Sustainability Science

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 5–11

The idea of sustainable development

Invited Article


In this lecture, I demonstrate how very different macroeconomic history begins to look if Nature is included as a capital asset in production activities. The tentative conclusions I draw from the evidence are: (1) high population growth in the world’s poorest regions (South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa) has been an obstacle to the achievement of sustainable economic development there; relatedly, (2) when population growth is taken into account, the accumulation of manufactured capital, knowledge, and human capital (health and education) has not compensated for the degradation of natural capital in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and, in all probability, even in the UK and the US; (3) China is possibly an exception to (1) and (2).


Natural capital Externalities Shadow prices Social discount rates Climate change Inclusive investment Economic growth 

Copyright information

© Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science and Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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