The concept of sustainability is well described as “a big, sloppy term for a big, complex subject” (Prugh et al, 2000, p.2). The meaning of ‘sustainability’ is highly contested and subject to a wide variety of (often self-serving) definitions.
So how can this “big, sloppy” concept – and all that it tells us about global limits to resource consumption and waste production – be translated into recommendations for practical action?
One way of achieving this translation that appears in the policy documents of various green parties around the world is to work with the notion of ‘carrying capacity.’ In particular, carrying capacity features as a key principle of many green population policies.
Unfortunately there is often a serious defect in the way carrying capacity is applied, as explained in an article by Steve Vanderheiden (2008). Usefully, though, for those who wish to see sustainability policy become a reality, Vanderheiden also shows how sustainability policies be formulated differently, along lines that take proper account of issues of justice.