Keywords: sustainability, justice, dignity, mass consumerism, sustainable development, environmental degradation
The end of sustainability
The concept of sustainability is in danger of being used to serve the ends of a mass consumer society, if it promises to allow us to continue our consumerist way of life but without the usual environmental damage. I argue that even if we achieve what many supporters of sustainable development envision, namely, modes of production, distribution and consumption that minimise environmental degradation, as a culture we will be no better off than we are now. Rather than being a mere technological fix that permits us to live more or less as we do now, an enlightened form of sustainable development presupposes a more sophisticated account of the ends that it is intended to serve. Moreover, to the extent that sustainable development ignores past environmental and social harms caused by distorted consumer desires, it fails to acknowledge the demands of justice.