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Sustainability: a gender studies perspective

"One of the problems of modern consumption society is its adverse effect on sustainability. The concept of sustainable development was introduced in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as the Brundtland Commission. In the Commission's definition, sustainable development should meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.1 Despite numerous attempts made to achieve a more sustainable society, many people still feel disappointed by the progress made so far. Dutilh and Casimir have developed a theoretical framework to analyse the main forces counteracting sustainable development. They hypothesize that those forces are inherent to the dualistic nature of each individual, having both an outgoing (masculine) element which aims to manifest itself, as well as a caring (feminine) element which is concerned about continuity and future generations. Because of the over-appreciation of masculine behaviour, which occurs not just in Western societies, feminine values have come under pressure. It is our opinion that sustainability can only be achieved through a combined approach of product improvement and behavioural change. This requires a rethinking of the theoretical concepts upon which existing programmes to achieve sustainability are based. In this article we first discuss the difficulty in realizing sustainable development and describe the main dualities related to consumer behaviour. Subsequently, we propose alternative concepts, in particular those derived from gender studies. In a final section, we relate these reflections to consumer behaviour."
Gerda Casimir, Chris Dutilh
Wageningen University
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