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close this bookSustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 pages)
close this folderPart 1: Economy and society: development issues
close this folderEnvironmental management and social equity
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe key notions
View the documentThe political-economic context of contemporary environmental management
View the documentSocial equity and environmental management: Some examples
View the documentThe way forward
View the documentReferences


Recent times have seen a rise of what can be called the sustainable development movement in terms of a heightened concern with the state and future of the environment and the extensive politicization and institutionalization of environmental questions on a global scale. The result of this has been innumerable initiatives and efforts at many levels, which include the internationalization of knowledge, practices, strategies, and institutions to understand and predict environmental trends better and to arrest environmental decline and degradation. As part of these, a series of strategies, approaches, and techniques is being developed to plan, organize, and manage the environment. Increasingly a body of knowledge and expertise is growing around these efforts and is beginning to constitute what is formally defined as orthodox environmental management.

However, formal or orthodox environmental management, like all "managerialist" perspectives, is structured in such a way that it is defined as the prerogative of a privileged group or class of nations and persons. Because of this definition, it poses several problems in terms of relevance, appropriateness, long-term effectiveness, and, more fundamentally, social justice and equity. These problems, however, contain far-reaching implications for the expression and acceptance of the key elements of the sustainable development approach, of which orthodox environmental management claims an important executing component. One of the major questions here relates to the specific current to which one adheres within the broad and eclectic sustainable development movement and approach. Another, proceeding from this, is whether the attainment of sustainable development objectives is either a scientific/technocratic or humanistic issue, or rather an embodiment of these various elements of human civilization. It is these questions that form the concern of this paper.

To explore the most important dimensions of these issues effectively, this paper is structured as follows: (a) clarification of key notions such as sustainable development, environmental management, and social equity, (b) a brief examination of the political-economic context of contemporary environmental management, (c) a discussion of social equity and environmental management, in terms of exploring some of the practices in Sub-Saharan Africa, and (d) finally an exploration of the options for sustainable futures.