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PERSPECTIVES FROM THE FIELD: Sustainability: Guiding Principle or Broken Compass?

  • Heather M. Farley (a1) and Zachary A. Smith

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Sustainability has become a guiding principle, a goal, and, in many cases, a standard for businesses, governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), institutions of higher education, and environmental practitioners alike. Over the last quarter century, a widespread flurry of action in the name of sustainability has been burgeoning in a variety of settings and nations. A simple Internet news search reveals literally thousands of examples of different actors and organizations taking action in the name of sustainability. From the development of new university curricula to corporate sustainability reports, sustainability is invoked as a driving force for an ever-increasing number of organizations. The concept has become a rallying cry for a new way of operating and functioning. Like the environmental movement of the 1970s, the sustainability movement is marked by mobilization and an increased awareness of the challenges facing our current generation, as well as those who will come after us. Yet, it is not clear that actions taken in the name of creating a sustainable future are all based upon a consistent understanding of the concept of sustainability. In other words, are we all speaking the same language when it comes to the concept of sustainability and, similarly, sustainable development?

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Heather M. Farley, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Northern Arizona University, PO Box 15036, Flagstaff, AZ 86011; (phone) 928-523-3135; (fax) 928-523-6777; (e-mail) hmf23@nau.edu

References

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World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). 1987. Our Common Future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. In Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. Annex to General Assembly document A/42/427: Development and International Co-operation: Environment, August 2. United Nations Non-governmental Organizations (NGO) Committee on Education, New York. Available at http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm (accessed January 6, 2010).

PERSPECTIVES FROM THE FIELD: Sustainability: Guiding Principle or Broken Compass?

  • Heather M. Farley (a1) and Zachary A. Smith

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