Tuesday, June 9, 2009



Of the many diagrams for maintaining the global ecosystem, the term "Sustainable Development" has often erroneously been used to refer to all environmental ideologies, when it is in reality a single discourse. Out of the many solutions proffered for saving the world, the concept of Sustainable Development has risen to the top of viable ecological discourses. Why? What is it about Sustainable Development that has made it the buzzword of these environmentally unsure times?

Sustainable Development grew from the work of the World Commission on Environmental Development (WCED)[i], at a 1987 conference mandated by the United Nations to accomplish three objectives:

1. Re-examine critical environment and development issues and formulate realistic procedures for dealing with them.

2. Propose new forms of international cooperation on these issues; and,

3. Raise the levels of understanding and commitment to action.

Contemporary definitions of Sustainable Development are mostly a product of this conference and their published report, Our Common Future (1987), a document promising a combined prescription to issues of ecology, economy, development and growth, social justice, and intergenerational equity. According to these definitional benchmarks, Sustainable Development requires that poverty and global inequalities be eliminated before environmental issues can be resolved.

Growth is an essential concept of Sustainable Development. Economy has become inextricably connected with ecology. As it becomes increasingly apparent that environmental problems have global effects, this interdependence effectively eliminates the old political systems of national compartmentalization. According to the WCED, social, economic and political inequalities among nations are the main culprits of environmental problems. In light of these concepts, the WCED proposed the following prescriptive:

1) global democratization;

2) effective limits management;

3) population growth in harmony with the productivity of the ecosystem;

4) global equalization through “fair-sharing” of resources; and,

5) management on an international civic levels rather than the local or state level.

Most importantly, the WCED cautions that Sustainable Development requires global cooperation—not hierarchies and competition.

Sustainable development concepts are also based on the premise that the economy and the environment can be brought into global harmonic cooperation. As the World Commission on Environment and Development reported:

…We have in the more recent past been forced to face up to a sharp increase in
economic interdependence among nations. We are now forced to accustom ourselves
to an accelerating ecological interdependence among nations. Ecology and economy
are becoming ever more interwoven—locally, regionally, nationally, and
globally—into a seamless net of causes and effects.

The recession of 08/09 has made clear global economic interdependence. An example of how Sustainable Development theories are congruent with economic theories is apparent in the issues of dependence on foreign oil supplies and Western societies unquenchable thirst for oil. Under the Obama Administration, this has prompted the creation of new regulations regarding fuel usage and alternate fuels in the auto industry. New regulations, such as a 35mpg minimum requirement on new vehicles within the next few years, are not only important to the economics and future in the global market for US automakers, but also addresses all related environmental issues of procuring, processing, storing, distrubuting, and consuming gasoline. At the same time, it encourages the growth and development of sustainable industry and a sustainable world.

Works Cited in this blog:
[i] Copyright © World Commission on Environment and Development 1987. Reprinted from Our Common Future (1987).
Retired Generals, Admirals Consider Oil Dependence A Security Risk http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/19/retired-generals-admirals_n_205432.html
c 2009 kimmarie rojas
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