Understanding Rationality in Sustainable Development Decision-Making: Unfolding the Motivations for Action
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionJournal of the Knowledge Economy. 2020, 11 (3), 1086-1119. 10.1007/s13132-019-0585-x
In sustainable development (SD), the rationality behind decision-making is non-trivial because it deals with, among others, inter-temporal issues in complex systems. Choosing the rational thing to do and coping with the tradeoffs of short and long-term outcomes are demanding because of the uncertainty regarding future preferences and the consequences of today’s actions. If decisions are poorly made, there could be terrible consequences for humanity. One way to understand the rationality behind the SD decision-making process is to study the motivations to act. However, the motivations to engage in SD are insufficiently discussed in the literature. This paper aims to analyze those motivations in the context of rational decision-making with different time frames by making them explicit. A framework is proposed to identify motivations by systematizing the sample literature on why SD is important, what SD is, and how SD is practiced. The fear of harm from possible overshoot and collapse is proposed as the main driver for the motivations to act. Such fear shapes understandings of the inter-temporal effects of today’s decisions, suggesting the use of different types of rationalities according to the time frame considered.