Emergent Sustainability: The Concept of Sustainable Development in a Complex World

  • Casey Brown
Part of the Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace book series (HSHES, volume 3)


The concept of sustainable development derives from the fundamental concern of human society and its need for security.1 The popularity of the term and the attention it receives signal a general dissatisfaction with the direction of things on planet earth. The most vociferous calls for development that is ‘sustainable’ (as opposed to ‘business as usual’ development) come from the developed world. Some have interpreted this as an affluent society focusing on the luxury of environmental quality. More likely, the developed world senses that its way of life is threatened. We need to look no further than the typical tenets of ‘sustainable development’2, i.e. economic development, environmental protection, and social systems, to find at their root a threat to the security of the developed world. Economic development is necessary for any society to maintain its current standard of living while undergoing population growth. Environmental protection is less a luxury and more a requirement to preserve the earth’s life support system. Increasingly, the developed.


Sustainable Development Environmental Damage Good Governance Environmental Kuznets Curve Triple Bottom Line 
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  1. 4.
    Chaos is here defined as the unpredictable behaviour of a complex system. One form of chaos is sensitivity to initial conditions, known as the “butterfly effect,” as presented by Edward Lorenz (1979). For further reading on the subject, see Lorenz (1993), Prigogine/Stengers (1984) and Alligood/Sauer/Yorke (1997).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Casey Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.New YorkUSA

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