Abby Wilson on strong vs weak sustainability

In her final paper for the 2011 field course, Abby Wilson looked at the controversy between environmentalists and fish farmers in Clayoquot Sound. She notes that it can be tempting to characterize their disagreement in terms of two different views about sustainability. Weak sustainability condones human use of natural resources, as long as those resources are replenished. Strong sustainability prohibits any major impact on the environment, regardless of whether it is replenished.  It might seem that fish farmers adopt the former view of sustainability while enviromentalists adopt the latter. 

However, Abby argues that, contrary to initial appearances, this is not what distinguishes the two groups. They do not disagree about the correct definition of sustainability (strong versus weak), although this is how one side of the debate --environmentalists-- would  portray the issue. The actual debate  turns on whether sustainability is a moral or a scientific issue in the first place. Environmentalists characterize sustainability as a moral issue, whereas industry tends to view it as a scientific one.  

You can read a summary of this interesting thesis in what follows.