DOI: 10.12924/cis2013.01010029 |Publication Date: 18 June 2013

The Pitfalls of Sustainability Policies: Insights into Plural Sustainabilities

François Mancebo
International Research Center on Sustainability (IRCS), Reims University, Reims, France
Abstract: A lot can be learned from the numerous pitfalls of sustainable development implementation: they outline how collective representation, short term interests and balance of power can undermine sustainability. For instance, the usefulness of global institutions in dealing with sustainable development is questionable as most are skewed toward the interests and perceptions of developed countries. The notion of sustainable development itself induces a profound cleavage between academic authors and the actors of its implementation, some of whom confuse it with sustainable growth (which favors spatial equity), whilst the others with environment management (which favors intergenerational equity). This polarization is a real problem, since originally, "Our Common Future" report promotes an inclusive approach, able to cope with both equities simultaneously. Finally, if there are obligations toward future generations, there are also obligations toward the current generation. The key issue for effective sustainability policies should be making them acceptable to everyone by including the expectations of local societies and communities. As a matter of consequence, universal solutions do not exist. They would not meet the specificities of local circumstances. The traditional prescriptive sustainable development model should give way to flexible plural sustainabilities. Singular, top-down, global-to-local approaches to sustainable development should be substituted for multiple sustainabilities.

Keywords: actors strategies; environmental policies; planning; sustainability


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