The End of Sustainability
Society and Natural Resources, 1-6, 2014, DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2014.901467
Posted: 8 Jun 2014 Last revised: 30 Aug 2016
Date Written: May 7, 2014
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
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