The victims of unsustainability: A challenge to sustainable development goals

Helen Kopnina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental unsustainability is due to both structural features and historically specific characteristics of industrial capitalism resulting in specific patterns of production and consumption, as well as population growth. Sustainability literature criticises the established corporate and political power hegemonies, interested in maintaining economic growth, as well as inability or unwillingness of citizen-consumers to counteract these hegemonic tendencies. Yet, official policies are still targeted at social and economic 'development' as a panacea for unsustainability challenges. Instead, renewed accent on social and economic objectives are outlined by a set of sustainable development goals (SDG) that include objectives of fighting poverty, promoting better health, reducing mortality, and stimulating equitable economic growth. What is less commonly critiqued is the underlying morality of unsustainability and ethical questions concerned with the 'victims of unsustainability' outside of socioeconomic discourse. The achievement of SDG goals, as will be further elaborated on in this article, is unlikely to lead to greater social equality and economic prosperity, but to a greater spread of unsustainable production and consumption, continuous economic as well as population growth that has caused environmental problems in the first place and further objectification of environment and its elements. This article argues that an invocation of ethical duty toward environment and its elements is required in order to move beyond the current status quo. Such ethical approach to unsustainability can effectively address the shortcomings of the mainstream sustainability discourse that is mainly anthropocentric and therefore fails to identify the correct locus of unsustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-121
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology
Issue number2
Early online date11 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The victims of unsustainability: A challenge to sustainable development goals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this