Fourteen: Conclusion


Philosophers have long debated the question of what constitutes a ‘good life’. Debates about sustainable development also fundamentally concern this same question, putting it in the context of ecological limits. As the Brundtland Commission noted in the 1980s, ecological limits are not necessarily absolute; they are “limitations imposed by the present state of technology and social organization on environmental resources and by the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities” (WCED 1987, 8). Recognition of ecological limits implies awareness of the interconnection between communities, which in turn raises questions of justice. Recognition that humanity is approaching planetary ecological limits—and will inevitably exceed them if the world continues to consume and pollute at anything like present rates—suggests that the decisions made by each person and each community will have implications for the capacity of people in other places and other times to meet their needs. A good life, however characterised, must be a life that is lived in a way that does not undermine the ability of others also to live a good life. In short, a good life must be one that is environmentally sustainable—one that is lived without undermining or overwhelming the ecological limits of the earth. Sustainable development is therefore vital to achieving the good life for all.

What does this book tell us about how to find and follow this path toward the good life? To answer this question, it is helpful to review the pieces of the book’s ‘sustainability puzzle’—to think about what the preceding chapters tell us about the relationships and connections between: (1) how sustainable development has been and is conceived; (2) the contexts for sustainable development in Hong Kong that evolve from its history and its circumstances; and (3) the challenges of sustainable development that the territory faces.

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