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Don’t shout at the telly: Progress & Sustainable Development


7 Don't shout progress

On this Don’t Shout at the Telly young volunteers grapple with sustainable development. Is it the best way forward or the enemy of progress? Should we replace material development with living simpler, more ‘sustainable’ lives? Austin Williams, director of the Future Cities Project and author of The Enemies of Progress leads this on the sofa discussion and argues that sustainable development is parochial, patronising and a waste of human potential. But what do you think?

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Related topics: Debates, Science Progress

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margo_ said:

This is a very interesting debate. Lots of different ideas coming out. However, I don’t know if I would totally agree with Austin William’s ideas that sustainable development means limited progress. Isn’t there sustainable alternatives to our highly consumerist western society that would still allow individuals around the world in developed and developing countries to enjoy high standard of living. I found his position quite depressing. He says something like “I don’t care if half the planet actually goes under water, I don’t think we should restrain our carbon emission”.
I don’t mean that people in developing world shouldn’t aspire to progress, I’m just saying that our ‘modern’ western conception of progress isn’t necessary the best one and shouldn’t necessary be applied/envied worldwide. Maybe I’m wrong …

Raymond said:

I like the definition of progress Austin Williams gave – progress should remain about all of us freeing ourselves from the land and from the constraints of work. So important as it would mean everybody could contribute to developing the world as we want it, everybody could have free time to do discussions like these. Yet it was interesting many of the participants couldn’t agree, let alone celebrate this idea of progress.

Michelle said:

Rare for anyone to question sustainable development orthodoxy but I found it useful and it all becomes clear when the guy on the sofa bigs up staying on the land and wants to make things other than material development the criteria for progress – surely this provides a really good excuse for poverty – like the happiness debate – nice point made by your main guy here that the plantation owners said their slaves were happy hmmm