The End of Sustainability
Melinda Harm Benson
Geography & Environmental Studies
Robin Kundis Craig
University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law
May 7, 2014
Society and Natural Resources, 1-6, 2014, DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2014.901467
University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 83
It is time to move past the concept of sustainability. The realities of the Anthropocene warrant this conclusion. They include unprecedented and irreversible rates of human induced biodiversity loss, exponential increases in per-capita resource consumption, and global climate change. These factors combine to create an increasing likelihood of rapid, nonlinear, social and ecological regime changes. The recent failure of the Rio 20 provides an opportunity to collectively reexamine — and ultimately move past — the concept of sustainability as an environmental goal. We must face the impossibility of defining — let alone pursuing — a goal of ‘‘sustainability’’ in a world characterized by such extreme complexity, radical uncertainty and lack of stationarity. After briefly examining sustainability’s failure, we propose resilience thinking as one possible new orientation and point to the challenges associated with translating resilience theory into policy application.
Keywords: Anthropocene, resilience, sustainability
Date posted: June 8, 2014 ; Last revised: July 4, 2016
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