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Sharing our Earth in the Anthropocene

Tuesday 7 June 2016


Professor Joyeeta Gupta

‘Sharing our Earth in the Anthropocene’

CGD 4th Annual Summer School in cooperation with EADI Keynote

 All Welcome 

Tuesday 7th June, 5pm to 7pm

Maurice Keyworth (Business School) LT G.02


In the age of the Anthropocene, the environmental utilization space (ecospace) is shrinking: some abiotic resources are shrinking in the short-term, some resources are fixed but demand is increasing, and sinks for pollution are shrinking on a per capita basis. Some of these resources need to be shared; others possibly not. This shrinking ecospace also affects the ‘right to develop’, who can develop and in what way. This ecospace is used to develop technospace – or the technologies and infrastructure used to organize societies. Ecospace and technospace are shaped by societies but also shape societies and raise new questions for development.

The shrinking ecospace can be dealt with in four ways – first through neo-liberal pricing, markets, and privatization of scarce goods; second through hegemonic means; third through polycentric approaches; and fourth through sustainable development governance. This presentation argues that sustainable development governance is the way forward, especially as patterns of autonomous development whether in terms of household pollution, urban pollution, forest depletion, greenhouse gas emissions and demographic transitions reveal that these transition patterns cannot be easily changed without conscious policy processes that deliberate on the principles of sharing. Within sustainable development approaches there is space of markets, polycentric approaches and hegemony. It then argues that there are five key hypotheses of sustainable development governance – first that globalization glocalizes problems and thus calls for scalar and glocal governance; second that although the world is changing in many ways, there are many persistent North-South, rich-poor problems and this calls for relational analysis; third, scarcity politics raises the hydra of securitization and that such securitization needs to be preempted through sustainability governance; fourth, fragmented governance is  inevitable at global level calling for the rule of law and global constitutionalism; and finally that dominant ideologies promote growth and environmental protection, but in this process we should not forget the significance of inclusive development. The presentation concludes by arguing for systemic solutions – the key elements of global constitutionalism and principles for governing the earth; the need to understand which paradigm will lead to sustainable development and will ensure the equitable sharing of our ecospace and under what circumstances; and the need to identify systemic goals (sustainable development goals), means (instruments and processes), and transition pathways to sustainable development. In doing so, the presentation also critically reviews the Sustainable Development Goals. These are the key elements of a research and policy agenda for ‘Sharing our Earth’ in the 21st century.


Gupta, J. (2014). Sharing our Earth, Inaugural address as Professor of Environment and Development in the Global South, University of Amsterdam, 5 June 2014.

Gupta, J. (2016). Geopolitics of the New Earth: Towards Sharing Our Ecospace, in S. Nicholson and S. Jinnah (eds.), New Earth Politics, MIT Press, 271-292.

Gupta, J. and C. Vegelin (2016). Sustainable Development Goals and Inclusive Development, INEA, DOI 10.1007/s10784-016-9323-z.