The concept of ecological debt: an environmental justice approach to sustainability

Gert Goeminne, Erik Paredis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper

Abstract

Whereas the concept of sustainability mainly focuses on (forward-looking) intergenerational equity, environmental justice stresses (historically grown) intra-generational equity issues. It is our view that the concept of ecological debt has the potential of providing an enriched sustainability paradigm through which the essential reactivity of the environmental justice project, and the proactivity of the sustainable development project can be combined. Ecological debt is a grass-roots concept, mainly developed through NGO-campaigning, which points at a non-equitable and non-sustainable exploitation of nature resources and services. Throughout this bottom-up, organic growth of the ecological debt concept, a big potential for a new and enriched sustainability paradigm can be grasped opening up new perspectives on a political, economic, ethical and ecological level that, however, still have to crystallize out.

In this paper we will argue that ecological debt stands for a new sustainability paradigm as it provokes a real gestalt-switch: once you adopt the idea of ecological debt, a commodity can no longer be seen without simultaneously realizing the network of environmental and social links, indeed often non-sustainable and non-equitable, that were needed to produce it. In order for ecological debt to grow and stabilize into a powerful and enriching sustainability paradigm able to transcend its status of a mere campaigning instrument, it is in our view necessary to provide it with both an adequate conceptualization accommodating the richness of the different perspectives mentioned above and a scientifically sound methodological foundation allowing for a uniform quantification. Besides addressing these crucial issues, this paper will also briefly discuss if and how such an intended paradigm-shift can become embedded in society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication7th Global Conference Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 21 Sep 200925 Sep 2009

Publication series

Name7th Global Conference Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship

Conference

ConferenceFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet
CountrySweden
CityStockholm
Period21/09/0925/09/09

Keywords

  • ecological debt
  • environmental justice
  • paradigm

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The concept of ecological debt: an environmental justice approach to sustainability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this