1st Edition

The Imperatives of Sustainable Development Needs, Justice, Limits

    282 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    282 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Thirty years ago, the UN report Our Common Future placed sustainable development firmly on the international agenda. The Imperatives of Sustainable Development takes the ethical foundations of Our Common Future and builds a model that emphasizes three equally important moral imperatives – satisfying human needs, ensuring social justice, and respecting environmental limits. This model suggests sustainability themes and assigns thresholds to them, thereby defining the space within which sustainable development can be achieved.

    The authors accept that there is no single pathway to the sustainable development space. Different countries face different challenges and must follow different pathways. This perspective is applied to all countries to determine whether the thresholds of the sustainability themes selected have been met, now and in the past. The authors build on the extensive literature on needs, equity, justice, environmental science, ecology, and economics, and show how the three moral imperatives can guide policymaking. The Imperatives of Sustainable Development synthesizes past reasoning, summarizes the present debate, and provides a clear direction for future thinking.

    This book will be essential reading for everyone interested in the future of sustainable development and in the complex environmental and social issues involved.


    Chapter 1: The moral imperatives of sustainable development

    Chapter 2: Satisfying human needs

    Chapter 3: Ensuring social justice

    Chapter 4: Respecting environmental limits

    Chapter 5: A normative model of sustainable development

    Chapter 6: Facts and figures

    Chapter 7: An analytic narrative for sustainable development

    Chapter 8: Lost in translation?

    Chapter 9: The Next Steps


    Erling Holden is Professor in the Renewable Energy Program at the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Sogndal, Norway; and Professor at TIK Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo, Norway.

    Kristin Linnerud is a Senior Research Fellow at CICERO, Center for International Climate and Environment Research, Oslo, Norway.

    David Banister is Professor Emeritus of Transport Studies at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK.

    Valeria Jana Schwanitz is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Sogndal, Norway.

    August Wierling is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Sogndal, Norway.

    "In 1987 the Brundtland Commission, in Our Common Future, gave us the concept of 'sustainable development', creating debate and attracting criticism as well as praise. This book defends sustainable development, offering a powerful and coherent conceptual framework for using the term in the face of the global challenges before us." — Dr. Keith Smith, Imperial College Business School, London

    "The book lays out convincingly that human wellbeing depends on three core issues: a safe environment, social justice and the provision of basic human needs. The authors trace the history of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which cover all three dimensions, and make suggestions for future policy pathways."Dr. Brigitte Knopf, Secretary General of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Germany

    "This book is essential reading for everyone interested in sustainable development and the necessities that follow from the concept. The book is true to the concepts origin, drawing on and further elaborating the core imperatives of sustainable development as elaborated in Our Common Future almost 30 years ago. As such, it is a timely contribution for a time in which the need for sustainable development policies are more pressing than ever before."Oluf Langhelle, Professor, Dr. Polit., University of Stavanger, Norway

    "Making transition and transformation toward a sustainable society with inclusive well-being is an urgent and daunting task we all face. It requires deep understanding of a wide range of sciences, theoretical frameworks and philosophies, and insights into interrelatedness of all factors. The Imperatives of Sustainable Development will powerfully help you navigate this uncharted water toward sustainability."Junko Edahiro, President, Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES)

    "The Imperatives of Sustainable Development is essential reading for advancing beyond understanding the sustainability challenge to understanding the solution. The authors argue that a focus on satisfying human needs, ensuring social justice, and respecting environmental limits provide an effective key to a diverse set of workable solutions."Elliott Sclar, Director, Center for Sustainable Urban Development, Columbia University Earth Institute; and Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning, Columbia University USA

    "This thought-provoking book should be read by both academics and policy-makers. It provides a critical reflection of the intellectual inquiry and government efforts towards sustainability over the past three decades. Most notably, it recognizes that sustainability challenges and choices are different for low-income countries and high-income ones."Becky Loo, Professor of Geography and Director of the Institute of Transport Studies, University of Hong Kong

    "Thirty years on, the concept of sustainable development has truly come of age. The UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to give practical effect to the original aspirations. This timely book will help students and practitioners from diverse cultures identify whether or not we are on the right path." Jim Skea, Co-chair IPCC Working Group III, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London