IOER Forum

The Future of Sustainable Development in the Anthropocene: In Search of an Alternative Paradigm

Dr. Louis Jacobus Kotzé
North-West University, South Africa

In this presentation it is argued that sustainable development is not a socio-ecologically friendly principle. The principle, which is deeply embedded in environmental law, policymaking and governance, drives environmentally destructive neoliberal economic growth that exploits and degrades the vulnerable living order. Despite seemingly well-meaning intentions behind the emergence of sustainable development, it almost invariably facilitates exploitative economic development activities that exacerbate systemic inequalities and injustices without noticeably protecting all life forms in the Anthropocene. The presentation concludes by examining an attempt to construct alternatives to sustainable development through the African indigenous onto-epistemology of Ubuntu. While no panacea, Ubuntu is a worldview that offers the potential to critically rethink how environmental law could re-orientate away from its ‘centered’, gendered and anthropocentric, neoliberal sustainable development ontology, to a radically different ontology that embraces ecologically sustainable ways of seeing, being, knowing and caring.

Our speaker:
Louis Kotzé is Research Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, North-West University, South Africa where he teaches International and African Regional Environmental Law in the LLM programme. His research broadly encompasses three interrelated themes that he approaches from a transnational perspective: human rights, socio-ecological justice and environmental constitutionalism; law and the Anthropocene; and earth system law. He has over 185 publications on these themes. He is assistant editor of the journal Earth System Governance; a member of the South African Academy of Science; former co-chair of the Earth System Governance Network’s Scientific Steering Committee; and co-convenor of the Network’s Taskforce on Earth System Law. In 2016 he obtained a second PhD at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. He is the recipient of several research awards including from, among others: the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the German Exchange Service, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation; the Austrian Exchange Service, and the South African National Research Foundation. He was awarded a European Commission Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Fellowship to lead a research project during 2018-2019 at the University of Lincoln. He was Programme Chair of the project Governing the Planetary Commons at The New Institute in Hamburg between 2023 and 2024. He also served as the Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow at the Potsdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in 2022 and remains involved at this institution as a researcher.

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.