Re: Beginning of a Sustainability Thread...

Anthony Good (agood@BLUENOTE.DEMON.CO.UK)
Tue, 7 Jun 1994 19:56:01 GMT

Bill Loker wants to know
>what definitions anthropologists have come up with for the term
>"sustainable" as in "sustainable development." [...] What is
>sustainability? At what level does it operate(farm/firm? household?
>ecosystem? region? globe?) Can it be measured? How? Is it an
>ecological concept or a social concept or both/neither?

First, this is an issue in the UK too. The Durham University Business
School (Durham, England, that is) will be hosting a workshop in early
July on precisely this issue, funded by the Overseas Development
Administration and attended by representatives of 50-60 British NGOs,
who will provide case studies drawn from their own projects for small
group discussion and analysis. Attendance is by invitation only, I'm
afraid, but there will be a report produced afterwards, and those with
contacts in the NGO world should be able to get hold of it without
much difficulty.

Secondly, as someone who spends a great deal of time doing social
appraisals of NGO project proposals submitted to ODA for possible
funding, I would say that sustainability can be applied at any of the
levels Bill mentions, from individual to globe. As for whether it
should be seen primarily in ecological or sociological terms, I would
again say that it can be either or both, and I would also add another
(perhaps even more important from an aid donors' viewpoint!) - economic

Some development projects (particularly in the health and education
sectors) can never in themselves be sustainable financially, of course.
In that case, one has to define 'sustainability' in terms of the projects'
impact on beneficiaries, e.g., what lasting benefits (economic, social,
or whatever) do they gain from the education they receive?