Chapter 7: Alternative Futures: Sustainability, Inequality, and Social Change
- Sustainable the change process or activity can be maintained without exhaustion or
- Development Change and improvement can occur as dynamic process.
- It does not mean profligate use of the natural world without regard to the future, but
neither does it imply a static condition. In human terms it means inventing ways of
meeting human needs while preserving the capacity of the biophysical environment to do
- A sustainable society is one that “meets the needs of the present without compromising
the abilities of the future generations to meet their own needs”.
- Historically the notion of sustainability seemed like a nice idea, but not very practical.
Nor was it necessary to think of it much since human populations were smaller and
economic technologies were less powerful.
- Now sustainability is not just a nice idea, it is imperative for the future of the world‟s
- Sustainability is often spoken in terms of the 3 E‟s- Economics, Ecology and (social)
Equity. It invokes a vision of human welfare that takes into consideration both of inter- as
well as intra-generational equity. It neither borrows from future generations nor lives at
the expense of current generations.
- Substantial conflicts between actors and institutions. For instance, conflicts of interested
generated by public debate about whether to encourage or discourage material
consumption of particular products. People who sell the products, who immediately
benefit from their use, or who seem them as dangers to human health or ecological well-
being have very different outlooks and interests.
- In public discourse, sustainable development and associated notions like the carrying
capacity of earth turn out to be universally acknowledged but inherently politicized
concepts. This controversy generates different advocacy organizations and movements
with different objectives, resources and political influence.
- William Catton is convinced that the Earth has a finite carrying capacity and that we
have exceeded it.
- Catton and Dunlap think that the exponential growth of the human population and their
uses of the earth for their purposes mean that we have already exceeded its long-term
carrying capacity. The environment has three functions for humans, as living space, as
supply depot, and as waste depository. Catton has argued that there is no such thing as
sustainable development, which is a rhetorical and ideological term for those who wish to
continue destructive growth and feel good about it
- Environmentalists Lester Brown and Donella Meadows believe that we many have
already exceeded the earth‟s carrying capacity, but continue to hedge their bets. - Theoretical biologist Joel Cohen argues that notions like sustainable development or the
earth‟s carrying capacity are important, but not concepts with any objective scientific
utility. He argues that questions like “how many people can the earth support?” are
normative and value laden.
- Sustainability and carrying capacity embody the only policy questions that really matter
but that require scientists, citizens and policy makers to address normative and value
Conceptualizing the Human Impact Again: I=PAT
- The human causes of environmental change were captured in a summary model by
biologist Paul Ehrlich and energy scientist John Holdren.
They created a way of conceptualizing the joint impact of human and environmental
They argued that the impact (I) of any population or nation upon its environment is a
product of its population (P), its level of affluence (A) and the damage done by
technologies (T) that support the affluence (wealth) I = P x A x T
Illustrates dimensions of environmental impact as functions of the number of people,
the technologies they employ and the amount of goods they consume.
P: Population size and growth rates are obvious indicators
A: Measures of the per capita gross domestic product or per capita consumption of
selected good are relevant.
T: Per capita kWh of electricity, or some other energy measure of economic
productivity are relevant
LDC‟s have more room for improvement in P, while MDC‟s have room for A and T.
I=PAT is framework for research and is usually applied as an accounting or
difference equation, where values for 3 of the 4 terms are used to solve for the 4 th
- Dietz and Rosa reformulated it as a stochastic model, which values of the terms of the
equation are allowed to vary across observational units (nations). Reformulation is
sensitive to possible nonproportional threshold effects that identify diminishing or
increasing impacts of the terms of the equation in relation to environmental impact.
D and R used equation to study contributions of population, affluence and technology
on production of greenhouse gases in nations. They used data from nations about
CO2 emissions, population size, and affluence but did not measure technology
D and R found that increasing population among nations increased CO2 production
and it did so in a linear way without any threshold effects: the more people, more
CO2. This embarrasses ideas of some economists and Julian Simon who argued that
“population growth has little effect or even beneficial effect on environment”. Found that the effects of affluence on CO2 emissions level off and decline somewhat
at the highest levels of gross domestic product per capita. They suggest that this
decline derives from the shift from manufacturing to service economies, and from the
ability of more affluent economies to invest in energy efficiency.
