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‘Sustainable development requires a democratic approach’. Discuss this statement with reference to the Irish case.

‘Sustainable development requires a democratic approach’. Discuss this statement with reference to the Irish case.

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This essay looks at the possibilities for a complementary reationship between modern democratic practice and sustainable devolopment. It critically analyses the practice and potential in the Irish states response to the Earth Summit and Local Agenda 21. It suggests that meaningful opportunities for effective citizen participation at multiple levels of government are needed to address urgent concerns.
This essay looks at the possibilities for a complementary reationship between modern democratic practice and sustainable devolopment. It critically analyses the practice and potential in the Irish states response to the Earth Summit and Local Agenda 21. It suggests that meaningful opportunities for effective citizen participation at multiple levels of government are needed to address urgent concerns.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/13/2014

 
SC 3029 - Sociology of the EnvironmentEssay AssignmentMatthew Ryan104329678Q. 4. ‘Sustainable development requires a democratic approach’. Discuss thisstatement with reference to the Irish case.2411 Words
 
The difficulty in assessing the requirement for a democratic approach toanything is that democracy is an essentially contested concept. In our case this ismade doubly complex if we follow Barry’s assessment that environment, nature andsustainable development are equally essentially contested concepts (1999). Inattempting to provide an adequate answer as to whether democracy is required for sustainable development we must also be mindful of related conundrums, such aswhether sustainable development is required for democracy and whether sustainabledevelopment and democracy are required in their own right. Furthermore, what formor forms should and do they take?Politics can be broadly seen as society’s essential tool in reconciling essentialcontests and democracy, particularly the western liberal conception into which theIrish case broadly fits, can be seen as the most accepted form of politics. Beck’sseminal analysis of post-modern and post-industrial society as a ‘world risk society(1992) has been influential in its claim that contemporary politics has moved from thedistribution of benefits towards the distribution of costs and risks. So, how do wedistribute these risks? Mullally contends that; “unless we subscribe to an eco-authoritarian position, then we must acknowledge that the ecological management of risk must be rooted in a democratic society”, (2001: 30).In line with his conception of reflexive modernisation Beck has identified aneed to “invent new ways of conducting politics at social ‘sites’ that we previouslyconsidered unpolitical,” (as quoted in Mullally, 2001: 49). This must also be seen inthe context of a world where new social movements and organised interest groupshave challenged both political parties and scientists/technocrats as the traditionallegitimate forces of agenda-setting power. The role of science has been reappraisedwith calls for evidence-based governance being adapted to take account of the
 
 precautionary principle. Beck, among others, has stressed that traditional forms of governance in this risk society, have led to ‘organised irresponsibilityand‘normalised destruction’ (1992). Sustainable development, and the morally bindingAgenda 21 programme agreed at the World Summit in Rio, 1992, can be seen in theseterms as an attempt to engineer a new mode of governance, characterised bydemocratic partnership and interdependence, for the contemporary world.Sustainable development, as originally developed via the World Commissionon Environment and Development, can be seen broadly as an attempt to reconcileecological and social concerns with the realities of the globalised capitalist economy,in turn providing a vision of future development with a global and intergenerationaloutlook. Dryzek in considering sustainable development as an environmentaldiscourse describes its allure for many as an “irresistible concept,” (2005: 143).Sustainable development and the Agenda 21 programme signify an ambitiouslyconceived ‘common futurefor human society. Yet, many would claim that theconcept itself has merely managed to unite the world in confusion. In terms of sustainability, as Cullingworth and Nadin argue; “the word has been so badly abusedand misused that it has lost any useful meaning,” (2001: 198). Rogers et al haveidentified that one of the inherent problems for Agenda 21 is that it was conceived of as “both a thinkpiece and a program of action,” (2008:9). In fact they further suggestthat sustainable development has been treated as a “global slogan and a bandwagonon which all of the (UN) agencies and organisations have been riding,” (2008: 346).For others, sustainable development continues to be valuable and is dynamic andadaptable. As Meadowcroft points out;

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