The Elusive Concept of Sustainability

  • Rögnvaldur Hannesson


A tale is told of a poor farmer in Ireland who lived more than two hundred years ago. There were those who were less lucky than he. His land contained peat, a valuable fuel at the time. Even if the phrase had not yet been coined, he was concerned about what we now call sustainable development. He realized that the peat underneath his land would not last for ever, but he was not just concerned about himself, his wife and his children; he was also concerned about his grandchildren, his children’s grandchildren, and so on; in short he was concerned that each generation would get its fair share of the wealth in the family’s land. He figured out how much peat there was likely to be underneath each square yard of land, and how much each generation would need to make, well, not such a terribly great living but in any case one on the happy side of subsistence. He divided his land into squares for each generation and put down stones in the corners to mark them off. He made a vow not to take more than his share and to maintain the stone markings well visible and, when the time was ripe, persuaded his oldest son to make a similar pledge.


Gross Domestic Product Investment Fund Windfall Gain Mineral Wealth Mineral Revenue 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rögnvaldur Hannesson
    • 1
  1. 1.The Norwegian School of Economics and Business AdministrationNorway

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