Freedom and Responsibility — Sustainable Prosperity Through a Capabilities Lens


Ingrid Robeyns

Are we at liberty to live our lives completely as we wish? Or are there constraints we have to be aware of as we want to avoid harming others and respect principles of ecological justice? And are lifestyles that embrace basic principles of ecological justice always dull and simple lives, where many enjoyable things are beyond reach, and which therefore entail a regress in our quality of life? Or is there a possibility to live lives that are at the same time sustainable and just, and that also allow us to be happy and flourishing?

This set of questions is one of the most central in the task of thinking about sustainable prosperity. To many people’s minds there is an inevitable trade-off between living ecologically sustainable on the one hand and living with higher levels of well-being on the other. If that trade-off is a real one, then those striving towards a more sustainable future are facing an uphill task, since ecological sustainability will only be possible by lowering people’s well-being—something most people have so far been unwilling to do. But is this trade-off real or is it spurious? Is it possible to lead good lives that are simultaneously just and ecologically sustainable?

For a full read of this essay, click here or on the picture to download the pdf file.


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