The world's natural resources are being battered on all fronts. Human activities which consume such resources need to be reconsidered in a way which will allow the regenerative capacity of these assets to function. In view of the potential danger of the concept of sustainable development (SD) becoming an empty catch-phrase of contemporary environmentalism, a thorough analysis and discussion of the concept is therefore required. A distinction is made between sustainable growth and sustainable development. In the general debate sustainable growth is often used by politicians and developers as synonym for sustainable development. It is argued, however, that this is either a misunderstanding based on a superficial knowledge about the meaning of the sustainability concept or simply that it is cynically used to make the traditional growth philosophy more 'digestible' in an age of increasing environmental concern. Except from the concept of industrial ecology, present environmental responses from industry bear little resemblance with a basic systems approach to the concept of sustainability. A systems approach, as in constrast to a reductionist approach, holds promises for paving the way for an ecologically and economically more sustainable development.
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The 17th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society & 5th Australian New Zealand Systems Conference, 1999