User Tools

Site Tools


sustainability
Snippet from Wikipedia: Sustainability

Sustainability is the ability to exist constantly. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for the biosphere and human civilization to coexist. It is also defined as the process of people maintaining change in a homeostasis balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. For many in the field, sustainability is defined through the following interconnected domains or pillars: environment, economic and social, which according to Fritjof Capra is based on the principles of Systems Thinking. Sub-domains of sustainable development have been considered also: cultural, technological and political. According to Our Common Future, Sustainable development is defined as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development may be the organizing principle of sustainability, yet others may view the two terms as paradoxical (i.e., development is inherently unsustainable).

Sustainability can also be defined as a socio-ecological process characterized by the pursuit of a common ideal. An ideal is by definition unattainable in a given time and space. However, by persistently and dynamically approaching it, the process results in a sustainable system. Many environmentalists and ecologists argue that sustainability is achieved through the balance of species and the resources within their environment. As is typically practiced in natural resource management, the goal is to maintain this equilibrium, available resources must not be depleted faster than resources are naturally generated.

Modern use of the term sustainability is broad and difficult to define precisely. Originally, sustainability meant making only such use of natural, renewable resources that people can continue to rely on their yields in the long term. The concept of sustainability, or Nachhaltigkeit in German, can be traced back to Hans Carl von Carlowitz (1645–1714), and was applied to forestry.

Healthy ecosystems and environments are necessary to the survival of humans and other organisms. Ways of reducing negative human impact are environmentally-friendly chemical engineering, environmental resources management and environmental protection. Information is gained from green computing, green chemistry, earth science, environmental science and conservation biology. Ecological economics studies the fields of academic research that aim to address human economies and natural ecosystems.

Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, supply chain management, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganizing living conditions (e.g., ecovillages, eco-municipalities and sustainable cities), reappraising economic sectors (permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture), or work practices (sustainable architecture), using science to develop new technologies (green technologies, renewable energy and sustainable fission and fusion power), or designing systems in a flexible and reversible manner, and adjusting individual lifestyles that conserve natural resources.

In sum, "the term 'sustainability' should be viewed as humanity's target goal of human-ecosystem equilibrium (homeostasis), while 'sustainable development' refers to the holistic approach and temporal processes that lead us to the end point of sustainability." Despite the increased popularity of the use of the term "sustainability", the possibility that human societies will achieve environmental sustainability has been, and continues to be, questioned—in light of environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption, population growth and societies' pursuit of unlimited economic growth in a closed system.

In ecology, sustainability is how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has ecological, economic, political and cultural dimensions. Sustainability requires the reconciliation of these environmental, social equity and economic demands - also referred to as the “three pillars” of sustainability or the 3 Es.

Healthy ecosystems and environments are necessary to the survival and flourishing of humans and other organisms. There are a number of major ways of reducing negative human impact. Among the first of these are environmentally-friendly chemical engineering, environmental resources management and environmental protection. This approach is based largely on information gained from green chemistry, earth science, environmental science and conservation biology. The second approach is management of human consumption of resources, which is based largely on information gained from economics. A third more recent approach adds cultural and political concerns into the sustainability matrix.

Sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and environmental consequences of economic activity. Sustainability economics involves ecological economics where social aspects including cultural, health-related and monetary/financial aspects are integrated. Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganising living conditions (e.g., ecovillages, eco-municipalities and sustainable cities), reappraising economic sectors (permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture), or work practices (sustainable architecture), using science to develop new technologies (green technologies, renewable energy and sustainable Fission and Fusion power), to adjustments in individual lifestyles that conserve natural resources. Despite the increased popularity of the use of the term “sustainability”, the possibility that human societies will achieve environmental sustainability has been, and continues to be, questioned—in light of environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption, and societies' pursuit of indefinite economic growth in a closed system.<ref>website for State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? http://blogs.worldwatch.org/sustainabilitypossible/</ref><ref>Strong sustainable consumption governance - precondition for a degrowth path? http://degrowth.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Lorek_Sustainable-consumption.pdf</ref>

The word sustainability is derived from the Latin sustinere (tenere, to hold; sus, up). Sustain can mean “maintain“, “support”, or “endure”.<ref>Dictionary.com</ref><ref>Onions, Charles, T. (ed) (1964). The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 2095.</ref> Since the 1980s sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth and this has resulted in the most widely quoted definition of sustainability as a part of the concept sustainable development, that of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations on March 20, 1987: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”<ref>United Nations General Assembly (1987) ''Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future''. Transmitted to the General Assembly as an Annex to document A/42/427 - Development and International Co-operation: Environment. Retrieved on: 2009-02-15.</ref><ref>

</ref>

Components

File:Nested sustainability-v2.svg

indicating the relationship between the three pillars of sustainability, suggesting that both economy and society are constrained by environmental limits<ref>Scott Cato, M. (2009). Green Economics. London: Earthscan, pp. 36–37. ISBN 978-1-84407-571-3.</ref>]]

