Futuribles Journal n° 209

Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement - Territoires, réseaux

Le développement durable et le devenir des villes. Bonnes intentions et fausses bonnes idées


The Long-term Development and the Future of Cities. Good Intentions and Flawed Good Ideas
For fifty years, some voices - including Bertrand de Jouvenel's - have denounced the lack of concern in National Estimates for free goods (such as oxygen) and services (such as domestic work) and "external costs" (such as pollution and nuisances). Some went so far as pointing to a suicidal streak in our development strategies as they increased their demands on nature (to the point of exhaustion) followed by increasing pollution which threatens the very existence of the eco-system. They thus contributed to the idea of "sustainable development", a seducing concept indeed, but one which can lead us into many blind alleys.
The first of these is that a "natural state " is the norm. Olivier Godard demonstrates that in fact we cannot eliminate "values" or preferences. In other words, there is no such thing as an ideal-type or benchmark of the natural eco-system.
Other example of naïveté, the author continues, is the belief that integrating long term external costs to preserve an identical reproduction of all systems is all that it takes. It is more important that systems maintain the capacity to develop some resilience, to reproduce themselves by adapting rather than by cloning.
The author goes on to describe some of the mistakes frequently made in sustainable development, especifically when local solutions are not informed by the global context. This is not to say that such measures would be meaningless, especially when it comes to urban areas.
Finally, O. Godard explains why the law of the market could not by itself ensure the long-term viability of sustainable development projects and why arbitration by public institutions is absolutely necessary when it comes to the competitive use of space.

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