Of Limits and Growth connects three of the most important aspects of the twentieth century: decolonization, the rise of environmentalism, and the United States' support for economic development and modernization in the Third World. It links these trends by revealing how environmental NGOs challenged and reformed development approaches of the US government, World Bank, and United Nations from the 1960s through the 1990s. Of Limits and Growth shows how NGOs promoted the use of 'appropriate' technologies, environmental reviews in the lending process, development plans based on ecological principles, and international cooperation on global issues such as climate change. It also reveals that the 'sustainable development' concept emerged from transnational negotiations in which environmentalists accommodated the developmental aspirations of Third World intellectuals and leaders. In sum, Of Limits and Growth offers a new history of sustainability by elucidating the global origins of environmental activism, the ways in which environmental activists challenged development approaches worldwide, and how environmental non-state actors reshaped the United States' and World Bank's development policies.
"This illuminating book shows the decisive role NGOs played in affixing 'sustainable' to 'development'. But sustainability's popularity can be a function of how it smoothes over or obscures real differences among various constituencies regarding the ends and means of development [...] the book offers a revealing story about the power of NGOs to influence world affairs even as it demonstrates their limits."
– David Ekbladh, Tufts University, Massachusetts
"This book provides the best history in print on international environmental NGOs and their influence on policy. Macekura explains the emergence of these NGOs after the Second World War, he shows how they helped to define 'sustainable development', and he analyzes how they reshaped international affairs. Macekura also elucidates the limits of these organizations, especially when confronting resistance from the United States and other powerful states. This is a foundational book for anyone interested in international development, environmentalism, and contemporary foreign policy."
– Jeremi Suri, University of Texas, Austin
"Of Limits and Growth is a compelling addition to the literature on the rise of the global environmental movement and its struggle with the pressures for Third World development that followed decolonization in Africa and Asia. Macekura integrates the many dimensions of the subject more lucidly than [in] any previous work. His book will be well received by international studies scholars and environmental historians, as well as the development aid community."
– Richard Tucker, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Introduction: on the origins of 'sustainable development'
1. The rise of international conservation and post-war development
2. Parks and poverty in Africa: conservation, decolonization, and development
3. 'The world's most dangerous political issue': the 1972 Stockholm conference and the politics of environmental protection
4. When small seemed beautiful: NGOs, appropriate technology, and international development in the 1970s
5. Leveraging the lenders: the quest for environmental impact statements in the United States and the World Bank
6. Conservation for development: the World Conservation Strategy and the rise of sustainable development planning
7. The persistence of old problems: the politics of environment and development at the Rio Earth Summit
Conclusion: the limits and growth of NGOs.
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Stephen Macekura is Assistant Professor of International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.