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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/22574

Title: The idea of weak sustainability is illegitimate
Authors: Biely, Katharina
Maes, Dries
Van Passel, Steven
Issue Date: 2016
Citation: Environment, development and sustainability,
Status: Early View
Abstract: Since the introduction of the sustainability challenge, scientists disagree over the interpretation of the term “sustainability.” Weak and strong sustainability are the two main interpretations of sustainability, which are opposing each other. Some researchers stated that the interpretation of the term depends on the context; others disagree pointing out that it always implies the meaning of continuation. The term “sustainability” can be used as attribute, which adds a certain characteristic to the noun. If something can be attributed as being sustainable, it can also be unsustainable. The sustainability challenge consists of shifting from the current unsustainable towards a sustainable system. This paper outlines that the weak sustainability term is illegitimate, as it leads to a contradiction with the acknowledged assumption that the current state is unsustainable. This contradiction is revealed through an analysis of the occurrence of decoupling in agriculture: Agricultural land use could be decoupled from agricultural production, but only with the trade-off of massive increases in fertilizer, pesticide, energy and water usage. This paper outlines an inherent inconsistency within the ongoing discussion about the interpretation of sustainability. Through identifying the invalidity of the weak sustainability interpretation the focus can be shifted form the discourse to the sustainability challenge itself.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/22574
DOI: 10.1007/s10668-016-9878-4
ISSN: 1387-585X
Category: A1
Type: Journal Contribution
Appears in Collections: Research publications

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