Green Development: Environment and Sustainability in the Third World

By W. M. Adams | Go to book overview

6

Countercurrents in sustainable development

Clearly eco-software will not save the planet if capitalist expansionism remains the name of the game.

(Martin Hajer 1996, p. 255)

Sustainable, ecologically sound capitalist development is a contradiction in terms.

(David Pepper 1993, p. 218)


Beyond the mainstream

Mainstream sustainable development, developed through the 1980s and entrenched at Rio, has begun to acquire the intellectual scaffolding necessary to translate rhetoric into practical policy. The philosophical bases of environmentalist social movements in the so-called new environmentalism of the 1970s (Cotgrove 1982) were complex, eclectic and confused. Sachs (1992b) argues that environmentalism, or the 'ecology movement' as he calls it, combines modernism and anti-modernism, a call for a better science with a critique of the rationality of science. Sustainable development is the uncertain inheritor of this confusion. As we have seen in Chapter 5, the discipline of economics has furnished bridges between normal practice in development planning and concerns for environment. Environmentalism and human rights have been factored into the business spreadsheets of 'Earth plc', enabling trading and planning to continue very much as normal (Pearce 1992).

The enormous success of mainstream sustainable development has therefore been its ability to transcend the uncomfortable claims of environmentalists and critics of development. The Rio Conference epitomised this mainstreaming of critical discourse, its chief triumph being the way in which different interests were intertwined in the negotiated documents, and different governments brought to the table to sign a form of words that implied that they agreed with each other. As was discussed in Chapter 4, some commentators feel this process of accommodation went too far, and see Rio as a sell-out on critical environmental and development issues. Chatterjee and Finger (1994), for example, argue that the non-governmental movement was co-opted to a process that ultimately worked against its interests. Most NGOs were invited in, indeed

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Green Development: Environment and Sustainability in the Third World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Plates xi
  • Figures xii
  • Tables xiv
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgements xix
  • Copyright Acknowledgements xx
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms xxiii
  • 1 1
  • 2 22
  • 3 54
  • 4 80
  • 5 102
  • 6 139
  • 7 175
  • 8 215
  • 9 250
  • Further Reading 284
  • 10 285
  • 11 310
  • 12 334
  • 13 368
  • References 384
  • Index 436
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