Anthropology and Environment Society
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
There is a need for anthropological interpretation of varying and changing uses of the language of sustainable development, and associated practices. Such anthropological investigation can use linguistic evidence understood in widely varying cultural contexts from many official public statements; but anthropology can also use participant observation, fieldwork, and theory about language and other practices. The language of sustainable development was given a canonical formulation in the UN-generated Brundtland Report of 1987, A Common Future. As the title indicates, the Brundtland Report emphasized a type of global human solidarity as a value. In 2015 there was a well-publicized re-formulation of Sustainable Development Goals by the UN. While there are many similarities in the language of these two sources, there are also some dissimilarities. Also, the language of sustainable development, and associated societal processes invoking sustainable development, have been adopted and acted on (and changed) in many countries and in many institutional contexts (governments, corporations, universities, etc.) The result is a complex linguistic and cultural situation in which “sustainable development” has many different roles and real-world impacts. There is a need for anthropological interpretation (supplemented by insights from other academic disciplines) of varying uses of the language of sustainable development, and actual impacts. It can be plausibly argued that the increasing growth of neoliberalism (and populist reactions to neoliberalism) have sharpened ideological conflicts between the language of sustainable development and real-world practices claimed to be examples of sustainable development.