USP 514 Session 6 Notes

Session 6: Sustainable Development for Whom?


  1. Development: Sustainable for Whom?, Franciscans Paper for United Nations
    1. Sustainable development often advertises itself as beneficial for everyone.
    2. In fact it’s usually not.
    3. The argument is that we need to expand the definition of sustainable development to include human rights and make sure not to intensify or exacerbate harms.
    4. There are a set of myths that undergird the idea that economic development is always positive
      1. People who live in subsistence economies are backwards and uncivilized
        1. This is the opposite of the truth
        2. Subsistence economies give people a lot more free time for art and family and enjoying life
  2. Green Economy – the Next Oxymoron
    1. Ulrich Brand is a German political scientist and a Professor of International Politics at the University of Vienna.
    2. Title of book was Planet Dialectics
      1. Dialectic: the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions.
    3. Worldwide resource use is skyrocketing
    4. the concept of a green economy seems to promise an attractive orientation out of the crisis of neoliberalism that became manifest in 2008 and has hit vulnerable countries and social groups
    5. In reality, green economy is what the author calls a dialectic oxymoron meaning these ideas don’t fit together.
    6. De-growth: we need to consume less, instead of just consuming different things. It’s not about switching from Ford to Tesla; it’s about not having cars.
    7. UN Definition: The green economy approach seeks, in principle, to unite under a single banner the entire suite of economic policies and modes of economic analyses of relevance to sustainable development. In practice, this covers a rather broad range of literature and analysis, often with
      somewhat different starting points
    8. “Green growth” is the idea that there is some sustainable way of continuing everything we’ve been doing with tweaks.
    9. Problem diagnoses
      1. adjust prices to reflect the internalization of external costs, encourage sustainable consumption, and implement policies that promote the greening of business and markets more broadly;
      2. implement tax reforms that support environmentally friendly and sustainable practices;
      3. expand public support for sustainable, more energy efficient infrastructural development to conserve and boost natural capital;
      4. enhance research and development programs focused on green technologies (e. g., clean energy);
      5. target public investment to create programs and forge alliances that promote self-sufficient ecologically and socially-sound economic development, and
      6. implement policies that harmonize social goals with existing or future economic policies.
    10. Criticisms of green growth
      1. existing – and even slightly changed – political strategies
        including the orientation of national states towards global
        competitiveness and geopolitical interests as well as
        the promotion of free trade by powerful international
      2. economic institutions like the capitalist market and
        the profit-driven development of technologies which
        in principle do not promote sustainability;
      3. dominant societal orientations like growth at any cost and
        the increasing exploitation of nature; and
      4. power relations under the dominance of elites who aim to
        maintain their status.
    11. Other Notes
      1. We need to look for ways to consume less rather than looking for “more sustainable” ways to consume more.
  3. Environmental Justice and the Green Economy Report
    1. Examples
      1. Greening leads to gentrification
      2. Three gorges dam
      3. Water privatization
  4. Sustainability is not enough, Peter Marcuse 
    1. Sustainability is not enough
    2. It doesn’t work for everybody
    3. The science is coming from privileged perspectives
    4. It ignores marginalized perspectives
    5. It talks more about problems than solutions
    6. Poverty is not just about a lack of income
      1. It’s also about the things that prevent someone from getting an income: racism, classism, access to financial services, etc

Equitable Development: Social Equity by Design – 48 minutes

Other Notes

  • What is the green economy?
    • Reaction to the collapse of the biosphere
    • Less dependent on fossil fuels
    • Looks to technology to solve its problems related to climate change
    • No need to change consumption
    • Support what we want instead of what we don’t want
    • Relies on capitalism
    • Increase density
    • Promises more jobs
  • Why it is important to transition from a focus on “economic development” to a focus on “sustainable development”?
  • Can the transition from a focus on “economic development” to a focus on “sustainable development be accomplished through a “green economy”?
  • For sustainable development policies to be effective, must they take into account the specific needs of marginalized and vulnerable populations?
  • How do we prioritize the needs of vulnerable populations in sustainable development initiatives and policies?
  • Why is there such entrenched and persistent resistance to prioritizing the needs of vulnerable populations in practice?
  • Can the “green economy” address issues of social inequality and justice?
  • What are the social and cultural implications of Jeffrey Sachs proposing a rapid reduction in fertility rates as required for sustainable development, and with a particular focus on Africa?
  • TOPA/ COPA: Tenant/ Community Opportunity to Purchase Act
    • Land Trusts, Neighborhood Development Corporations, and other nonprofits are able to buy many kinds of properties instead of developers because they have first right of refusal.