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Sustainability in the Anthropocene: Between Extinction and Populism

Área Ciencia Política, Facultad Derecho UMA, University of Málaga, Campus Teatinos s/n. 29071 Málaga, Spain
Sustainability 2020, 12(6), 2538;
Received: 12 February 2020 / Revised: 2 March 2020 / Accepted: 4 March 2020 / Published: 24 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Governance for Sustainable Development in Troubled Times)
The pursuit of environmental sustainability has been affected by two significant developments in the last years. On the one hand, the Anthropocene hypothesis suggests that the human impact on the environment has increased to such a degree, that natural systems are now disrupted at a planetary level. The most dangerous manifestation of the Anthropocene is climate change, where there is need for greater urgency in the face of insufficient climate action. There are a number of scientists who currently warn of the possibility that failing to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may render the Earth uninhabitable in the first place. A first goal of this paper is thus to ponder how the sustainability paradigm may be affected in the face of this threat and whether, in fact, sustainability may be displaced by “habitability”. On the other hand, some climate policies are eliciting the reaction of a populist movement—from Trumpism to the gilets jaunes in France—that opposes the rise of environmentally-related taxes and denies climate change or questions the severity of its effects. Both as a concept and as a policy goal, sustainability thus finds itself under double pressure: as it must focus on keeping the planet inhabitable, while the political opposition to measures directed towards decarbonization also increases. In what follows, the paper suggests that sustainability should be understood as a technocratic project to keep the planet safe for humanity rather than imposing a new way of life for all its inhabitants. This is not to imply that moral or ideological debate is to be curtailed, but rather to differentiate between achieving environmental sustainability and seeking the reshaping of socionatural relations. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; populism; democracy; governance; technocracy; urgency climate change; populism; democracy; governance; technocracy; urgency
MDPI and ACS Style

Arias-Maldonado, M. Sustainability in the Anthropocene: Between Extinction and Populism. Sustainability 2020, 12, 2538.

AMA Style

Arias-Maldonado M. Sustainability in the Anthropocene: Between Extinction and Populism. Sustainability. 2020; 12(6):2538.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Arias-Maldonado, Manuel. 2020. "Sustainability in the Anthropocene: Between Extinction and Populism" Sustainability 12, no. 6: 2538.

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