Indigenous Sustainable Development: Shaping Our Future

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

McGregor, D. (2022). Indigenous Sustainable Development: Shaping Our Future. In: The Palgrave Handbook of Global Sustainability. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.


Indigenous people; Sustainable development; Self-determination; Climate crisis


The concept of Sustainable Development was made famous with the release of the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. The success of achieving agreement on the definition of sustainable development from so many countries around the world became a source of great optimism in the effort to resolve global environmental issues. Such agreement was largely achieved, however, because the definition was open to interpretation. Since at least as early as 1992, the year of the first “Earth Summit,” Indigenous peoples from around the world have been sounding the alarm on how sustainable development has been interpreted and implemented by issuing international declarations warning that the concept has largely been used to reinforce the status quo, to the detriment of planetary health. This in turn has led to ever-increasing recognition that we are in a state of global environmental crisis. This chapter highlights the warnings issued by the world’s Indigenous peoples over the last four decades, and simultaneously contrasts the difference in world views between capitalist/consumerist society and Indigenous communities on the concept of sustainable development. Realization of the climate and ecological crisis has led to increased interest in Indigenous conceptions of sustainable development as guidance for the transformation called for in moving toward planetary wellbeing.