• Trine Abraham Rasmussen
4. term, Applied Philosophy, Master (Master Programme)
The aim of this thesis is to look in to the matter of sustainability and growth viewed in a historical context. This is done in order to understand how this relation has been interpreted since the late 1960’s up until today. Further I seek to identify the role of applied philosophy in today’s ongoing debate on sustainability and growth. Based on John S. Dryzeks four basic environmental discourses: environmental problem solving, limits and survival, sustainability and green radicalism I introduce to the tendencies and understandings which characterize the different discourses. Subsequently I examine selected literature represent for the discourses and inherent concepts of growth in relation to sustainability. My thesis shows that the understanding of the relation between sustainability and growth has been marked by differing convictions. Through my analysis of the report The Limits of Growth (1972) as characteristic for the 1970’s discourse of limits and survival I identify a articulation of limited natural resources and the risk of environmental collapse. I infer a critique of exponential growth hence the need of global equilibrium is proposed. In addition, I conclude a lack of confidence in technological solutions to reduce negative environmental impacts as well as the potentials of renewable resources. This critique of growth takes a turn in the 1980’s into an optimistic understanding of the relation between sustainability and growth in terms of ecological modernization. Through my analysis of the report Our Common Future (1987) as characteristic for the discourse of sustainability I find an optimistic approach to technological solutions in terms of decoupling strategies and substitution as well as economic growth. Of this I question the long-term view of last-mentioned. By the turn of the millennium the critique of growth in relation to sustainability returns with a propose of degrowth. Through my analysis of the book Prosperity without Growth (2017) by Tim Jackson as characteristic for today’s discourse of green radicalism I identify a need of a decreasing economy to reduce negative environmental impacts as well as a redefinition of prosperity to enable human flourishing. From this I question both the social and environmental effects of a decreasing economy. In conclusion I emphasize with the claim that the focus on growth regardless of its nature can become a distraction from the goal which is to solve environmental problems such as poverty, overpopulation, consumption detrimental to the environment or hazardous emissions. Therefore, I claim the need for an agnostic approach to questions regarding environmental issues so that the optimum solution can be found and thereby prevent environmental desirable solutions to be eroded by a fixated focus on growth. In that regard I propose the role of applied philosophy in terms of a phronetic approach to environmental issues as described by Bent Flyvbjerg (2001) based on Aristotle’s three intellectual virtues episteme, techne and phronesis to respectively identify the scientific evidence on an issue, the applied methods and ultimately the moral considerations whether it is desirable or not.
Publication date3 Jun 2019
Number of pages50
ID: 305017228