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Fundamentals of Sustainable Development                                < Previous page        Next page >

English, 3rd Edition, 2021

Paperback:  ISBN 978-0367511197
Hardback:    ISBN 978-0367511227
E-book:         ISBN 978-1003052517

Request Free Inspection Copy:  Routledge Publishers.


On this page:


        Target Groups

        Editions in other languages

        Earlier English editions

        Foreword by Timothy Dixon


        Table of Contents


Numerous free accessories

Actually, this not just a book: it's a very complete teaching package. With the book comes an extensive collection of supporting accessories, including: software, powerpoints, assignments, elaborations of assignments (for lecturers only), video clips, spreadsheets, letters to the reader, online lectures.

You can freely download these materials from the accessories page.


Brief Table of Contents

The full table of contents can be found at the bottom of this page. In short:

3rd Edition (2021)
The Dutch and the German editions possess the identical structure and can be used in classes together with the English edition.

    1.    Sustainable development, an introduction
    2.    Flaws in the fabric: people and nature
    3.    Flaws in the fabric: people and society
    4.    Sources of vigour

    5.    Here and There
    6.    Now and Later
    7.    Climate and energy
    8.    Sustainable business practices

The Dutch equivalent
Noordhoff, 4th edition, 2020)

The German equivalent
(Springer, 1st edition, 2021)


A broad introduction of sustainable development based on a balance between people - planet - profit. A large number of themes are dealt with, not as separate topics but always in their mutual coherence.

The book offers a combination of theory and practice, enabling students of all types of higher education to embed and apply sustainability in their own discipline.


Target groups

Students in all sectors of colleges and universities. The book is used in courses in economics & management; engineering; social studies; greenery; teacher training; etc.

Educators and administrators in all types of education, from primary school to university: continuing education for educational development and implementation.

Other professionals, in every sector: commercial companies, governments, health care institutions, etc., who are committed to sustainability in their work.


Editions in other languages

Dutch:       Basisboek Duurzame Ontwikkeling. Noordhoff, 4e editie, 2020.

German:   Grundlagen der nachhaltigen Entwicklung. Springer Nature, 2020.


Earlier Editions

1st Edition (2012)

2nd Edition (2017)

4th Dutch Edition (2020)

Foreword to the 1st edition
by Timothy Dixon, Director of Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development

Fundamentals of Sustainable Development is the first book to focus on all disciplines in an exciting and innovative way. It draws together current thinking across a variety of studies to focus on ‘people’, ‘planet’ and ‘profit’, and cleverly places them within the context of ‘time’ and ‘space’.

The author presents his thinking in a clear and imaginative way, drawing on a range of case studies, and a particular strength of the book is its link with the comprehensive and exciting website.

In an era of obfuscation and controversy raging within the climate change arena, which sadly provides ammunition for sceptics, it is refreshing to see that the book has been verified and validated by experts, and that it directly tackles the socio-technical issues inherent in sustainable development.

‘Sustainable development’ is a frequently used term, but it is open to a variety of interpretations. Although the Brundtland definition (development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs) provides a good starting point by focusing on both ‘needs’ and ‘limitations’, there has been continued controversy over the exact meaning of the term, and this has often been exacerbated by treating the social, economic and environmental elements either in isolation, or in an unbalanced way. In turn, this has had a number of negative consequences. For example, there has frequently been an over-emphasis on the environmental dimension at the expense of the social dimension: carbon is relatively easy to count in comparison with ‘well-being’.

Moreover, the global recession is now placing many governments across the world in a position where they have to make vital and ‘generational’ decisions. Should economic growth be pursued at the expense of the environment, to avoid social unrest, as unemployment continues to rise? Or can a balance be found through a ‘green jobs’ agenda? Who leads and who follows on climate change, given the potentially devastating impacts for many parts of the developing world, combined with a continued desire for economic growth? 

In a very strong sense we are at a ‘tipping point’, and in the developed world we face a ‘triple crunch’ of climate change, economic crisis and oil depletion. To ask a big question therefore: do we have the collective intellect and political will to avoid the ‘tragedy of the commons’ in relation to environmental impact globally?

That is why governance and its relationship with behaviour, at a range of scales, is such an important part of sustainable development. We need to understand individual and societal behaviour, business behaviour and public sector behaviour to help design and implement policies which do have an impact, and help us move to a sustainable future. So, for example, corporate social responsibility (CSR), or what is increasingly being called ‘responsibility’, is seen as a vital part of the armoury against future environmental and socio-economic shocks.

