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Extra info for Environment and Society (Ashgate Studies in Environmental Policy and Practice)

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Indeed, Connelly and Smith (2003) have argued that the Conference and resulting communiqué were couched in an ecological modernisation discourse, highlighting the role of technology in resolving environmental issues, rather than attempting to examine the underlying problems identified by developing nations. Overall then, many have viewed the UNCED as a talking shop and a way of perpetuating existing systems of economic development, rather than questioning the nature of these free-market approaches in depth.

O’Riordan (1976; 1985) has described a spectrum of values running from ‘ecocentric’ to ‘technocentric’. Ecocentrists recognise the intrinsic value of the environment, viewing environmental resources as having value in their own right. An ecocentrist would also argue that there are clear and definable limits to human growth, which if exceeded would lead to irrevocable damage to the environment. This damage is viewed as negative from a perspective which argues that the natural environment is valuable in and of itself.

The increasingly globalised nature of the world economy has meant that the impacts of development can be seen worldwide and can shift with increasing frequency. Indeed, the global economic system that has encouraged poorer nations to take out large loans for major infrastructure and pump-priming projects has also been the system that has allowed debt to such nations to grow exponentially, forcing over-exploitation of natural resources, reducing the resource base for future generations. A further concern raised by Brundtland was the lack of international cooperation and organisational ability to deal effectively with the challenges that lay ahead.

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