Weak Sustainability

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The primary distinguishing factor between weak and strong sustainability is their degree of substitutability. Weak sustainability, examined in the first part of this paper, assumes that natural capital and manufactured capital are perfectly substitutable. The second part of this paper examines strong sustainability which asserts that the substitutability of natural capital by other forms of capital is highly limited and not interchangeable. This paper will discuss weak and strong sustainability’s key parts, consequences and their impact on sustainable development. Even though sustainable development can occur when weak and strong sustainability work together, these two views do not account for environmental inequality in the sustainable development …show more content…
Weak sustainability does not believe this impacts sustainable development but it does impact the natural environment. In the case of coal, while coal is being used as electricity i.e. manufactured capital, it is losing natural capital that can be essential to the environment and other organisms dependent on coal (Dietz 2007, 620). Under weak sustainability, the world is increasing its supply of manufactured capital while decreasing its supply of natural capital. If overall welfare remains consistent or greater after substitution, weak sustainability is considered successful. However, some forms of natural capital such as water, air, genetic materials etc. cannot be substituted simply by manufactured capital because they work together to create the larger biosphere. In theory, these goods could be replaced, but current technological knowledge proves it’s highly unlikely (Ekins 2003, 60-61). Maintaining or increasing capital stock for future generations means that technological advancements must keep up with resource consumption and carrying capacity to maintain a level of well-being for sustainability (Pelenc 2015 …show more content…
As in the ozone layer example, the ozone layer has the potential to be overused and humans do not have the current capacity to fix or replace it with manufactured capital. This is becoming more prevalent as the world population is growing faster than available natural resources. It is logically predicted that human action will deplete many types of natural capital beyond sustainable levels and without technological intervention (Pelenc 2015, 37). Some elements of natural capital are essential for the longevity and well-being of future generations – water, air, minerals, energy, space, and genetic materials – and these elements have the potential to be depleted through human action. Additionally, these elements are a part of the ozone layer and their relationship and interactions work in a codependent way for climate stability and the sustainability of ecosystems and the biosphere. Strong sustainability poses a threat because it does not allow for substitution and thus sustainability can only be depleted for future generation’s well-being (Ekins 2003,

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