Sustainable Development-An Oxymoron?

The idea that a country is developed or underdeveloped is a relatively new concept; although it does have connotations of longstanding terms like ‘savages’ and ‘backwards’. During President Truman’s inaugural address, after World War II, he coined this concept and thus stating to the world that certain cultures were deficient and defective. This implied that the US could step in to show how these ‘underdeveloped’ countries could prosper.

Wolfgang Sachs argues in this book that the western style of ‘development’ has been wrong from the start, and continues to have negative consequences for other cultures. He claims that we need to probe deeper into the western vision of development, and to recognize that we have to leave it behind. He suggests that we find new ways of fostering other cultures and “creating sophisticated but moderate-impact technologies, putting a stop to reign of relentless accumulation, and appreciating ways of living that are simple in means, but rich in ends.” Overall he states the need for greater efficiency (doing something right) and sufficiency (doing the right thing) interconnectedness, where sufficiency would define the boundaries of efficient actions. Without one working with the other, it would be counterproductive and detriment to societies.

Overall, Sachs claims that ‘sustainable development’ is an oxymoron. In its most perverse form this concept calls for conservation of development and not conservation of nature. How can we preserve nature when development, and thus progress, is defined as continuing economic growth? We continue to overlook the necessity to put limitations on growth because we refuse to change our consumption patterns. As Sachs states, we need to rethink this model of development and put a stop to the relentless accumulation of stuff in order to live simpler lives that are rich in the end. Although we have been developing better indicators that get to the core of human progress and its dependence on nature, these indicators are generally brushed off. In the end the question remains—are we willing to change for the sake of the planet and future generations?

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