Dissertation Abstracts

Sustainability and Time

Author: Derrick, Stephen , stephen.derrick@monash.edu
Department: School of Political & Social Inquiry & Monash Sustainability Institute
University: Monash University, Australia
Supervisor: Dr Janet Stanley & Professor Alan Petersen
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Sustainability , Environment , Time
Areas of Research: Environment and Society , Science and Technology , Economy and Society


My thesis is about the term 'sustainability' and the ways in which its meanings are framed by different perspectives of time. Because the idea of sustainability is cross-disciplinary, I draw on literature across economics, environmental science, and sociology. Literature about sustainability demonstrates both the breadth of thinking about the term and the ways in which the dominant discourse is largely framed by economics and science. While economics mainly presents a short-term view of sustainability, environmental science takes a much longer term perspective. I argue that sustainability is essentially a social problem and suggest that sociological literature has much to contribute to understanding sustainability and the development of sustainable practices and policies. My thesis identifies that time is a key factor that is often either ignored, or not made explicit. Both short and long-term perspectives are useful in discussing sustainability, but trying to find the balance between the two is where the main difficulty occurs. I argue that our current perspective on sustainability is somewhat like looking through the wrong end of telescope; things that are close and important can be made to appear distant and unimportant, and vice versa. I draw on literature of Adam (time and time prints); Cipriani (social time and nature time) and Harvey and Nowotny (time space compression) in order to describe the importance of time in sustainability issues.