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Beyond sustainability as usual: Democratising sustainable development for the Anthropocene

Jonathan Pickering, University of Canberra

Tue 21 November 2017

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


The emergence of the Anthropocene – a new epoch in which humanity exerts a pervasive influence over the Earth system – calls for new conceptions of sustainability that are open to democratic contestation while being grounded in emerging scientific understanding of global environmental risks, including climate change and biodiversity loss. Yet discourses of sustainability are often co-opted by actors whose interests lie in upholding patterns of production and consumption that are neither environmentally nor socially sustainable. This paper (which forms part of a book project co-authored with John Dryzek on The Politics of the Anthropocene) sets out a new framework for understanding sustainability, then applies the framework to analyse the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015. Efforts to craft the SDGs involved a range of consultations whose scope was unprecedented in the UN’s history. We discuss the deliberative strengths and shortcomings of the consultation and negotiation process, and the extent to which the process and the goals themselves offer meaningful responses to global environmental risks.

This paper is co-authored with John Dryzek.

About the speaker

Jonathan joined the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance in 2015. He is a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Professor John Dryzek on his Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship project, ‘Deliberative Worlds: Democracy, Justice and a Changing Earth System’.

He completed his PhD in philosophy at the Australian National University, based in the Centre for Moral, Social and Political Theory and graduating in 2014. His thesis explored opportunities for reaching a fair agreement between developing and developed countries in global climate change negotiations. Before joining the University of Canberra he taught climate and environmental policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy at ANU, and has been a Visiting Fellow at the Development Policy Centre at ANU since 2014.

Jonathan’s research interests include the ethical and political dimensions of global climate change policy, global environmental governance, development policy and ethics, and global justice.

He has a Masters' degree in development studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and undergraduate degrees in arts and law from the University of Sydney. Previously he worked as a policy and program manager with the Australian Government's international development assistance program (AusAID, 2003-09).

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