Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chapter 39: Towards Sustainable Development

The entirety of this chapter is from the World Commission on Environmental and Development so I cannot accurately name the author. However I will begin with an review of the typical intro paragraph.

The WC on E&D (WCED) was founded in 1983 by the UN secretary general in response to a call by the UN who charged the WCED with the task of creating a "global Agenda for change". "Gro Harlem Bruntland (b.1939), then director General of the World Health Organization and now a U.N. Climate Envoy, was chosen to organize and chair this commission." She has supported the UN mandate that called for a sustainable development by the year 2000 and beyond. Our Common Future was a report several years in the making by the WCED and lead to the Rio de Janerio conference in 1992 to address and create an agenda to address global environmental issues while promoting equitable economic development.

The Key Concept of the chapter is Sustainable Development.

The first section of the chapter is titled The Concept of Sustainable Development. As this entire blog is basically a definition and description of said title I will be very brief and highlight only previously unmentioned or important points from the section. To start off the section remind us that so long as a world has endemic poverty and inequity is will always be prone to crisis ecological or otherwise. Living standards can only be maintained if current consumption standards are long ranged, which they clearly aren't. "Hence, ssustainable development requires requires that societies meet human needs both by increasing productive potential and by ensuring equitable opportunities for all."

Today mankind's interventions in natural systems to extract or use resources is very profound and threaten life support systems both locally and globally. This doesn't have to happen "At a minimum, sustainable development must not endanger the natural systems that support life on Earth: the atmosphere, the waters, the soils, and the living beings." We must remember that technology can increase the carrying capacity of a society but ultimate limits exist and we must be wary of them. Renewable resources must be handled carefully (such as forests) for while they can be heavily relied upon this should only happen if we have taken into account growth rate of the trees or animals, and all other factors so as to ensure we do not decimate an a resource area and that it can regrow and be reused eventually. For non renewable resources (fossil fuels, etc) "the rate of depletion should should take into account the critically of the resource, the availability of technologies for minimizing depletion, and the likelihood of substitutes being available."

Development is a major threat as it tend to simplify ecosystems and remove (on purpose or by accident) numerous species and decreases the biodiversity in an ecosystem. This can limit the options of future generations so development must be handled with the utmost care to ensure that the ecosystem can be sustained. We must also remember that air and water are resources as well (albeit free ones) and must be protected and managed properly as well.

To summarize the section: Sustainable Development is a state where resource exploitation along with investments, technological development and institutional change are all in harmony.

Now onto the next section: Equity and the Common Interest. The section first presents the major problem of the whole idea of "Power to the people" is not working. Industry has more say and influence than workers and residents of a an are who's resources are being harvested or under development. Ecological interactions have little to no respect for the boundaries of individual ownership and political jurisdiction. Some example include how the use of pesticides and fertilizers on one farm affects the productivity of a neighbouring farm and hot water discharged by a thermal plant into a river or sea can affect the people who fish locally. More traditional social systems emphasised the the aspects of this interdependence and were more focused on the common interest. However, technology has begun to isolate these aspects and eroded common rights in resources such as forests. "Responsibilities for decision making are being taken away from both groups and individuals." A concept for this section is Interdependence, or that we all rely on one another. However, most people do not feel like taking a stand because they are unsure or do not believe that they will have the support of others, effectively isolating them to their own self-interest. Governments and Communities can get around this through laws, education, taxes and other methods.

However common interest can only be articulated through international cooperation as if countries and jurisdictions within countries are left to their own devices their various policies or lack there of will conflict with other jurisdictions and their resources and environments. Of course international cooperation is not perfect. There is no "Grand Solution" to all the issues before us, there will always be winners and losers. Inequalities in access to resources is the source of this. As a system approaches its ecological limits the inequalities in access grow. For example, if a watershed deteriorates poor farmers suffer as they cannot afford the same anti erosion measures as richer farmers. Hence, the neglect of economic and social justice within and amongst nations is the source of our inability to promote common, sustainable interests.

Strategic Imperatives is broken into two smaller sections. The first is Reorienting Technology and Managing Risks. To first accomplish these goal we must start with technology. To start off we must increase the technological capacities in developing countries so that the have the ability to respond more effectively to the challenges presented by sustainable development. The bulk of technological development is focused on few issues faced by developing countries. We need to do more to adapt technologies to the needs of these countries and extend the capabilities of the Third World. In all countries the processes of generating technology and updating it as well as adapting it should be informed by environmental resource concerns. Public policy should also be responsible for ensuring that commercial organizations find it a worthwhile endeavor to to take a fuller account of of any and all environmental factors in technologies they develop. Risk assessment is also a major point. Systems we have put in place such as for transportation can be broken if strained to a certain point. We must be aware of these breaking points as they could have negative affects not only on people, but the environment to.

Merging Environment and Economics in Decision Making is the second pert of this section. "Economic and Ecological decisions are not necessarily in opposition." In fact they must be combined to ensure proper sustainable development. This entire chapter deals with the idea of balance. While that may not be the exact wording or immediate idea gathered from the key concept, it is one of the major ideas behind it. Policies can be implemented to protect vulnerable areas of land and forests improve all long-term prospects for that area. Policies can also be used to ensure companies make more fuel and energy efficient products by set dates. Currently there is a fair bit of fragmentation amongst different companies and sectors who mostly look after their own needs and follow their own ideas and policies only affect certain organizations an territories. We have to end this to ensure that we are all on the same page and contributing equally to sustainable development. "Sustainability requires the enforcement of wider responsibilities for the impacts of decisions." However we cannot rely on the law alone to achieve this, but with community knowledge and support which mean more public participation and promoting citizen's power, initiative as well as strengthening local democracy and and empowering people's organizations.

Conclusion is clearly then end of the chapter and a brief section. I will list some of the requirements for sustainable development here from the book:

- a political system that secures effective citizen participation and decision making.
- an economic system that is able to generate surpluses and technical knowledge on a self-reliant and sustained basis.
- a technological system that can search continuously for new solutions.
- an international system that fosters sustainable patterns of trade and finance.

To end off the chapter this section states that the above ideas above are more in the nature of goals that should underline action on sustainable development. It is the sincerity at which these goals are pursued and the effectiveness of how departures are corrected/

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