The 2005 World Summit on Social Development resolved to promote the integration of the three components of sustainable development– economic development, social development and environmental protection.<ref>United Nations General Assembly (2005). 2005 World Summit Outcome, Resolution A/60/1, adopted by the General Assembly on 15 September 2005. Retrieved on: 2009-02-17.</ref> This view has been expressed as an illustration using three overlapping ellipses indicating that the three pillars of sustainability are not mutually exclusive and can be mutually reinforcing.<ref>Forestry Commission of Great Britain. Sustainability. Retrieved on: 2009-03-09</ref> The three pillars have served as a common ground for numerous sustainability standards and certification systems in recent years, in particular in the food industry.<ref>Manning, S., Boons, F., Von Hagen, O., Reinecke, J. (2011). "National Contexts Matter: The Co-Evolution of Sustainability Standards in Global Value Chains." Ecological Economics, Forthcoming.</ref><ref>Reinecke, J., Manning, S., Von Hagen, O. (2012). "The Emergence of a Standards Market: Multiplicity of Sustainability Standards in the Global Coffee Industry" Organization Studies, Forthcoming.</ref> Standards which today explicitly refer to the triple bottom line include Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and UTZ Certified.<ref>SAI Platform 2010. Sustainability Indicators. Sustainable Agricultural Initiative. Retrieved on: 2011-09-04.</ref><ref>Alvarez, G. [www.intracen.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=51770 Sustainable Agriculture and Value networks]. Lausanne, Switzerland: Latitude. Retrieved on: 2011-10-04.</ref> The triple bottom line is also recognized by the ISEAL Alliance - the global association for social and environmental standards.

Sustainable development as defined by the UN is not universally accepted and has undergone various interpretations.<ref>International Institute for Sustainable Development (2009). ''What is Sustainable Development''?. Retrieved on: 2009-02-18.]</ref><ref>EurActiv (2004). "Sustainable Development: Introduction." Retrieved on: 2009-02-24</ref><ref>Kates, R., Parris, T. & Leiserowitz, A. (2005). "What is Sustainable Development?" Environment 47(3): 8–21. Retrieved on: 2009-04-14.</ref> What sustainability is, what its goals should be, and how these goals are to be achieved are all open to interpretation.<ref>Holling, C. S. (2000). "Theories for Sustainable Futures" Conservation Ecology 4(2): 7. Retrieved on: 2013-08-02.</ref> For many environmentalists 'sustainable development' is an oxymoron - as development seems to entail environmental degradation.<ref>

</ref> Ecological economist Herman Daly has asked, “what use is a sawmill without a forest?”<ref name=“Daly & Cobb 1989”>Daly & Cobb (1989).</ref> From this perspective, the economy is a subsystem of human society, which is itself a subsystem of the biosphere, and a gain in one sector is a loss from another.<ref>Porritt, J. (2006). Capitalism as if the world mattered. London: Earthscan. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-84407-193-7.</ref> This can be illustrated as three concentric circles, though with economics treated as only one of a number of domains that includes politics and culture.

The simple definition “sustainability is improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems”,<ref name = caring>IUCN/UNEP/WWF (1991). "Caring for the Earth: A Strategy for Sustainable Living." Gland, Switzerland. Retrieved on: 2009-03-29.</ref> though vague, conveys the idea of sustainability having quantifiable limits. But sustainability is also a call to action, a task in progress or “journey” and therefore a political process, so some definitions set out common goals and values.<ref>

</ref> The Earth Charter<ref name=“EarthCharter”>The Earth Charter Initiative (2000). "The Earth Charter." Retrieved on: 2009-04-05.</ref> speaks of “a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.”

To add complication, the word sustainability is applied not only to human sustainability on Earth, but to many situations and contexts over many scales of space and time, from small local ones to the global balance of production and consumption. It implies responsible and proactive decision-making and innovation that minimizes negative impact and maintains balance between social, environmental, and economic growth to ensure a desirable planet for all species now and in the future. It can also just refer to a future intention: “sustainable agriculture” is not necessarily a current situation but a goal for the future, a prediction.<ref>Costanza, R. & Patten, B.C. (1995). “Defining and predicting sustainability.” Ecological Economics 15 (3): 193–196.</ref> For all these reasons sustainability is perceived, at one extreme, as nothing more than a feel-good buzzword with little meaning or substance<ref>Dunning, Brian. (2006). "Sustainable Sustainability: Focus on the year's undisputed overused buzzword: "Sustainable"." Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena Retrieved on: 2009-02-16.</ref><ref>Marshall, J.D. & Toffel, M.W. (2005). “Framing the Elusive Concept of Sustainability: A Sustainability Hierarchy.” Environmental & Scientific Technology 39(3): 673–682.</ref> but, at the other, as an important but unfocused concept like “liberty” or “justice”.<ref>Blewitt, J. (2008). Understanding Sustainable Development. London: Earthscan. pp. 21-24. ISBN 978-1-84407-454-9.</ref> It has also been described as a “dialogue of values that defies consensual definition”.<ref>Ratner, B.D. (2004). “Sustainability as a Dialogue of Values: Challenges to the Sociology of Development.” Sociological Inquiry 74(1): 50–69.</ref>

