|Title:||Advancing and Resolving the Great Sustainability Debates and Discourses|
|Author(s):||Smith, Michael Harrison|
|Affiliation:||The Australian National University|
Research School of Chemistry, ANU College of Physical Sciences
|Keywords:||Ecological Modernisation, Decoupling Economic Growth from Environmental Pressures, Green Growth, Whole System Design, Resource Productivity, Rebound Effect, Sustainable Development, Sustainability, Environmental Economics, Ecological Economics, The Economics of Climate Change, Biodiversity, Poverty, Millenium Development Goals, Social Justice, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability, Environmental Discourses, Environmental History, Social Change, Vested Interests, Boundary Organisations, Think Tanks, The Earth Charter, Education for Sustainable Development, Whole of Society Approach to Sustainability.|
The focus of this thesis is on whether or not it is possible to decouple economic growth from the physical growth of the economy and its associated negative environmental pressures and pollution. The thesis demonstrates that it is possible to achieve significant levels of decoupling of economic growth from a range of environmental pressures such as greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and natural resource degradation, freshwater extraction, air pollution, waste and hazardous waste. By clearly differentiating between economic and physical growth and focusing on how to achieve significant decoupling this thesis advances the traditional debates and discourses about “growth”. This thesis shows that in theory and practice it is possible to achieve significant levels of decoupling, and thus environmental sustainability, whilst maintaining economic growth. This thesis examines the relative costs of inaction versus action on decoupling, concluding that the costs of inaction significantly outweigh the costs of action. It also examines whether a transition to environmental sustainabilty will lead to net job losses or gains, showing that, with effective policy, it can result in net employment gains. As such, this thesis provides a new integration to show that it is possible to reconcile the need to simultaneously achieve environmental sustainability, economic growth and job creation. This result has important implications for other important sustainability debates such as the climate change debates. These are explored in detail in this thesis. This thesis also demonstrates that many social sustainability goals – reducing poverty, inequality and corruption whilst improving access to education and health –correlate strongly with improved economic growth. Thus this thesis demonstrates that it is possible to create a new form of economic growth that is also environmentally and socially sustainable as called for in the seminal text on sustainable development "Our Common Future" in 1987. Finally, this thesis is a formal defense of and contribution to the academic field of ecological modernization which has hypothesized that it is possible to simultaneously pursue environmental sustainability, social justice and economic growth in ways that mutually re-enforce each other. This thesis provides significant evidence to support this central tenet of ecological modernisation. The research of this thesis has helped inform and contribute to several international book publications all of which show nations how to achieve significant decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures such as Cents and Sustainability:Securing Our Common Future by Decoupling Economic Growth from Environmental Pressures (Earthscan, 2010). Note: This thesis was submitted in April 2006 and was awarded in September 2009.
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Digital Theses|
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