Sustainability and Asia

in Nature and Culture

What is the added value of investigating the contested concept of “sustainability” in tandem with the geographical marker of “Asia” in today’s world? To answer this question, we need to return to the formulation of the problematique of “sustainability” and “sustainable development” several decades ago. The Our Common Future report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)—also known as the Brundtland Commission—put forward the most commonly recognized and most frequently used definition of “sustainable development” (SD) in 1987.1 Development could be made sustainable, so the report stated, “to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987: 15). The report further proclaimed that there were limits to development, but that improvements in technology and social development could “make way for a new era of economic growth” (ibid.).

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