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Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 853–870 | Cite as

The relevance of ecological and economic policies for sustainable development

  • Stefan Hellstrand
  • Kristian Skånberg
  • Lars Drake
Article

Abstract

A sustainable development can be understood as social and economic development within ecological sustainability limits. The operationalisation of a sustainable development presupposes integration of resource concepts covering relevant disciplines and systems levels. In this paper descriptive domains within physical resource theory (PRT), nutrition theory (NT), economic theory (ET) and emergy theory (EmT) are joined in what we call a “sustainability map.” The sustainability map represents a conceptual model of the economic production system in its ecological and social contexts. It is a contribution within the field integrated assessment. The relevance domain of each resource concept is analysed by comparison with the sustainability map. It is concluded that resource concepts that well supports a sustainable development should recognise the process restrictions that defines ecological, economic and social sustainability limits; thus recognise and in a relevant way treat threshold—and resilience phenomena; and capture the use-value of resources for human well-being. We suggest that the integration of NT, ET and EmT may contribute, while we find the value of PRT limited, as physics, thus PRT, is indifferent to life as a system characteristic, while life of microbes, plants, animals and humans is central in the sustainability context. The paper contributes to a theoretical foundation supporting a bridging of the implementation gap of a sustainable development, e.g. through its proposal of how to develop more accurate natural resource concepts.

Keywords

Resource concepts Value measures Exergy Emergy Integrated assessment Sustainable development Multi-disciplinary 

Abbreviations

AHP

Animal and human physiology

ANT

Animal nutrition theory

EmT

Emergy theory

ET

Economic theory

HC

Human capital

HNT

Human nutrition theory

ILA

Impredicative Loop Analysis

MMC

Man-made capital

NC

Natural capital

NNC

Non-renewable natural capital

NNR

Non-renewable natural resources

NR

Natural resources

NT

Nutrition theory

PRT

Physical resource theory

RNC

Renewable natural capital

RNR

Renewable natural resources

SC

Social capital

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was performed with financial support from Ekhagastiftelsen, Nutek—the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, The Nordic Council of Ministers, and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Hellstrand
    • 1
  • Kristian Skånberg
    • 2
  • Lars Drake
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Urban and Rural DevelopmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesKilSweden
  2. 2.Department of Forest EconomicsSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden
  3. 3.Swedish Chemicals AgencySundbybergSweden

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