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Environmental Values

How Would you Like your 'Sustainability', Sir? Weak or Strong? A Reply to my Critics

Wilfred Beckerman

Environmental Values 4(1995): 169-179. doi: 10.3197/096327195776679574

This article concentrates on the Jacobs and Daly criticisms (Environmental Values, Spring 1994) of my earlier article in the same journal (Autumn 1994) criticising the concept of 'sustainable development'. Daly and Jacobs agreed with my criticisms of 'weak' sustainability, but defended 'strong' sustainability on the grounds that natural and manmade capital were 'complements' in the productive process and that economists are wrong, therefore, in assuming that they are infinitely substitutable. This article maintains that they are confusing different concepts of 'complementarity' and 'substitutability'. It is also argued that, in fact, they do both sell crucial passes in their defence of strong sustainability without providing any clear criteria for their abandonment of it in certain cases. It is also denied that the fact that environmental services may provide different satisfactions from those obtained from other goods and services elevates it to the status of some over-riding moral value, or that discounting future costs and benefits is 'unfair' to future generations.

KEYWORDS: Discounting, economic welfare, environmental values, inter-generational justice, natural capital, scarce resources, sustainability

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

DISCUSSIONIncludes the 3 replies to Wilfred Beckerman. CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles:

Sustainable Development and Social Justice: Expanding the Rawlsian Framework of Global Justice Oluf Langhelle

How to Prepare for the Unknown? On the Significance of Future Generations and Future Studies in Environmental Policy Jan J. Boersema

What Does 'Natural Capital' Do? The Role of Metaphor in Economic Understanding of the Environment.Maria Akerman

Sharing the Earth: Sustainability and the Currency of Inter-Generational Environmental Justice. Allen Habib

Sustainability and Sustainable Development: Philosophical Distinctions and Practical Implications.Donald Charles Hector

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