© 2020

Sustainability, Capabilities and Human Security

  • Andrew Crabtree
  • Evaluates the capability of humans to simultaneously develop and achieve sustainability

  • Applies theory to scientific, social, and policy structures, including ecology, ethics, and the Sustainable Development Goals

  • Challenges existing literature to consider human rights in discussion with sustainable development


About this book


‘The ongoing ecological crises, in particular climate change and biodiversity loss, are of great importance when thinking about human development for all – including for those who have not yet been born. The contributions in this volume ask what, if anything, ideas from the capability approach, the human development paradigm, and arguments about human rights and human security can contribute to advancing our thinking on ecological sustainability. These are important questions and the authors of this volume are to be applauded for putting these questions center stage, and for making significant contributions to advancing our knowledge in this area.’ —Ingrid Robeyns, Chair, Ethics of Institutions, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University, Netherlands

‘This book taps the enormous potential of the capability and human security approaches to address tensions between environmental and human priorities concealed within the phrase “sustainable development.” The authors include leading thinkers within the capability and human security approaches. Their essays are highly thought-provoking.’ —Jay Drydyk, Professor of Philosophy, Carleton University, Canada

Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have made major contributions to development studies and social philosophy, yet sustainability issues have largely remained outside their domain despite sustainability’s significance and complex relation to their central value of freedom. This volume explores sustainability from a capabilities perspective, with the motif of human security, inviting a lively discussion within the human development family. After introducing the two approaches, authors conceptualize relationships between capabilities and the environment, examine the scientific and normative validity of environmental indicators and analyse intergenerational justice. Climate change is used to exemplify that a human security approach can add an explanatory ontology to the ethical criticisms of contemporary ways of life that champion consumerism. That ontology recognizes shared life experiences, problems and life challenges - a community of fate. The volume ends with a discussion of how the approaches can inform and sometimes critique the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Andrew Crabtree is Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Management, Society and Communications, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.


Capability approach Human development Equity Human security Social sustainability Critical natural capital

Editors and affiliations

  • Andrew Crabtree
    • 1
  1. 1.Copenhagen Business SchoolFrederiksbergDenmark

About the editors

Andrew Crabtree is Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Management, Society and Communications, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.

Bibliographic information


“Sustainability, Capability, and Human Security encourages us to reflect on how we could construct a theoretical framework for sustainable human development based on the Capability Approach. It significantly advances the debates on this subject and constitutes a benchmark for those who would like to prolong them.” (Jerome Ballet, Ecological Economics, Vol. 184, 2021)