We are pleased to share with you our Q&A session with Erling Holden. Find out more about the inspiration around his book The Imperatives of Sustainable Development and how it can influence the field of sustainable development.
Congratulations on the publication of The Imperatives of Sustainable Development. What do you want your audience to take away from the book?
I would like them to acknowledge that sustainable development is an ethical statement on par with democracy and freedom, and to understand that sustainable development may be difficult (painful even) to comply with – but definitely not impossible. We also wanted to present an alternative to the dominant three-pillar model of sustainable development.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had published on different aspects of sustainable development for a decade and now felt the need to bring it all together and get deeper into the theoretical foundations. I wanted to give my own contribution to the international debate on the interpretation and understanding of sustainable development
How do you think the field of sustainable development is evolving today?
Since the UN launched the SDGs in 2015 the field has evolved rapidly – it’s also getting more and more interdisciplinary.
What audience did you have in mind whilst writing you book?
Masters and PhD students, and everyone who wants to know more about how to understand different interpretations of sustainable development
Is there one piece of research included in the book which surprised you or challenged your previous understanding of the topic?
I was surprised to see that although no country in the world currently complies with our sustainable development model, complying is probably easier that one would think. Quite a few countries are very close!
What did you enjoy about writing the book?
Getting the opportunity to dig deeper into the theoretical foundation of sustainable development: needs, justice, limits
What is your academic background?
A masters degree in mechanical engineering, a doctoral degree in urban planning, and a postdoc in sociology and social psychology, all at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
What is innovative about your research?
It is interdisciplinary: I combine technological-oriented environmental studies, sociological and socio-psychological behavioural studies, and physical planning studies
Who has influenced you the most?
My two daughters.
What first attracted you to sustainable development as an area of study?
I graduated at the same time as the release of the UN report Our Common Future (1987). Thus, my career start coincides with that report.
Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your teaching or writing style?
I like to read books not related to my professional background (e.g. moral philosophy, behaviour economics, psychology, etc) and see if I can use something from that in my own research
What advice would you give to an aspiring researcher in your field?
Be curious and have a respect for other disciplines
What is the last book you read (non-academic)?
On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1957)
"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
Routledge (Supplementary/Environment & Sustainability)
"This is an important, timely and challenging book, which takes hold of the evidence to explode a number of myths about transportation and sustainability, and provides a very significant insight into the realities of mobility. This book shines a light on ways forward that are realistic, achievable, and which might significantly help alleviate some of the causes of global warming. It is a must read for all involved in issues of sustainable development, transport and mobility." - Mike Jenks, Oxford institute for Sustainable Development (OISD), Oxford Brookes University
Routledge (PB Direct/Geography)
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