Sustainability Science, 2022 By Shivani Kaul, Bengi Akbulut, Federico Demaria & Julien-François Gerber
Abstract The debates on the sustainability of development have a long history. Although the Brundtland Report popularized “sustainable development”, this slippery concept sidelined previous critiques of development and has been compatible with a wide range of conflicting agendas. A notable example of this contradiction is the uncritical promotion of capitalist growth in the pursuit of social justice and ecosystem health by the sustainable development goals. In contrast to this reliance on the “one world” of Euroamerican market economies, this special feature presents 12 case studies of “alternatives to sustainable development”. These case studies question the anthropocentric universalism of the development project and enact radically different relational ontologies, often gathered under the conceptual umbrella of the “pluriverse”. They focus on territorial, community, and network initiatives that intend to move methodologically beyond discourse analysis with a situated and empirical analysis of how pluriversal practices might flourish as well as generate tensions. We identify three frictions with capitalist modernity emerging from these contributions: (1) how alternatives to sustainable development relate to state institutions, (2) how they engage with the distribution of surplus, and (3) how they unsettle scientific epistemologies, at times regenerating past resources—and at other times radical futures. With this special feature, we hope to re-politicize the debates on the science and practice of sustainability, and weave the contributions of anticolonial and indigenous science studies into neo-Marxist and post-development critiques.