Reductions in CO2 emissions will not occur in the normal course of development and
will have to come from targeted efforts to shift towards less carbon-intensive
Used technology multipliers to identify nations for analysis because they had T-
values one would not expect. Bulgaria and Poland for example have large multipliers
because they emit far more CO2 than would be expected from their size and
affluence. While, France and Spain have small multipliers and small CO2 emissions.
There are “technology-infrastructure” differences that account for such levels of
affluence. Such as, fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Finally, D and R estimated coefficients of their statistical model to project global
CO2 emissions for year 2025, using UN projects for economic and population
growth. They concluded that to achieve stable emissions at 1991 levels energy
efficiency gains per year would need to average 1.8% per year from 1990 to 2025.
I=PAT is important because it incorporates the major human driving forces of change
that almost everyone would agree are important regarding environmental problems.
Affluence, Social Inequality and Environment:
- Affluence oversimplifies the social dimension of environmental impact. It does so
because it is a consequence of political economy and cultural values.
- It also oversimplifies because affluence is one end of the whole continuum of social
inequality. Affluence and poverty are ends on the continuum of social inequality as
causes of environmental impact.
Social Inequality, Stratification and Environment:
3 dimensions of stratification are relevant: economic inequality, racial and ethnic
inequality and similar inequalities among nations and people around world.
- Income differences are very large within Canada and North America and are understood
to exist in “layers of differences” called socioeconomic classes and to form a system of
structured social inequality- or stratification.
- Inequality narrowed between 1930‟s and 40‟s (Great Depression and WWII), but became
more unequal starting 1970‟s as rich became richer and poor became poorer.
- (1) more, and comparatively richer, rich; (2) fewer in the middle, with slowly eroding
living standards; and (3) more and comparatively poorer poor
- Inequality can be observed in most MDC‟s
- Such vast economic and social class differences mean that people have different levels of
material consumption and security, and they impact and experience environmental problems differently. Affluent are able to respond to environmental problems with
minimal consequences for modifying lifestyles. Less-affluent classes are less able to do
Economic inequality is connected with racial and ethnic inequality.
- Over a dozen studies found that the distribution of air pollution, solid waste dumps, and
toxic fish as well as hazardous waste facilities corresponds with race, social class, or
- Both lower socioeconomic classes and racial minorities bear more than their share of the
costs of environmental problems and change.
- Idea that environment is a social justice issue. Environmental justice became one of the
important civil rights issues in U.S. and elsewhere, creating political climate for change.
- As inequality grew within nations, the degree of inequality between nations seemed to
have stabilized in 1980s and 90s. This has to do with growing global integration and
growth of international middle and managerial classes. F
For example India has world‟s largest population of poor, but also the largest middle
class, and economic and political elites who are wealthy.
- “Divided planet” called by Tom Athanasiou.
- In LDC‟s nearly 800 million people are malnourished. Pervasive malnutrition means that
adults can‟t work as effectively and that children grow up smaller, having trouble
learning and damage to mental capacities.
- People in MDC‟s live on average, 15 years longer than people in LDC‟s. Overall, both
within and between nations, the chasm between the rich and not-so-rich is growing.
- In globalizing world system and market economy, people and nations are becoming more
integrated. Total world economic output has increased, but so has severe and slowing
growing socioeconomic inequality.
Causes of growing inequality:
(1) Increasing direct foreign investment from MDC‟s to LDC‟s, and the increasing shift
of less skilled labour to low-wage LDC‟s
(2) The increasing productivity worldwide through economic and information
technologies that reduce the total demand for human labour- both skilled and
(3) The increased immigration flows, both legal and illegal, whereby the world‟s poor
and desperate move to nations where they perceive better opportunities
- Inequality is likely to increase social polarization and political tension both within and
Inequality and Environmental Degradation:
- Growing inequality itself is a potent and proximate cause of environmental degradation.
