Social visions of future
Patricia Benjamin, Jeanne X. Kasperson,
Roger E. Kasperson, Jacque L. Emel, and
Dianne E. Rocheleau
All manner of social issues receive short shrift in the debates on “environment and development” and “managing the global commons.” Family life, community, stratification, and individual dignity and fulfilment all suffer from varying degrees of neglect, while international security, nature/ society relations, economic alternatives, and processes of social change are badly in need of new theories. To the extent that the discussion is couched in terms of sustainability, the emphasis has been on reconciling ecological sustainability (planetary life support) with economic sustainability (continued economic growth), while social sustainability (creation of conditions for community and individual well-being) is generally ignored – or equated with economics, which is almost as bad (but note the exception of Robinson in the preceding chapter). Social sustainability, we should note at the outset, does not mean the continuation of existing social structures but, rather, creation and maintenance of the conditions for creativity, empowerment, self-determination, and self-actualization.
Research, both past and present, reflects this imbalance. For example, in a 1989 World Future Society publication, most of the items absent from a list of issues deemed important by a panel of 17 prominent American futurists are social in nature (Coates and Jarratt 1989: 24–25). Current research shows little change: for example, global environmental change is widely construed as a serious global problem with human causes (ICSU 1987; IFIAS 1987; IGES 1999; ISSC 1989; Jacobson and Price 1991), yet the International Human Dimensions Programme has a tiny budget compared