In what could perhaps be referred to as the postmodernist mother of fiction - the novel 'Haroun and the sea of stories' - Salman Rushdie at one point puts his main character Haroun in a mail coach driven by a Mr Butt, on a rocky, windy, slippery road high up in the mountains, trying to reach a certain point before sunset. Faster and faster the bus goes, no longer stopping even to collect or deposit mail, frightening the passengers, but Mr Butt disregards their howls. Then Mr Butt sees another dangerous bit of road ahead and exclaims: 'The snow line! Icy patches ahead! Crumbling road surface! Hairpin bends! Danger of avalanches! ... ' and quite contrary to what Haroun had hoped, Mr Butt then turns his observations into a possibly fatal conclusion by shouting to himself: 'Full speed ahead' (Rushdie, p.36). I tell this story - which, incidentally, has a happy ending - because I regard Mr Butt's attitude as illustrative of the archetypical mainstream economist's response to almost any problem he or she may be confronted. with: they are very likely to conclude their analysis by recommending more economic growth - to develop at full speed. In a context of trying to contribute to sustainable development from a social science perspective, I think there is much more - if not much else - to say. We should learn from the warning on the wall near the exit of the bus station where Haroun read: If from speed (read: growth - JBO) you get your thrill, Take precaution - make your will This inaugural address marks my passage from the domain of environmental economics to the wider one of development studies, and the bridge between the two is called 'sustainable development'.

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Erasmus University Rotterdam
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Opschoor, H. (1996, May 23). Sustainability, economic restructuring and social change . Retrieved from