Four: Implementing sustainable development

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As we saw in the previous chapter, Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay, ‘The tragedy of the commons’, describes how a village’s shared common land might be ruined because each villager has an individual incentive to overuse the commons for grazing his own animals (Hardin 1968). Hardin’s ‘tragedy’, which is the failure of a community to protect shared environmental resources, describes one common type of environmental problem that sustainable development policies are intended to avert. One important question is how to implement rules that protect and sustain shared resources. Even among those who agree that sustainable development is a desirable goal, there is considerable uncertainty and disagreement as to how this goal might be achieved. Different policy responses will be appropriate for different challenges. This chapter introduces some key policy measures that are commonly utilised for implementing sustainable development. It explores arguments for government regulation to monitor shared resources and to ensure that people preserve environmental goods, describes arguments in favour of using market mechanisms and private ownership to motivate environmental protection, and looks at the argument that sustainable development can best be achieved through community management.

Sustainable development is not just a matter of environmental protection; its implementation also involves addressing the social and economic dimensions of meeting the needs of present and future generations. To this end, policy makers have sought new ways to measure and enhance human development. Efforts to move beyond a narrow focus on gross domestic product and toward wider measurements of ‘human development’ are considered in this chapter, as are efforts to construct indicators of environmental wellbeing and to build social and environmental factors into development policies.

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