Sustainability : If It's Everything, Is It Nothing? book cover
1st Edition

If It's Everything, Is It Nothing?

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ISBN 9780415783545
Published August 21, 2013 by Routledge
178 Pages - 7 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Humans are not living within our ecological means. We are using the earth’s resources at a pace that cannot be maintained. We have already seen evidence of the fallout associated with ecological overconsumption and continued abuse of environmental systems will create increasing challenges both today and into the future. Our depletion of natural systems minimizes the possibilities available to future generations who are expected to somehow rely on innovation and ingenuity for their survival. Yet, despite the challenges we face, governments, individuals, non-profits, educational institutions, and corporations are all heralding the promise of sustainable development to save our environmental systems from collapse while allowing for uninterrupted economic growth.

Today, the concept of sustainability is a widespread goal that nearly everyone supports. At the same time, almost no one means the same thing when they use the term. Sustainability is so broad and overly used that it seems to mean everything to everyone. The result is that the concept has lost its meaning. In this book, the authors examine the misuses and abuses of "sustainability" and seek to refine and clarify the concept. The authors offer a new definition of sustainability – what they call neo-sustainability – to help guide policies and practices that respect the primacy of the environment, the natural limits of the environment, and the relationship between environmental, social, and economic systems.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. A Brief History: The Early Debates that Shaped Sustainability 2. A Brief History: International Sustainable Development Events, Agreements, and Commitments 3. Multidisciplinary Ways of Defining Sustainability 4. Government Responses to the Sustainability Challenge 5. Non-governmental Institutions and Sustainability 6.Neo-Sustainability

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Heather M. Farley is a former University Sustainability Coordinator and a researcher at Northern Arizona University, USA.

Zachary A. Smith is a Regents’ Professor of Environmental and Natural Resources Policy and Administration in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University, USA.


Heather Farley and Zachary A. Smith bring a desperately needed critique to the notions and politics of sustainability that is absolutely necessary if we are to achieve anything remotely livable for the future. Sustainability is an idea that no-one wants to disagree with, but which few are willing to confront serious trade-offs in the status quo in business, government and even in civil society. This text is a forceful tonic for a very sick patient.  

Peter Jacques (author of Environmental Skepticism: Ecology, Power, and Public Life by Ashgate, and coauthor with Sharon Ridgeway of The Power of the Talking Stick: Indigenous Politics and the World Ecological Crisis by Paradigm).