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Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1637-1661; doi:10.3390/su3101637
Review

Sustainable Development: A Bird’s Eye View

1,2,* , 1,2
, 3
 and 4
1 Plant Biology and Nature Management, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium 2 Institute of Environment & Sustainable Development, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Antwerp, Belgium 3 University of Antwerp, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium 4 Environmental Science, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax B3H 4J1, NS, Canada
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 September 2011 / Revised: 16 September 2011 / Accepted: 19 September 2011 / Published: 27 September 2011
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Abstract

At the turn of the millennium, the world’s political leadership adopted sustainable development as a leading model for societal development. However, the terms “sustainable development”, “sustainability” and “sustainable” are sometimes over- and misused despite wide consensus about the concept’s meaning among sustainability scholars and practitioners. While the concept allows various sustainability views to co-exist, random conceptualizations which do not respect the fundamental sustainability principles undermine the concept’s objective to steer action. This lack of understanding of sustainability arguably inhibits its practical realization and a proper understanding of sustainability is urgently needed. In this paper we aim to contribute to a better understanding of sustainability by adopting a bird’s eye perspective. We review the rich contemporary literature, with a specific focus on the terminology, genesis, fundamental principles, mainstream views of sustainability, and several governing aspects. Further, using the evolving body of sustainability literature, the paper provides arguments to combat common misconceptions of sustainability.
Keywords: sustainable development; sustainability; meaning; principles; history; governance sustainable development; sustainability; meaning; principles; history; governance
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Waas, T.; Hugé, J.; Verbruggen, A.; Wright, T. Sustainable Development: A Bird’s Eye View. Sustainability 2011, 3, 1637-1661.

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