remains, however, how deep this apparent revolution in development thinking goes. Commentators agree that the environ- mentalism of the s and s was a new social movement of profound significance e.

Cotgrove and Duff ; Hays ; Guha , but to what extent did this embrace thinking about the developing world, let alone thinking within the developing world? How has the phrase sustainable development acquired the power to attract such a large and disparate following? In research, it seems to offer the potential to unlock the doors separating academic disciplines, and to break down the barriers between academic knowledge and policy action. It does this because it seems to draw together ideas in ecology, ethics, economics, development studies, sociology and many other disciplines.

Yet it looks forward to action and practical projects of social and environmental improvement.


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It can be used by political actors with divergent interests, a convenient rhetorical flag under which favoured projects can be launched. It has been recognized for decades that sustainable development can be defined in many ways. The longevity of this formulation stems from simultaneous appeal both to those concerned about poverty and development and to those concerned about the state of the environment, and the preservation of biodiversity J.

Robinson Moreover, it demands that attention be focused on both intragenerational equity between rich and poor now and intergenerational equity between present and It also became a vital element in the discourse of researchers trying to explain the relations between economy, society and environment e. The holistic appeal of earlier defini- tions has proved perennially popular, and has endured manifold reformulations. However, the Brundtland definition of sustainable development is a better slogan than it is a basis for theory. The phrase, whether in academic journals or the sound bites of politicians, very often proves to have no coherent theoretical core and no clear and consistent meaning Redclift The very simplicity of the phrase allows users to make high-sounding statements that are vague in meaning.

Its flexibility adds to its attraction. The conviction behind works such as the World Conservation Strategy IUCN was that sustainable development is a concept that could truly integrate environmental issues into development planning Chapter 3. In using terminology of this sort since that time, environmentalists have attempted to capture some of the vision and to exert influence in development debates.

Sadly, they often have no understanding of their context or complexity.

Environmentalist prescriptions for development, shorn of any explicit treatment of political economy, can have a disturbing naivety. They have been less ready to heed environmentalist critiques of the model of development itself, or to address the structural causes of poverty or environmental degradation. Development bureaucrats and politicians have undoubtedly welcomed the oppor- tunity to fasten on to a phrase that suggests radical reform without actually either specifying what needs to change or requiring specific action.

As Luke points out, the phrase has increasingly been used to label lifestyles and modes of existence that are neither sustainable nor developmental. Politicians and governments have been enthusiastic in their incorporation of the language of sustainable development. An independent Sustainable Development Commission was established in , Arguably the rushed application of green camouflage paint to existing policies that characterized the late s has been replaced with more carefully constructed thinking and policies; at the very least, even the most hard-bitten cynic will admit that the quality of the paintwork has improved.

These questions are hard, and most elected politicians duck them.


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However, while it certainly became part of the language with which chief execu- tives addressed their shareholders and critics, in their speeches its meaning often remained deliberately fluid. The discourse of development The range of meaning attached to sustainable development reflects the contested question of what development itself means Forsyth Debates about development threaten to lead into a semantic, political and indeed moral maze.

At its most basic, development can be taken to mean the production of social change that allows people to achieve their human potential. Frank , p. Advocates for particular ends in development, or means to achieve those ends, make explicit use of the slipperiness of the word to promote their solutions. Such value-laden words easily become political battlegrounds of very real practical significance.

The idea of development is so powerful that some believe it has come to enclose debate. The idea of development, and the idea of modernity that lies behind it, limit the extent to which alternative futures — of justice and a new international economic order — can be imagined Escobar It is used both descriptively to describe what happens in the world as societies, environments and econo- mies change and normatively to set out what should happen Goulet By the start of the nineteenth century, development had become a linear theory of progress, bound up with capitalism and Western cultural hegemony, something advanced through mercantilism and colonial impe- rialism Cowen and Shenton Ideas of underdevelopment can be traced to nineteenth-century European thought Cowen and Shenton Despite the complex genealogy of development, there was a remarkable stand- ardization of meanings in the second half of the twentieth century, following the end of the Second World War.

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