SUSTAINABILITY: A History by Jeremy Caradonna

SUSTAINABILITY: A History by Jeremy Caradonna
05 Mar
2017
From food packets to fuel company manifestos, ‘sustainability’ is everywhere. Jeremy Caradonna tracks the explosion of this word into our lexicon; by fully understanding where it’s come from, we can figure out where it’s going

Though it has roots in some medieval practices, philosophies and indigenous traditions, sustainability has only been a self-defined movement since the 1970s. By then, ‘no longer was sustainability merely a concept or set of idea,’ he writes, ‘scholars began to describe in vivid detail what a sustainable society might look like and discussed in no uncertain terms the unsustainability of modern industrial society.’ Caradonna explains the word’s newfound legitimacy in great detail, exploring crucial milestones such as the creation of the United Nations Environmental Program, and its later commission of the IUCN.

However, it was not an easy sell – this was the era of Thatcher and Reagan, after all. Both had prioritised free-markets, the privatisation of public services and placed, Caradonna states, economic growth before the environment. ‘The point here is that sustainability did not magically win over the hearts and minds of business and government leaders,’ he explains.
In spite of the battles ahead, Caradonna believes sustainability will become a defining point in human history. ‘The practice of sustainability could give rise to the world’s third major socio-economic transformation, after the Agricultural Revolution that took place 10,000 years ago, and the Industrial Revolutions of the late 18th and 19th century’.

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