Technical Report Tinbergen Institute, 1998. Paper abstract bibtex
Conceptual / Epistemological. The meaning of sustainability is the subject of intense debate among environmental and resource economists. Perhaps no other issue separates more the traditional economic view of the natural world from the views of most natural scientists. The debate currently focuses on the substitutability between the economy and the environment or between “natural capital” and “manufactured capital”– a debate captured in terms of “weak” vs. “strong” sustainability. In this paper the various interpretations of these concepts are examined. In addition, the goal of weak sustainability is critically evaluated. Attention is devoted to, among other things, utility and lexicographic preferences, economic valuation, natural science perspectives on sustainability, and the notion of “consilience” as recently suggested by E.O. Wilson.