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The End of Sustainability?


July 8, 2014



An ELI Research Seminar

“It is time to move past the concept of sustainability,” write Melinda Harm Benson and Robin K. Craig in their provocative new article, “The End of Sustainability.” They suggest that sustainability is simply not useful as an environmental governance goal because it assumes societies can somehow determine and achieve a “sustainable” state in managing resources. They find “an increasing likelihood of rapid, nonlinear, social and ecological regime changes,” which demands a new orientation for environmental goals beyond “sustainability.”

In its place, Benson and Craig propose “resilience thinking” and explore the challenges and potentials of applying resilience theory in practical policy making.

Our participants joined Benson, Craig, and other thought leaders in science, policy, governance, and law, to ask whether the concept of sustainability works as a governance goal; what role resiliency should play as a goal; and the interplay between resiliency, sustainability, and traditional environmental law approaches in environmental governance.

Scott E. Schang, Executive Vice President, Editor-in-Chief, Environmental Law Reporter®, Environmental Law Institute (moderator)
Melinda Harm Benson, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of New Mexico
Robin K. Craig, William H. Leary Professor of Law, College of Law, University of Utah
John C. Dernbach, Distinguished Professor of Law, and Co-Director, Environmental Law Center, Widener University School of Law
E. Donald Elliott, Senior Of Counsel, Covington & Burling LLP; former Assistant Administrator and General Counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Tom Lindley, Partner, Firmwide Chair, Environment, Energy & Resources, Perkins Coie LLP

If you are an ELI member and are logged onto the Members site, you will see a link to the combined presentation below. If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like these, see the bottom of the page for a link on how to join.

Introduction to Acting as if Tomorrow Matters
(Dernbach, ELI Press, 2012)
Progress Toward Sustainability: A Report Card and A Recommented Agenda (Dernbach et al.), 39 ELR 10275
Integrating Sustainable Development Into U.S. Law and Business (Elliott/Tarifi), 33 ELR 10170
Download from the Social Science Research Network: The End of Sustainability (Benson/Craig)