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Sustainable Development: A Bird’s Eye View
Tom Waas 1 , Jean Hugé 1 , Aviel Verbruggen 2 , Tarah Wright 3
1  Plant Biology and Nature Management, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
2  University of Antwerp, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
3  Environmental Science, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax B3H 4J1, NS, Canada

Published: 27 September 2011 by MDPI in Sustainability
MDPI, Volume 3; 10.3390/su3101637
Abstract: At the turn of the millennium, the world’s political leadership adopted sustainable development as a leading model for societal development. However, the terms “sustainable development”, “sustainability” and “sustainable” are sometimes over- and misused despite wide consensus about the concept’s meaning among sustainability scholars and practitioners. While the concept allows various sustainability views to co-exist, random conceptualizations which do not respect the fundamental sustainability principles undermine the concept’s objective to steer action. This lack of understanding of sustainability arguably inhibits its practical realization and a proper understanding of sustainability is urgently needed. In this paper we aim to contribute to a better understanding of sustainability by adopting a bird’s eye perspective. We review the rich contemporary literature, with a specific focus on the terminology, genesis, fundamental principles, mainstream views of sustainability, and several governing aspects. Further, using the evolving body of sustainability literature, the paper provides arguments to combat common misconceptions of sustainability.
Keywords: sustainable development, governance, history, meaning, principles, sustainability
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