With such a complex debate it is appropriate to view sustainable development itself as a ‘wicked problem’, so perhaps that is why, until now, there have been few attempts to draw the diverse strands of sustainable development into a single volume.
The author is to be congratulated on his strongly interdisciplinary work, which will help informed debate, and shape the current thinking of those who will live with the consequences of our collective actions over the next 30-40 years.

Timothy Dixon


Two decades after the Rio Earth Summit, the debate over sustainable development and how to achieve the necessary political, economic, social and technological change is as diverse but also as confusing as ever.  Fundamentals of Sustainable Development makes clearer sense of our current situation, the difficulties and dilemmas faced by people all over the world, and the key strategies that offer hope for a more sustainable future.

Written in a clear and accessible style with compelling analysis of case studies, this is an invaluable learning resource for students in disciplines across the natural and social sciences.  

Dr. Nigel Watson, Lecturer in Environmental Management, Lancaster University, UK

As the imperative for sustainable development increasingly comes into focus, so does the need for a new way of educating the next generation unshackled by the confines of traditional disciplines. ‘Fundamentals of Sustainable Development’ seamlessly moves from economics to ecology to political science, painting a realistic picture of intricate connections unbiased by the lens of any particular discipline.

Ruth DeFries, Denning Professor of Sustainable Development, Columbia University, New York, USA

I have now used the book Fundamentals of sustainable development for a year on a course, Teaching and learning for sustainable development, and now I’m planning  to use it on two other courses. The fact is that the students appreciate the book very much and so do I. I couldn´t have said it better.

Hans-Olof Höglund, Karlstad University, Sweden

Here is a lively and challenging resource book aimed at all who have an interest in sustainable development. It provides some excellent case studies and descriptions of the complex and diverse issues concerned with making this planet a safer and fairer place upon which we can all live. I can recommend it for undergraduates, for taught postgraduate students and their teachers, as well as the interested general reader who may be concerned with the future of humanity and our Earth

Dr. Hadrian Cook, Kingston University, London, UK

A recent monograph (via Routledge by Niko Roorda), Fundamentals of Sustainable Development strives to enable a global perspective for urgent discussions beyond academia. Its particular strength lies in bringing together issues of equity (among people) arising from insufficient recognition of ecology (around the planet) in the economy of growth (as irresponsible profits).

We strongly recommend careful reading — not just by federal and provincial bureaucrats and legislatures but also by organisations of employers and labour. Social activists will find much support for their advocacy agendas for local and provincial public action. Disagreements among the ‘haves and have-nots’ will arise, but it is the book’s strength to provoke informed contestation among those committed to a decent world for our children and their children. If the future does not matter, then human existence is indefensibly parasitical. The book provides a lot of material for even schools with good teachers.

Organised into eight chapters on not just what is but also what should and can be, the book presents numerous case studies across both the ‘developed and developing’ world. Those well-versed or just impatient can jump to the second part where solutions are discussed.

Dr. A. Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah, Pakistan

‘Fundamentals of Sustainable Development’ is unique and compelling with its focus on the triple bottom line of sustainability in a way that is both accessible and powerful for students and faculty.  While many books claim to be about ‘sustainable development’, they invariably fall short in addressing social and ethical aspects. ‘Fundamentals’ uses case studies and systems thinking to avoid this pitfall while highlighting the challenges and opportunities in sustainable development in a realistic yet optimistic manner that transcends disciplines.

Mike Shriberg, PhD, Education Director, Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, University of Michigan, USA

Aimed at a broad range of aspiring professionals, Fundamentals of Sustainable Development combines a penetrating critique of current unsustainable practices with a bracing survey of the “sources of vigor” that hold the potential to inform and energize a truly sustainable future.  Humans must mobilize immediately, and on a grand scale, if we are to cope successfully with the problems triggered by our rising population and our swelling ecological footprint.  Higher education has a critical role to play in preparing people to realize a society grounded in principles of justice and sustainability.  Shifting deftly between essential theories and illuminating case studies, this accessible and well-balanced text will enable students in all fields to grasp the complicated interplay among people, planet, and prosperity.  The book’s global scope helps underscore the planetary scale of the problems it describes and the solutions it proposes.

