At the beginning of their excellent book Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (2003), Agyeman et al. establish a new definition for sustainable development. To replace the now well-rehearsed version of sustainability established by the World Commission on Environment and Development as: ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (WCED 1987: 43), Agyeman et al. instead interpret sustainable development as ‘the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems’ (Agyeman et al. 2003: 2). While I freely admit that this new definition may lack some of the simplicity and directness of its predecessor, I think that it embraces some critical insights into the nature of the sustainable society which are regularly overlooked. The point is that within the WCED’s definition of sustainable development, the idea of achieving the needs of present generation remains an unqualified assumption. I say unqualified because this definition fails to place the concept of need within a global context. As soon as we begin to interpret need within a global context, we become aware of great variations within what different people define as needs and of the great disparity which exists in the extent to which different people have their needs met. At one level, it is possible to calculate with a reasonable degree of accuracy what the basic needs of all humans are. These would include the intake of certain levels of nutrition, access to shelter and health care and the maintenance of a clean environment within which to live. Beyond these needs, many of us define our needs in very different ways. Many people living in Britain claim that they need a car, without which their lifestyle of commuting to work and living in the countryside would

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require simply to live are not being adequately met. United Nations figures reveal that nearly eight hundred million people in the world today do not get enough food to eat, while approximately five hundred million are designated by the United Nations as being chronically malnourished.1