Progressing a Sustainable-world: A Socio-ecological Resilience Perspective

Don Clifton


This paper identifies two approaches to how humanity might go about living sustainably, that is, for there to be a sustainable-world, namely; (a) the Reformist-approach, which is the current dominant sustainable-world approach consistent with mainstream sustainable-development, and (b) the Transformational-approach. The concept of socio-ecological-resilience is used to critique these two approaches to consider which is more likely to see the primary sustainable-world goal – the flourishing of life, incorporating human and ecological wellbeing, maintained over an indefinite time frame – achieved. The results suggest that Reformism is challenging to believe as a credible pathway for humanity. Instead, Reformism is shown, in a number of important respects, to undermine the resilience of the socio-ecological-systems on which human and ecological wellbeing depends. A more determined effort to fully implement the Reformist-approach will not solve these problems – the approach is, in a number of key respects, inherently resilience eroding and self-defeating. The Transformational-approach is instead shown to be more consistent with socio-ecological-resilience principles and is, in this respect, a preferred sustainable-world approach for humanity to pursue.

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Journal of Sustainable Development   ISSN 1913-9063 (Print)   ISSN 1913-9071 (Online) Email:

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