Sustainable development (SD) became popular after Bruntland Commission Report was published in the form of a book – Our Common Future in 1987. The concept articulated that development can be sustainable if it provides adequate supply of natural resources for the needs of present generation and leaves enough for the future ones. This concept caught imagination of people on the opposite sides of the conservation-development debate as well as the fence-sitters. Developmentalists and governments globally pushed for economic growth as the legitimate instrument of human development and welfare, while environmentalists thought that they would extract concessions from them using SD as a new promotional tool for the environmental protection. The twin idea of the SD paradigm was: the ‘needs’ of poor nations must be given priority at all costs and ‘environmental resource limits’ must be recognized to maintain an inter-generational equity. In principle, it was a robust initiative, but in practice, we have witnessed emergence of new economic order, pushing further the age-old economic agenda instead of the SD model. China and India emerged as new economic leaders post SD, which only led to more serious environmental conflicts with no agreement in sight. Therefore, as an academic inquiry it is necessary to find out if SD is a business as usual model or is there credible evidence of its positive impact. Additionally, any alternate idea with more and/or better promise will be explored. Some of the questions that may be asked include:

Where and how did it all begin? Has SD delivered the promise it held for the ‘poor’ and the ‘developed’ nations? Is SD possible or is it an oxymoron? Is there a place for other species and systems than humans in the scheme of SD? Are the traditional bio-resource/bio-energy driven societies relevant to the framework of SD? Can technology alone be the agent of change? Can ‘win-win ecology’ win? 


The main objectives of the module are to provide students with an understanding that will allow them to:

  • Recognize the impact of economic activity on the natural resources by studying and analyzing contemporary and contrarian theories on sustainable development.
  • Understand the current and projected use of natural resources to establish their criticality in human survival and future.
  • Critically analyze the role of various technological, institutional and socio-political instruments in success or failure of achieving sustainable development.
  • Relate to the need for sustainable development in our daily lives and search for new paradigms of sustainability.

The module will emphasize on case studies and promote critical and analytical discussions among students on the idea of ‘sustainability’ in a world that is dominated by ‘prodigious consumerism’. The module will engage students to seek answers to the ‘sustainability’ of sustainable development itself. Going beyond boundaries of natural and social sciences, technology and politics, the module conforms to the pedagogical structure within USP.