Sustainability concerns the specification of a set of actions to be taken by present persons that will not diminish the prospects of future persons to enjoy levels of consumption, wealth, utility, or welfare comparable to those enjoyed by present persons. Sustainability grows out of a need for intertemporal ethical rules when one generation can determine the endowment of natural and constructed capital that will be passed on to all subsequent generations. Economic models of sustainability seek axiomatic guidance for the selection of rules regarding natural resource use. Ecologists approach sustainability from a related – though not identical – ethical stance.
KeywordsExhaustible resources Hartwick’s rule Hotelling, H. Intertemporal efficiency Justified commitment Liability rule Natural assets Precautionary principle Pure theory of savings Ramsey, F. Safe minimum standard Sustainability
JEL ClassificationsQ20 Q56
I am grateful for the comments of Richard C. Bishop and Richard T. Woodward.
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