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Environmental Ethics

Volume 43, Issue 4, Winter 2021

Michel BourbanOrcid-ID
Pages 291-314

Strong Sustainability Ethics

This article explains how strong sustainability ethics has emerged and developed as a new field over the last two decades as a critical response to influential conceptions of weak sustainability. It investigates three competing, normative approaches to strong sustainability: the communitarian approach, the Rawlsian approach, and the capabilities approach. Although these approaches converge around the idea that there are critical, non-substitutable natural resources and services, they diverge on how to reconcile human development and environmental protection. The aim of the paper is to provide a critical overview of these three perspectives, but also and mostly to show that when we put them into dialogue with each other, we can clarify the demands of sustainability. The paper concludes that the capabilities approach is the most suitable way to think about sustainability, but only if it goes beyond its dominantly anthropocentric view.