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This article discusses the contradictions of the term ‘sustainable development' by comparing the different positions—locational and chronological—and the different socio-cultural and personal contexts of people involved in sustainable development. Before the emergence and global recognition of a fixed definition of sustainable development in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission, or known as the ‘Brundtland’ definition, its meaning was contested for a long period. Sustainable development is, indeed, an approach which emphasises two often contradictory schools of thought: one concerned with limiting the excessive consumption of natural resources; the other focused on material development for economic growth and human well-being, but dependent on the availability of natural resource consumption. The terminology of sustainable development remains rather controversial and subject to tension. It may take a considerable effort beyond placing two problematic development terms and their related concepts together to ensure reconciliation between environmentalists and development economists. On the other hand, there are other perspectives to viewing the terminology of sustainable development as inherently contradictory. Sustainable development can be more or less straightforward, deeper or shallower, or broader or narrower than either certain local cultural definitions or the definition by the Brundtland Commission. Such local cultural definitions potentially have their ways to balance uneven development and creating their practices to cope with development. Illustrating this argument is a specific case study of the Thai sufficiency economy.
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