chapter  2
Background and History of Sustainability
WithAndrea J. Nightingale, Tom Böhler, Ben Campbell, Linus Karlsson
Pages 22

This chapter explores how the idea of sustainability has changed over time and within different regions. The expansion of the Industrial Revolution brought environmental concerns firmly onto the political agenda and established many of the environmental—social—economic relations that continue to shape sustainability challenges. The Industrial Revolution along with colonialism brought about widespread changes in economies and environments upon which the emerging global economy depended. Steady state is used in the environmental field to indicate an ecosystem, organism, or place that is in balance. While Thomas R. Malthus maintained that population growth would eventually lead to a crisis of resources, he simultaneously believed that technological progress could postpone the inevitable need to reduce demands on resource. Neo-Malthusianism refers to a line of thought advocating population control to ensure resource availability for current and future populations. Ideas of limits to economic growth, the need for moderating human exploitation of resources, and the desirability of steady states thus have a long history.