Human Development

Good Essays
Environment, Development and Sustainability (2005) 7: 501–518 DOI 10.1007/s10668-004-5539-0

Ó Springer 2005

DEBATES ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: TOWARDS A HOLISTIC VIEW OF REALITY
LEONARDO ALBERTO RIOS OSORIO1,*, MANUEL ORTIZ LOBATO2 and ´ XAVIER ALVAREZ DEL CASTILLO3
1 Universitat Polite`cnica de Catalunya, Edifici Campus, TR10, Calle Colom, 2, P.O. 08222 Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain; 2UNED (Distance Education University of Spain), Terrassa, Barcelona; 3Universitat Polite`cnica de Catalunya, Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain (*author for correspondence, e-mail: rios@catunesco.upc.es; fax: +34-937398295; tel.: +34-937398294)

(Received 10 February 2004; accepted 28 October 2004)

Abstract. The paper analyzes the concept of sustainable development in the light of the different interpretations existing on the issue since its appearance and establishment as an ideal to lead humanity’s line of progress. Within these interpretations, a characteristic generation of diverse debates can be appreciated, arising from different perspectives, academic as well as ideological, aiming at describing, clarifying and determining their conceptual reach. Based on these facts a model of categorization for these debates has developed, a model in which interpretations generated on the concept of sustainable development were catalogued into four realms: conceptual, contextual, academic and geopolitical. The configuration of these four areas of debate, as well as the recognition of the diversity of interpretations existing on sustainable development, is a reflection of the intrinsic complexity of the phenomena, which affect the natural and social world, both at the local and global level. The analysis of this complexity is based on the subjectivity, which is inherent to the interpretation of these phenomena, with permanent reference to the cultural context from which the diverse discourses were structured. This global perspective on the state-of-the-art controversy concerning the idea of sustainable



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