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Inverting Sustainable Development: Rethinking Ecology, Innovation, and Spatial Limits
10 Oct, 2007 12:38 pm
The public debate on environmental sustainability seems to be oscillating between two unsound extremes: either radical reforms aimed at dramatic reductions in energy and material flows or a business-as-usual approach that may prove dangerously complacent in the long run.
Taking large-scale space industrialization as characteristic for the kind of strategies that today remain politically excluded, I argue that over the coming decades, surging global demand is likely to put intense empirical pressure on our present theories of sustainable development. The daunting task of achieving climate stability but also the satisfaction of basic human needs on a planetary scale will require us to look beyond piecemeal reforms. Witnessing how deep-green movements repeatedly have failed to muster public support in the Western democracies, I suggest that any successful strategy for environmental sustainability must tap in on transformative forces already in place instead of trying to reverse the fundamental expansionistic paradigm of modernity. Unbearable as such pragmatism may be for many Greens, I think of space industrialization as a possible method of achieving long-term environmental sustainability here on Earth. It is argued that access to raw materials found in the inner solar system would dramatically increase the stock of resources and energy while providing unlimited sinks for pollutants; thus satisfying two of the determining factors of sustainability.
By challenging the conventional wisdom that only autonomous scientific development guided by the market forces remains possible, the article discusses the possibilities of science decoupled from short-term capitalistic logic. Unable to ascertain the planet’s ecological carrying capacity as billions of new consumers are integrated into the global market, space industrialisation and democratically guided technological innovation are then presented as novel ways of interpreting the precautionary principle.
Karlsson, Rasmus. (2007). Inverting sustainable development? Rethinking ecology, innovation and spatial limits. International Journal of Environment and Sustainable Development , vol. 6, no. 3, pages 273-289.