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Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 501–518 | Cite as

Debates on Sustainable Development: Towards a Holistic View of Reality

  • Leonardo Alberto Rios Osorio
  • Manuel Ortiz Lobato
  • Xavier Álvarez Del Castillo
Article

Abstract

The paper analyzes the concept of sustainable development in the light of the different interpretations existing on the issue since its appearance and establishment as an ideal to lead humanity’s line of progress. Within these interpretations, a characteristic generation of diverse debates can be appreciated, arising from different perspectives, academic as well as ideological, aiming at describing, clarifying and determining their conceptual reach.

Based on these facts a model of categorization for these debates has developed, a model in which interpretations generated on the concept of sustainable development were catalogued into four realms: conceptual, contextual, academic and geopolitical.

The configuration of these four areas of debate, as well as the recognition of the diversity of interpretations existing on sustainable development, is a reflection of the intrinsic complexity of the phenomena, which affect the natural and social world, both at the local and global level. The analysis of this complexity is based on the subjectivity, which is inherent to the interpretation of these phenomena, with permanent reference to the cultural context from which the diverse discourses were structured.

This global perspective on the state-of-the-art controversy concerning the idea of sustainable development as an articulatory axis reveals the necessity of building epistemological models, which can give a new direction to scientific research. From these new models, based on the analysis of the holistic character of reality, the subjective and the objective must be integrated in the generation of knowledge, which contributes usefully to the unceasing reconstruction of our world-(view).

Keywords

conceptual debate contextual debate disciplinary debate geopolitical debate sustainable development sustainability transdisciplinary 

Abbreviations

WCED

World Commission on Environment and Development

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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonardo Alberto Rios Osorio
    • 1
  • Manuel Ortiz Lobato
    • 2
  • Xavier Álvarez Del Castillo
    • 3
  1. 1.Universitat Politècnica de CatalunyaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.UNED (Distance Education University of Spain)BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Universitat Politècnica de CatalunyaBarcelonaSpain

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