- People at either end of the income spectrum are more likely than those in the middle to
damage the earth‟s ecological health- the rich because their affluent lifestyles are likely to lead them to consume a disproportionate share of the earth‟s food, energy, raw materials
and manufactured goods. While, the poor because their poverty drives them to damage
and abuse the environment.
- The poorer classes in MDC‟s damage the environment because they are able to afford
only older, cheaper, less durable, less efficient, and more environmental damaging
products. AKA the affluent who can afford the newest and more efficient of everything-
damage the environment because of the sheer volume of energy and material they
consume. The poor do so because whatever they consume is likely to have a greater per
unit environmental impact.
- It is not the poorest among the poor who are environmentally most damaging. It is rather
the most marginal segment of unskilled workers who still have sufficient amenities to
have an impact on the environment rather than homeless people who have nothing.
- The environmentally destructive behaviour of world‟s poor is connected with highly
skewed land ownership patterns. Rural small landholders whose land tenure is secure
rarely overburden their land, even if they are poor. But dispossessed and insure rural
households often have no choice but to do so.
- Illegal and unregulated resource extraction often comes with this highly skewed land
ownership pattern. Illegal resource extraction- oil, timber, copper- is closely linked to
arms trafficking, human rights violations and environmental destruction. The
beneficiaries of this are the MDC‟s, but the burdens of sociopolitical conditions and
environmental devastation are shouldered by LDC‟s and worlds poor.
MDC‟s have the consumerist culture, the purchasing power, and economic
arrangements through the world market economy to consume a disproportionate share
of the world‟s resources. They account for a disproportionate share of resource
depletion, pollution, and habitat degradation.
In I=PAT Tom Dietz says it‟s PA that matters not just P. Considering human impact
it is useful to think of biospheric equivalent persons (BEP) that account for the per
capita impact rather than just growing number of people (BEP=AT/P)
India or China will contribute more to future world population growth, while
everything North American or European baby will have a vastly greater per
capita environmental impact over a lifetime.
Thus, we should worry more about per capita impact of North Americans
rather than Indians or Chinese.
Overall affluence and poverty threaten environment as chasm of social inequality
widens around world. Reduction of social inequality within and between nations
would reduce pressure on environment by reducing resource consumption of affluent
and by reducing the need to overharvest, overgraze or overfish to meet needs of the
Unlikely that world‟s poor and poor nations would agree to environmental
agreements and treaties unless questions of equity were addressed. As for those who live in misery, talk about saving the environment from the wealthy sounds like a form
of imperialism, green imperialism.
Arguments whether we need to reduce poverty before environmental sustainability,
while others says environmental sustainability is a prereq for social sustainability.
Social and Environmental Futures: Two Views
- There are signs that every environmental and ecological system is becoming degraded,
and that there is a real prospect for altering climate of planet.
- The finite world paradigm of most ecologists etc argues that we cannot grow our way
into a sustainable high consumption world, but the alternative market resources allocation
paradigm argues that it is possible and probable.
- The second views represents some neoclassical economists and finds powerful political
support among business and industry groups, particularly representing energy,
manufacturing etc, and reflects the dominant environmental views of the right-wing
If we simply let markets operate, the price mechanism will regulate scarcities and
stimulate investment in efficiency and innovation. Given human technological
ingenuity and “elasticities of sustainability”, things will work out.
- The finite world paradigm views profligate growth as a prelude to disaster and sees
technological innovations as allowing rich nations to make mainly “Faustian bargains”
with the future.
- The resource allocation paradigm holds that environmentalists and their attempts to
dampen material growth and consumption are the real threats to continued human
A Future without Limits: Cornucopia?
Since 1960‟s Henry Kahn and colleagues argued that universal affluence and
permanent sustainability are possible and indeed the most probable outcomes of
Argue that most people in world can live like contemporary North American and
Europeans without devastating the planet.
They argued we are now in a part of a great transition that began with
industrialization in 1700‟s. Similarly to agricultural revolution, the Industrial
Revolution has been spreading and causing a permanent change in quality of
human life. It‟s supposed to be completed within 400 years, end of 22 century.
