Nature as artifice, nature as artefact: Development, environment and modernity in the late twentieth century

Document Type

Book Chapter


Twenty-five years after the first stirrings of Earth Day and notions of Spaceship Earth, environmentalism and green capitalism - now couched in the language of sustainable development - are back on the political agenda, albeit in a far different ideological climate. Some 19 green parties are active in a dozen West European states, and environmental movements dot the landscape of the former socialist bloc, while the consolidation of civil society associated with widespread democratization in the South has created new spaces for robust environmental movements. Whatever its ambiguities, the current lexicon of sustainability links three hitherto relatively disconnected discourses. It is now taken for granted that the global environmental crisis (that is to say, distinctively new global environmental problems such as ozone depletion), a renewed concern with global demographic growth (the return of neo-Malthusian thinking, often linked to the purported security threats posed by highfertility regimes), and the terrifying map of global economic inequalities (blandly documented for us each year in the World Bank and UNDP development reports) are necessarily all of a piece. This new 'environment-poverty-population' consensus (see DasGupta, 1994; World Bank, 1992) confirms that the eradication of poverty through enhancing and protecting livelihood strategies is as much a green and a fertility (i.e. women's) issue as a narrow resource endowment or growth question.

Publication Title

Geographies of Economies

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sustainable development, green capitalism, environmental politics