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Saturday, October 21, 2017
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On Substantiating the Conception of Strong Sustainability
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On Substantiating the Conception of Strong Sustainability

24 pages · 4.61 EUR
(October 2009)

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In his paper Konrad Ott begins with a historical overview on the idea of sustainability by starting with its first appearance in Germany in 1713. The increasingly vague understanding of the sustainability concept in the political arena, which gives politicians the possibility of subsuming under it all sorts of different programs and strategies, is highly problematic. At least in Germany the three pillar concept (sustainability as a balance between economic, social and ecological requirements) is well established. This concept gives opponents of nature conservation often an excuse for rejecting environmental initiatives in the name of the requirements of ‘economic and social’ sustainability. After a short methodological remark on the discourse around strong sustainability and its centerpiece, the Constant Natural Capital Rule, Ott claims for comparative-egalitarian standard for ethical responsibilities towards future generations. He addresses then the question about the fair bequest package which we owe to future generations and shows what this means for weak and strong sustainability. He focuses primarily on the logic of justification, i.e. on how the argumentation in favor of strong sustainability works. Proponents of weak sustainability usually argue for substitutability between man-made and natural capital, and include the acceptance of the Kaldor-Hicks criterion for possible compensation of future generations for losses of natural capital as well as the justification of routine discounting with market interest rates. As operationalisation strategy they use the Environmental-Kuznets-Curve hypothesis and the Genuine Savings index. After an overview on weak sustainability Ott presents arguments in favor of strong sustainability and claims for their stronger persuasive power. By offering rational arguments he shows that strong sustainability is to be preferred for its stricter logical rigour. Although I hold myself a clear position about the choice between weak and strong sustainability, I will not focus on this here. Let me only point out that while Hediger only takes into account only Herman Daly’s own understanding of strong sustainability Konrad Ott considers in his analysis a broad variety of arguments for both weak and strong sustainability. It would be interesting to see Werner Hediger’s arguments against the Greifswalder approach on strong sustainability.

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Prof. Dr. Konrad Ott
Konrad Ott

seit 1997 Professor für Umweltethik an der Universität Greifswald. Seit 2000 Mitglied des Rates von Sachverständigen für Umweltfragen.

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