Kahn expects pattern of great transition to follow an S-shaped curve.
From 1800‟s there was exponential increase in world population, In 1970‟s there
was and still will be a leveling of world population growth and decline in
previously exponential rates of economic growth, but a continuous spread of
affluence. Kahn stress that the slowing of economic growth will occur because with the
spread of affluence, and so there will be reduction in growth of demand rather
than shortages of supply.
Global inequality Kahn viewed as a “transitional gap” between living standards
of poor and rich nations. This is inevitable as industrialism spreads and living
standards of some parts of the worlds rise relative to others. This is analogous to
the widespread misery and poverty of early industrialism, which eventually
spread better living conditions to many people.
Kahn sees future from now until about 2025 dominated by “super-industrial
societies” as a difficult transition. It will be period of slowing down or growth
rate for the gross world product and period of uneasiness for rich countries.
Present represents spread of problem-prone superindustrial economies that
experience difficulties. Because many of the projects of superindustrial societies
are so large-scale they are problem-prone so we do not know how to eliminate or
control these effects.
o Kahn predicts during this period that commercial ventures will colonize
and initiate economic activity in space, particularly regarding energy and
minerals, which will increase resource base available to humans.
Towards end of next century the problems of super-industrialism will begin to be
successfully managed and first signs of worldwide maturing economy.
By 2175 Kahn expects superindustrial societies to be everywhere. After this a
slowing down of both population and economic growth rates will occur. Slowing
down of economic growth rates would not mean a decline in standards of living
(1) The economies of scale that accompany large-scale systems
(2) Intensive technological process that will provide energy saving and will
substitute new resources for scarce ones.
This optimistic view of future accepts present trends as benign. It‟s a cornucopian
view of the future. Kahn and colleagues see no reason to deflect or attempt to change
course change and growth that has been in effect since the 1600‟s. Posits the
possibility of continued economic growth, universal affluence and environmental
A Future with Limits: Outbreak-Crash?
- Counterpoint to cornucopian scenario argues that present trends are putting us on a
collision course with the finite carrying capacity of the planet, which we mat overshoot.
- Some argue we are already in overshoot mode. If so we must dramatically reverse
historic trends or suffer a collapse of human civilization due to collapse of resources. - Most articulate and controversial statement of this view was by futurist think thank called
Club of Rome. It used an elaborate computer simulation called a World System
Dynamics (WSD) model.
Started with what they knew about current patterns in population growth, economic
growth, resource consumption, food supply and pollution effects. WSD developed an
elaborate set of coefficients for how continued growth in each area would impact
others and for in the future.
The resulting projection by the WSD model was a classic outbreak-crash model. The
human outbreak-crash pattern argues that current exponential growth in population,
resource consumption and food production will produce such an enormous stress on
carrying capacity of the planet by 2100 that the resource and capital inputs to support
such consumption levels will not be sustainable. Capital investments can no longer
keep up with growing needs, which prevents many vital activities, such as education.
Therefore, living standards will decline.
Club of Rome argued that on a global basis, the whole of humanity will replicate the
more limited ecological crash experience of the Copan Mayans and other
preindustrial societies. In their degraded environments these societies could no longer
obtain the investments necessary for social maintenance.
The group‟s latest work is called Beyond the Limits and argues that we have already
overshot the earth‟s carrying capacity and are now living with a dwindling resource
base. Their results always showed that at some time growth will be unsustainable.
The underlying problem is continual growth itself, thus the MIT researchers
emphasized the urgency of global efforts to dampen exponential economic growth
itself and move toward a global equilibrium.
- It is not enough to wait for markets to adjust to scarcity of food and resources: By that
time irreversible declines in ecological equilibrium and resource availability may have
already happened. Nor can technology save us.
This spectre is raised by this vision that if present trends continue after 2100 a smaller
human population will be eking out a more marginal existence on an exhausted and
These scholars do not suggest collapse of civilization is to be anticipated. Instead
there is still time to avoid widespread but gradual collapse in next century even
though time is short.
