David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Ethics and the Environment 15 (2):31-49 (2010)
Everyone agrees that a social system is sustainable only if it is structured in such a way that it can be used into the indefinite future. This is the descriptive aspect of sustainability. As Paul Thompson has emphasized (1995, chapter seven), even here there are variations by context: what counts as “the system,” and how long is “the indefinite future”? But, as Thompson also notes, sustainability always includes—at least implicitly— another, normative component. This consists of a value commitment that allows the user of the term “sustainability” to reject or prioritize various systems that are each sustainable in the descriptive sense. For instance, “the slave agricultures of the ancient world” were perfectly ..
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