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Environmental Management in Development: The Evolution of Paradigms

by Michael Colby last modified Jan 21, 2014 05:28 PM
Contributors: Michael E. Colby
Copyright is shared by Author, Elsevier, and World Bank

World Bank Discussion Paper #80 (1990), Ecological Economics (1991), El Trimestre Economico (in spanish) (1991). Abstract: The importance and the methodologies of environmental management, and its relationship to human development, are in a period of dramatic change. Conceptions of what is economically and technologically practical, ecologically necessary, and politically feasible are rapidly being altered. Implicit in such changing strategies are differing philosophies of human-nature relationships. For centuries, a usually implicit debate has prevailed between what have come to be called “economics” and “development” on one side, and the “preservation of nature” and “ecology” on the other. In the past quarter century, as environmental management has become an increasingly explicit and significant matter requiring the attention of governments, corporations, communities, and individuals, this dichotomy has begun to break down. The resolution of this debate involves much more than ecology and economics; it includes different approaches to the organization of social and production systems, orientations toward the past and the future, and philosophies of science and epistemology. Societies are beginning to have serious discussions about “sustainable development.” Many different ideas are emerging, from a wide range of disciplines, about what environmental management and sustainable development entail. Five broad, fundamental paradigms of environmental management in development, of human-nature relationships, are described. From the primordial dichotomy of “frontier economics” versus “deep ecology,” paradigms of “environmental protection,” “resource management,” and “eco-development” are evolving, in a progression which involves increasing integration of economic, ecological, and social systems into the definition of development and the organization of human societies. Each perceives different evidence, imperatives, and problems, and each prescribes different solutions, strategies, technologies, roles for economic sectors, culture, governments, and ethics, etc. Each paradigm actually encompasses several schools of thought, not always in complete agreement, and there are also overlaps between them. The paper explores the distinctions, connections, and implications of these five paradigms for the future of environmental management in development.

Author(s): Michael E. Colby

Publication Date: 1991

Location: Global

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