HKS Affiliated Authors

Harvey Brooks Research Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development


November 12, 2023, Paper: "The central challenge of our age is how to make development sustainable—to assure that it advances people’s well-being in the here and now without unfairly constraining the ability of people elsewhere, or in the future, to advance their own well-being. Efforts to meet that challenge are ultimately political, involving complex struggles over who should and does get what. Research, however, has much to contribute to those struggles by illuminating both where present development pathways are taking us, and what interventions can bend those paths toward sustainability.  The field of sustainability science has been broadly concerned with how the long-term, large-scale interactions of nature and society can be modified to support sustainable development (1). Within that broad research program, the field has long acknowledged the central role that restructuring contemporary consumption–production systems must play in shaping sustainability transitions. In particular, researchers have focused on understanding how progress toward the ultimate goals of sustainability depends on the consumption of goods and services (e.g., food) that flow from production activities (e.g., farming) that, in turn, draw on (and may reinvest in) the underlying base of natural and anthropogenic resources (e.g., land and climate, labor and harvest equipment) that are the ultimate foundations of development. But while it has become clear that most contemporary consumption–production systems are incompatible with sustainable development, the field of sustainability science has struggled to build more than ad hoc accounts of how the needed transitions can be promoted in those systems. (2)" Read Via PNAS