Sustainability and underdevelopment: complex trade-offs on the Tibetan Plateau

Katherine Morton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A fundamental challenge facing all states in the 21st century is how to create a balance between human and environmental needs. For poorer regions the trade-offs are particularly stark. Faced with difficult choices, the old logic of industrialisation tends to supersede the new logic of ecological modernisation, national interests trump local needs, and domestically driven imperatives outweigh global priorities. These impulses are hardly surprising given that they reflect historical patterns of development. The question that inevitably arises is: how far is it possible to promote sustainability when underdevelopment still persists? This article reflects on some of the core challenges involved in balancing environmental stewardship with development and social justice. Tensions identified at the global level are brought into sharper relief by focusing on the case of the Tibetan Plateau. It is in one of the poorest, insecure, and ecologically vulnerable regions of the world that important lessons can be drawn for achieving sustainability in practice. What becomes clear is that solutions lie in the past as well as the present. More broadly, tipping the balance in favour of sustainable development will require more than technocratic solutions and top-down corrective measures; it will require nothing less than a transformation in the way in which human progress is understood and acted upon.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)315-324
    JournalInternational Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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