2016 Undergraduate Awards

Document Type


Publication Date



Conventional wisdom tells us that sustainable development is the most effective solution to ecological protection, so what has this wisdom led to? Supporters of environmental sustainability have created a permanent sustainable development complex that is embedded within our business culture and the economy. This paper will reveal reasons why this permanence of sustainability has continued and why liberal environmentalism is used indefinitely. Some of these reasons being that sustainable development provides economic growth along with more efficient practices that can be utilized longer than before, and that sustainable development has been argued to produce substantial results that liberal environmentalist theorists support. To contrast the stance of liberal environmentalism the paper will then highlight the challenges proposed against liberal environmentalism in a Marxist and a post structural approach. Ecological Marxists and post structural theorists have argued that environmental sustainability utilizes economic and capitalist terms to combat a global issue, which will be further articulated in this paper. It is these critical perspectives that have proposed alternatives such as sustainable degrowth however, due to the dominance of the permanent sustainable development complex, little has been done to implement or simulate these alternatives to sustainable development.

The primary claim of this research paper is that sustainable development has embedded itself as the dominant discourse to protect the environment through market driven and economic means. This permanence of sustainable development will be exemplified by assessing the continual usage of market-based initiatives like emissions trading to establish permanent markets to protect the environment. Emissions’ trading has been an initiative of sustainable development since its origins. In turn, this initiative is now being prepared for implementation both domestically and globally to establish a market that creates monetary benefit to protect the environment, which perfectly illustrates how sustainable development has created a global mindset that economic solutions to preserving the environment are the way to go.


Image is in the public domain.