Achieving sustainability will entail at minimum:
(1) The establishment of limits on population and economic growth, particularly as
the latter implies material consumption
(2) An emphasis on development tailored to the resource basis of each nation so that
economic advances can be environmentally sustainable.
- The Club of Rome recognized the importance of inequality and distributional problems in
a transition to sustainability, concrete policy suggestions about them are absent. >> Promoting Sustainable Consumption:
- Growth in a finite system is not a doomsday instead it has bright side. Due to the
“treadmill of consumption”, by which people consume more material without any real
gains in human satisfaction.
- One suggestion urges people in MDC‟s to adopt lifestyles of voluntary simplicity. By
living economically and more simply, individuals could change patterns of consumption
and reduce pollution and environmental disruption.
- Simple living is less convenient. It values simple rather than fancy habits and appliances.
It requires more forethought and attention to how life is grounded in the seasons and
nature. Lowering consumption need not deprive people of goods/services, but instead it
may free them to pursue them- conversation, family gatherings, music, etc.
- Voluntary simplicity is relevant only for the world‟s affluent consumers since people in
LDC‟s already live in “involuntary simplicity”.
- Very few are willing to voluntarily give up pleasures in life for a simpler lifestyle. Efforts
are opposed by powerful and well-financed marketing and media promotions, and people
find it hard with their work and family schedules.
- Related technological argument urges the increasing adoption of appropriate technologies
(AT), technologies that are best able to match needs of all people in a society in a
sustainable relationship with environment. These AT are often:
(1) Simpler (understood and repaired by ppl who use it)
(2) Less prone to failure
(3) Less likely to cause severe ecological side effects.
I.e. solar power instead of electricity.
AT is proposed for both MDC and LDC. For LDC‟s, AT may provide alternatives to
importing inappropriately expensive technologies that have been responsible for
developmental failures. Rural AT energy and agriculture, not requiring a lot of money
or machinery could reduce migration of peasants to already overcrowded cities. Thus,
it could reduce conflict between rural and urban residents.
Most known spokesman for adopting AT was economist E.F Schumacher, whose
book “Small is Beautiful” was influential.
>> Affluence, Growth, and Happiness:
- Is there a relationship between happiness and affluence? Even though there is a desire for
more, the level of wealth or material consumption has very little to do with happiness.
- It was found that people in India and Dominican Republic both nations with poverty
expressed least happiness by a large margin. Yet the 3 happiest countries were Cuba,
Egypt and the United States, which differ greatly in per capita consumption.
- The connection between income and happiness turn out to relative rather than absolute.
That is the upper classes in any society are more satisfied with their lives than lower classes are, but they are no more satisfied than the upper classes of much poorer
- Nor is there a link between economic growth and happiness. Since 1950‟s Americans
have nearly doubled their consumption, both in terms of GNP and personal consumption
expenses per capita. Yet, the percentage of people who report to be very happy peaked in
1957and has slowly declined since.
The Two Scenarios: Evidence and Understanding the Debate
Argues that the good future is to be found in complex technological solutions to
resource problems and in the economies of scale that come with the coordinated
global management of large-scale, bureaucratic systems. Glosses over fact that such
systems may become unmanageable, less amenable to democratic control and more
vulnerable to disruptions.
Takes it as articles of faith that:
(1) Resource limits and environmental decay can and will be overcome by good
management, good markets and technological fixes, and that
(2) Without any extraordinary measures, affluence will increasingly diffuse on a global
- The world-with-limits scenario
Argues that seeking high-tech solutions to sustain growth in a finite world is at best a
Faustian bargain that will buy some time but will be ruinous in the end. AKA what
works in short-term time horizon will add up to a large-scale disaster in long-term.
Their vision is world of sufficiency and frugality where quality is more important
than quantity of consumption. It would involve a deliberate dampening of growth and
resource consumption before the planet becomes exhausted and polluted.
- Both scenarios envision a global equilibrium emerging after year 2100 and the possibility
of a very good life for people. Neither view is demeaning to human inventiveness or
antitechnological, but they disagree dramatically about how we might get there and what
a sustainable society looks like.
