Dreams of sustainability: beyond the antinomies of the global sustainability debate

Ernest J. Yanarella, Horace Bartilow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Sustainable development joined the global vocabulary of the 1990s as a catchword or rallying cry at international conferences and other forums. This essay begins by clarifying two key terms – the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ – in the sustainability debate by examining the contested meaning and implications of the adage, ‘think globally, act locally’. A critique of the deployment of those terms in the strategy of ‘green globalism’ – a particular rendering of sustainable development put forth by major political power brokers and economic and financial stakeholders – follows. This critique serves as a springboard for a critical examination of the perils of environmental moralism expressed in Agenda 21 and other international sustainability declarations put forth in recent years. Recognizing that the achievement of local sustainable development must be linked with demands of countries of the South for programmes of global economic redistribution, this analysis then develops a critique of the Brundtland Commission report as a prelude to a detailed critical analysis of the sustainable development policies of the World Bank’s 1992 World Development Report. Finally, the paper attempts to surpass localist/globalist contradictions in the global sustainability debate by speculating on the promise and possibilities of a New International Economic Order (NIEO).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-389
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000


  • Brundtland Commission
  • New International Economic Order
  • sustainable cities
  • World Bank

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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