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Thönnes, Yves, 2023. The trouble with sustainability. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development

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We currently face an escalation of the climate crisis, accompanied by increasing frustration due to inaction and business as usual, all despite supposedly existing solutions. This thesis engages with sustainability, representing one of the most popular and far-reaching category of such solutions. The focus of this work lies on early ecological economics which, due to its integral contributions to sustainability, remains highly influential for landscape architecture and urban planning. The overall aim is to reveal foundational flaws of sustainability and the treatment of uncomfortable knowledge thereof. It will do so by, first scrutinizing the core assumptions of the early ecological economic approach to sustainability and critique of economic growth. Second, by understanding their ideological basis and defense. Third, by examining how this affected the contemporary approach to sustainability alongside planning and design approaches that rely on associated concepts and practices. This is achieved through comparative analysis of selected ecological economic primary and secondary literature, by Daly, Boulding, Costanza and Meadows, within the formative period of the field, from the late 60s to the late 90s. Supplemented by literature concerning contemporary sustainability frameworks as well as mainstream and classical political economics. This thesis shows how early ecological economists provided an insufficient critique of economic growth by focusing on the physical expansion of the economic system instead of the underlying growth-enabling mainstream economic core assumption. This resulted in a macroeconomic approach to sustainability that accepts the organization of the existing economic system and aims to enforce an optimal scale thereof. This approach, however, also accepts mainstream microeconomic core assumptions, which aim for further expansion, thereby contradicting an optimal scale. The implications of this conflict did not only gradually weaken the early ecological economic approach to sustainability, leading to its inapplicability but also introduced the potential appropriation by mainstream economics for further growth. However, dogmatic narratives prevented the engagement with such uncomfortable knowledge and the resolution of fundamental flaws. This led to the failure of the early ecological economic approach to sustainability to enforce an optimal scale of the current economic system for it to operate in the cycles and boundaries of the ecological system of the planet. More importantly, it enabled the narrative that sustainability can be achieved without fundamental changes in the economic system, by using the ecological system of the planet for further economic growth within the contemporary approach to sustainability. In conclusion, the application of the contemporary approach to sustainability, also within landscape architecture and urban planning, will further degrade ecological systems and escalate the climate crisis.

Main title:The trouble with sustainability
Authors:Thönnes, Yves
Supervisor:Vicenzotti, Vera
Examiner:Hart, Robert and Nordh, Helena
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2023
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:LM009 Landscape Architecture for Sustainable Urbanisation - Master's Programme, 120.0 hp
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Keywords:ecological economics, mainstream economics, sustainability, john stuart mill, urban metabolism, sustainable development, sustainable development goals, planetary boundaries, ecosystem services, natural capital, landscape architecture
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Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Landscape architecture
Deposited On:30 Mar 2023 10:26
Metadata Last Modified:31 Mar 2023 01:00

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