- Defenders of cornucopian view note the very great “elasticities of substitution,” both
historic and potential, in industrial and energy resources. They note that contrary to the
Club of Rome predictions, many minerals are more plentiful and cheaper than they were
in 1970‟s. Improvements in efficiency will stretch out reserves, and there are many
possible alternative technologies for delivering energy for human communities.
Critics reply, while true their price do not include costs of externalities or unequal
systems of exchange in world market. Most defenders of the limits scenario admit the
problems with minerals are with the sink not source. Understanding the Controversy:
- Selectivity of people‟s view of the world and its future. For instance, North America has
seen progress in science, education, economics and well-being. On other hand, there are #
of problems associated with First Nations communities, homeless populations, toxic
waste dumps, as well as questions about the future of social programs.
- Selectivity is even more of a problem in viewing the world. It is possible to tour the
world in jet and stay in luxurious hotel ad come out with impression of progress and
prosperity. Likewise, you can tour refugee camps, exhausted deserts, areas of war and
conclude that visions of doom are here.
- Scenarios emphasizing cornucopian futures were created by neoclassical economists,
corporate and businesspeople. They are often supported by elected politicians, who do
not wish to be seen as threatening jobs or profits.
- Scenarios emphasizing future limits are more plausible to persons from a variety of
Thinking about High-Risk Choices in Contexts of Uncertainty:
- These issues are remote and imperceptible to the everyday life of most people. Thus,
expert assessments like those of the scientific community can be ignored or challenged in
the heat of political debates.
- Great uncertainties remain about magnitude of certain effects and about social
consequences about the future.
- If we bet on cornucopian scenario and it is unworkable and there really are limits, then
the costs of failure- a degraded planet and social deterioration-are quite high.
- If the finite scenario is the future and we act on this assumption? We would gain a better
likelihood of a sustainable relationship between humans and earth. What if this is wrong?
For affluent classes of MDC it would mean a comfortable but more frugal and less
affluent life than would be possible. It would also mean cooperation in addressing
growing material destruction in both MDC and LDC.
- This is “precautionary principle” or “no regrets” philosophy as a way of thinking about
uncertainty and risks.
Based on an old strategy for most prudent best bets in the face of uncertainty.
Articulated as a rationale for believing in God by Blaise Pascal.
Pascal argued that if one believed in God and was faithful, and God really existed,
then all was well. If one was faithful to God and he did not exist not much was lost.
But if one didn‟t believe in God and he did exist, one was in danger of being in
Pascals defence of fait was not proof of what is true but to do with the risks and costs
of different kinds of errors. Pascal became founder of a modern probability theory. His defence of faith has
become the “difference between the costs associated with making two different kinds
of errors: A „Type I error,‟ which falsely rejects a true hypothesis, and a „Type II
error,‟ which fails to reject a false one”
What Would a Sustainable Society Look Like?
- Policies that produce sustainability should be evaluated in terms of:
(1) The potential for political tyranny
(2) The potential to reduce inequality within and among nations. Seeking to avert a large-
scale overshoot is required, but the choice of methods are as important as
- 7 requirements for sustainability:
(1) The biological base
Sustainable society would conserve and restore its biological base, including soil,
grasslands, fisheries, forests etc. It would design agriculture to mimic nature in its
diversity and natural organic recycling rather than overwhelm agroecosystems with
monoculture and industrial chemicals. Would respect and preserve ecosystems for
Sustainable society would dampen population growth and stabilize its size. Important
in LDCs where dense populations and the momentum of growth underlie the poverty
and desperation which impel environmental disruption and political conflict.
Achieving stable population implies that people have access to contraception and
healthcare, control the resources necessary to lessen the worst material insecurity and
reduce gender inequality.
Sustainable society would minimize or phase out the use of fossil fuels. It would
restrict the use of coal and petroleum and shift to natural gas as a carbon fuel,
depending more on energy from a variety of renewable energy sources, such as
hydrogen fuels and solar wind.
In the long term sustainable societies would be powered more by sunlight and
hydrogen than carbon. Cogeneration- the combined production of heat and power
would be widespread and factories would generate their own power, using the waste
heat for industrial processes.
