According to the Brundtland report, “Sustainable development is a mode of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This concept was introduced to the world by Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1987. Since then, this concept has been adopted in several variations by different stakeholder groups. Among these are the environmentalist approach that puts human needs in the background; the ecological or systemic approach which states an interdependence between the environment, society and the economy; the technoscientific approach which focuses on the development and dissemination of knowledge; the policy approach which focuses on incorporating sustainable development into decision-making processes of public administrations; the humanist approach which considers exclusively the well-being of the human being. Karl Marx defines the human society as essentially based on the superstructure that is the economy. According to the latter, all social interactions are economy based. This logic is also perceived in the above-mentioned variations of sustainable development. Rockström confirms this observation by stating that sustainable development is a strategy contributing to the exclusive growth of the economy sector while offering a reduction of harmful impacts on the environment. In such a context, the human person is perceived as a means to the end of a clean environment. The fallout from this logic has proven to be more harmful than beneficial. Inter alia, the spread of an indecent work system that violates human dignity.
Jeffrey Sachs states the need to support the realization of sustainable development on values that place the human person at the centre of all logic and not as a means to achieve the goal of economic growth or nature preservation. This thought directly aligns with that of Max Weber. According to the latter, ideas and beliefs can be the foundation of the superstructure that is the economy, hence the need to grant human rights based values a greater consideration. Rockström states that humanity has entered the era of the Anthropocene, where it is now a matter of evolving from a perception of sustainable development as a concept consisting of three pillars: social, economic and ecological (Figure 1) towards a more inclusive and integrated perception involving economic growth by human development within a framework operating inside the limits set by nature (Figure 2). This then guarantees the resilience of the globe in the face of climate change.
This perception of sustainable development sets out a new mind-set pattern. The approach proposed is characterized by information, consultation, participation and responsibility. Polls, discussions and negotiations before decision-making with residents, associations and local economic actors is at the heart of the consultation process. This is in accordance with the Convention of Aarhus of June, 25th 1998, which entered into force on October, 30th 2001.
It is all about a transversal right that focuses on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. It is in full awareness of this reasoning that the logics are constructed with a view to reversing the current trend of public policies relating to sustainable development issues. This state of affairs is illustrated by, among other things, the dynamics of climate protests on a global scale. On September 24th 2019, sixteen young activists for the protection and preservation of the environment filed a complaint against five States: Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, Germany and France. The complaint was filed with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on charges of failing to guarantee the rights of future generations.
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