Andrew Wingfield, Associate Professor, Director, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA

There is an ever increasingly large number of books on the market dealing with sustainable development, so any new book has to offer something new.  Fundamentals of Sustainable Development By Niko Roorda published under the  Earthscan imprint by Routledge (2012) offers just that in a very innovative way.  It goes against the trend of specialization within the area of sustainable development, which often creates inaccessible and to my mind overly confusingly complex views, but gives a fresh approach to understanding the problems and to some extent the solutions to the crisis facing us today. Roorda describes the crisis in the develop world as the triple crunch (i.e. climate change, economic crisis and oil depletion), which illustrates his no nonsense approach.

Based on case studies and littered with other examples and colour images, this is a fascinating book and is as complete a text as I think could have been achieved.  It has numerous student questions which, with the support of an equally innovative and exciting website, makes this text very interactive.

The book really is interdisciplinary, and while challenging in places is truly accessible to readers of all backgrounds.   The presentation of the book is excellent and the format makes this a very attractive paperback, and at 350 pages, it is not too big for students (and lecturers) to carry around. This is a colourful and intriguing textbook which I highly recommend.  It is the sort of book you wish you had written yourself, but Niko Roorda has done just that and in the process added a remarkable edition to the sustainability library.

Nick Gray, Professor Environmental Sciences, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

Last year, I piloted an excellent publication called Fundamentals of Sustainable Development by Dutch author Niko Roorda, which my graduate students, some with substantial experience in the topic and others newcomers to the field, thoroughly praised for its breadth as well as its depth.

Supported by a myriad of case studies, photographs, and charts, Roorda’s book covers the concepts of intra- and intergenerational equity; the developments leading up to the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development; the triple bottom line (people, planet, and profit); linear versus systems thinking, including positive and negative feedback loops and their influences on stocks and flows; population growth and its impact on ecosystems; the relationship between economic imbalance, ecosystem destruction and poverty, violence, and warfare; the impact of climate change, including adaptation and mitigation efforts; the precautionary principle; recent geopolitical developments such as the ascent of China as an economic powerhouse; computer models projecting future growth scenarios; energy resources, including peak oil and renewable energy sources, global economic production lines and chain management; and corporate social responsibility and ethical standards.

Anouchka Rachelson, Miami Dade College, Florida, USA

Table of Contents

Below are some images from the book. For more images, you can also look at the Tables of Content of the Dutch and the German book.


1. Sustainable development, an introduction

    1.1.    Man and nature

    1.2.    Rich and poor

    1.3.    Problems and success stories

    1.4.    Two dimensions: here and there, now and later

    1.5.    The definition of ‘sustainable development’

    1.6.    The Triple P

    1.7.    Top-down and bottom-up

2. Flaws in the fabric: People and nature

    2.1.    One-way traffic: no cycles

    2.2.    Positive feedback: moving up or down without inhibitions

    2.3.    Overexploitation: a gigantic footprint

    2.4.    Clean water: all for humankind, but still not enough

    2.5.    Agriculture and livestock farming: excessive efficiency, but still not enough

    2.6.    Consequences for the natural environment

3. Flaws in the fabric: People and society

    3.1.    PPP in imbalance: the economy first

    3.2.    Inequality: the lack of solidarity

    3.3.    Dehumanisation: alienation and exclusion

    3.4.    The lack of safety: terror, war, dictatorships

    3.5.    The fabric of man, nature and the economy

4. Sources of vigour

    4.1.    International organisations

    4.2.    Ideas and sources of inspiration

    4.3.    People

    4.4.    Nature

    4.5.    Science and technology

    4.6.    Entrepreneurship

    4.7.    Students

    4.8.    Circular economy

    4.9.    The sustainable development goals


5. Here and there

    5.1.    China: growth, but not in terms of human rights

    5.2.    India: high-tech versus rural

    5.3.    The EU: continent of an aging population

    5.4.    ECOWAS: explosive population growth in Africa

    5.5.    Shared responsibility

6. Now and later

    6.1.    Lessons from history

    6.2.    Prophets, futurologists and science fiction authors

    6.3.    Models, scenarios and simulations

    6.4.    Growth models

    6.5.    World scenarios

    6.6.    What kind of world do we actually want?

7. Climate and energy

    7.1.    The phenomenon: temperatures rising

    7.2.    The cause: the greenhouse effect

    7.3.    The consequences: from the rise of sea levels to crop failures

    7.4.    Solutions: technology and lifestyle

    7.5.    Political and economic instruments

8. Sustainable business practices

    8.1.    Corporate social responsibility

    8.2.    Corporate governance

    8.3.    Sustainable products and services: towards a circular economy

    8.4.    Future-oriented entrepreneurship

    8.5.    The sustainably competent professional

Afterword: a first letter from the author

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