(4) Economic efficiency
Sustainable society would work to be economically efficient. Would invest in the
technology and productions of efficient vehicles, transportation systems and
appliances. It would maximize recycling of materials and wastes and reduce waste in
processes of production, packaging and distribution of goods and services. Dematerialization would create a permanent net drop in waste created/resources
The principle source of materials would be recycled goods.
(5) Social forms
Sustainable society would have social forms compatible with these natural, technical,
and economic characteristics.
A mix of coordinated decentralization and flexible centralization would exist. Thus,
entrepreneurialism and small-scale networks would flourish along with large
organizations and urban life. People would come to understand that small is not
always beautiful and large is now always ugly.
Transportation would become mix of mass transit, bikes and car-pooling. Cities
would create multiple-use areas attractive for work, socializing, exercising, etc.
Economic profits and productivity would be measured more by services related to
quality of life rather than volume of “stuff” consumed. New forms of crime would
emerge and ecological problems would become as politically important as economic
Sustainable society would require a culture of beliefs, values, and social paradigms
that define these natural, economic and social characteristics. Natural environment of
human life would be cognized more as ecological systems to be nourished and
maintained than as open environments to be utilized and exploited.
Virtues of material sufficiency and frugality would replace culture of consumerism;
materialism cannot survive the transition to sustainable societies.
Neither self-worth nor social status would be measured primarily in terms of
possessions; much of energy now devoted to accumulating and consuming goods
could be directed at forming richer human relationships, stronger communities and
greater outlets for cultural expression.
Western-style individualism would be tempered with a communitarianism that
balances human rights with obligations to community.
(7) World order
In a world where societies are connected with each other and to a shared
environment, a sustainable society would be required to cooperate in the negotiation
of sustainability in other societies. Doing so it would participate in regional and
international political regimes, treaties and multinational governmental and
Would work to transform system of global investment and world trade to promote a
world of sustainable societies. Would promote development of LDCs in a sustainable
Transformation and Sustainability: Social Change - One tradition (Functional Theory) argues that society and change are shaped y the
activities and processes required for the viability and survival of the social system itself.
These processes are called functions.(MACRO)
- Another (conflict theory) suggests that society and change are shaped by conflict and
power relationships among groups as they compete to control the distribution of limited
values and resources. (MACRO)
- A third micro tradition (Interpretive- including symbolic interactions and social
constructionist theories) suggests that social action and interaction between persons and
groups creates and revises culture and social definitions that constitute both society and
social change. (MICRO)
- Macro perspectives High aerial snapshots of the structures of society that analyze
social life by beginning with structures and the operation of structures. Interpretive
perspectives are like motion pictures, beginning with purposive human thought, action
and interaction , with human agency
Functionalism and Change
- Earlier were concerned with the broad evolution of societies (Durkheim), but by 1950‟s
functional thinking was dominated by versions that depicted societies as “equilibrium-
seeking structures” that avoided change.
- More contemporary functionalist though conceptualizes change. When disruptive stresses
are so severe and prolonged that contemporary mechanisms cannot dope with them, the
key characteristics of system being protected will themselves be altered or destroyed.
- Functionalist takes on large-scale change- both hope and warning: Overwhelming
problems result in attempts to transform system in adaptive ways when it becomes
impossible to rescue status quo. Successful adaptation can happen, but it‟s not a sure
Conflict Perspectives and Change
- Conflict processes can reinforce stability and a prolonged stalemate between the
dominant and contending parts of human system. Promotes changes that have the same
result, but it can produce a whole new deal of power relationships that bring new social
arrangements that benefit more people.
- Parliamentary democracy, brought about by conflict between social groups/classes is
- Prospect of social transition to sustainability is possible but not very good. The dominant
elements of system will continue to defend continuous economic expansion, from which
they benefit. Restraint and regulation will address only the most intolerable
environmental conditions. - When contradictions between economic expansion and environmental support can no
longer be ignored, the then required political support would emerge for radical change
Interpretive Theories and Change-
- Social action begins with individual actors but aggregates in th