The Elusive Sustainable Development of Small Tropical Islands

Maciej Jędrusik 1
  • 1 Department of World Regional Geography Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies University of Warsaw


The notion of sustainable development is one of the most popular concepts of our time. However, it remains controversial and quite problematic, especially for small islands and their communities. These challenges arise in relation to the limited scope of resources which can be used for development, and the difficulty of defining the needs of future generations.

Looking at the history of many island jurisdictions, one is confronted with a picture of substantial economic evolution. Island communities have rarely, if ever, been able to foresee or plan their future; frequently, the situation has turned out to be very different from any previously envisaged scenarios. This should not be surprising, since small island destinies are often determined by external variables, over which they have little, if any, control. These variables include colonization, competition over scarce territories, improvements in transportation technologies, the information revolution and natural disasters. Thus, the very idea of sustainable development with respect to small islands is nothing but a charming slogan, an entertaining fiction rather than a reachable target. Of course, islands and their communities can take‘green’ initiatives that are more environmentally friendly; they cannot, however, achieve a state of sustainable development, except with a serious deterioration in the quality of life and off-island connectivity (by air or sea) of their residents.

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