Environmental Ethics

Volume 45, Issue 1, Spring 2023

Gonzalo Salazar, Valentina Acuña, Luca Valera
Pages 49-70

From the Utopia of Sustainable Development to Sustainable Topoi

The hegemonic discourse of sustainable development adopted as an international alternative solution to the socio-ecological crisis has implied a progression of the modern utopian project and most importantly, an intrinsic contradiction and omission that positions sustainable development as something that is not in any place. To understand, discuss, and transcend this oxymoron, we first review the modern utopian project and analyze its paradigmatic and ontological assumptions about knowledge, time, and space. Second, we show that sustainable development just re-adapted the founding premises of the modern utopias. Third, to transcend the modern utopian facet of sustainable development, we suggest an understanding of sustainability that stems from a topographical way of thinking. We suggest this approach allows us to seek alternatives to the modern epistemology and ontology that have shaped the current dominant vision of sustainable development. Finally, we propose to move from the modern utopia of sustainable development to the praxis of topographical sustainabilities to trigger a more comprehensive and relational praxis of sustainability.