Some researchers and institutions have pointed out that these three dimensions are not enough to reflect the complexity of contemporary society and suggest that culture could be included in this development model.<ref>Agenda 21 for culture website.</ref> One emerging alternative to the three pillars is the Circles of Sustainability conception. It asks firstly why economics is treated either outside the social (the three-circle venn diagram) or central to the social (the three-circle diagram). Secondly, it asks why other domains are treated as externalities to economic considerations. This alternative approach is now being used by a number of agencies such as the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme.<ref>http://citiesprogramme.com/aboutus/our-approach/circles-of-sustainability</ref>

History

The history of sustainability traces human-dominated ecological systems from the earliest civilizations to the present time. This history is characterized by the increased regional success of a particular society, followed by crises that were either resolved, producing sustainability, or not, leading to decline.<ref>Beddoea, R., Costanzaa, R., Farleya, J., Garza, E., Kent, J., Kubiszewski, I., Martinez, L., McCowen, T., Murphy, K., Myers, N., Ogden, Z., Stapleton, K., and Woodward, J. (February 24, 2009). "Overcoming systemic roadblocks to sustainability: The evolutionary redesign of worldviews, institutions, and technologies." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 8 2483–2489. Retrieved on: 2009-08-20.</ref><ref>Wright, R. (2004). A Short History of Progress. Toronto: Anansi. ISBN 0-88784-706-4.</ref>

In early human history, the use of fire and desire for specific foods may have altered the natural composition of plant and animal communities.<ref>Scholars, R. (2003). Stories from the Stone Age. Beyond Productions in association with S4C and S4C International. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved on: 2009-04-16.</ref> Between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, Agrarian communities emerged which depended largely on their environment and the creation of a “structure of permanence.”<ref>Clarke, W. C. (1977). “The Structure of Permanence: The Relevance of Self-Subsistence Communities for World Ecosystem Management,” in Subsistence and Survival: Rural Ecology in the Pacific. Bayliss-Smith, T. and R. Feachem (eds). London: Academic Press, pp. 363–384.</ref>

The Western industrial revolution of the 18th to 19th centuries tapped into the vast growth potential of the energy in fossil fuels. Coal was used to power ever more efficient engines and later to generate electricity. Modern sanitation systems and advances in medicine protected large populations from disease.<ref>Hilgenkamp, K. (2005). Environmental Health: Ecological Perspectives. London: Jones & Bartlett. ISBN 978-0-7637-2377-4.</ref> In the mid-20th century, a gathering environmental movement pointed out that there were environmental costs associated with the many material benefits that were now being enjoyed. In the late 20th century, environmental problems became global in scale.<ref>Meadows, D.H., D.L. Meadows, J. Randers, and W. Behrens III. (1972). The Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books. ISBN 0-87663-165-0.</ref><ref name=LPR>World Wide Fund for Nature (2008). ''Living Planet Report 2008''. Retrieved on: 2009-03-29.</ref><ref>Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). ''Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis.'' World Resources Institute, Washington, DC. pp. 1-85. Retrieved on: 2009-07-08-01.</ref><ref>Turner, G.M. (2008). " A Comparison of The Limits to Growth with 30 Years of Reality." Global Environmental Change 18: 397–411. Online version published by CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems. Retrieved on: 2009-01-03</ref> The 1973 and 1979 energy crises demonstrated the extent to which the global community had become dependent on non-renewable energy resources.

In the 21st century, there is increasing global awareness of the threat posed by the human greenhouse effect, produced largely by forest clearing and the burning of fossil fuels.<ref>U.S. Department of Commerce. Carbon Cycle Science. NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory. Retrieved on: 2009-03-14</ref><ref>BBC News (August 2008). In depth: "Climate Change." BBC News, UK. Retrieved on: 2009-03-14</ref>

Principles and concepts

The philosophical and analytic framework of sustainability draws on and connects with many different disciplines and fields; in recent years an area that has come to be called sustainability science has emerged.<ref>Kates, Robert W., ed. (2010). Readings in Sustainability Science and Technology - an introduction to the key literaturs of sustainability science CID Working Paper No. 213. Center for International Development, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, December 2010.</ref> Sustainability science is not yet an autonomous field or discipline of its own, and has tended to be problem-driven and oriented towards guiding decision-making.<ref>William C. Clark, Nancy M. Dickson, "Sustainability science: The emerging research program", ''PNAS'', Vol. 100, No. 14, June 6, 2003.</ref>

Scale and context

Sustainability is studied and managed over many scales (levels or frames of reference) of time and space and in many contexts of environmental, social and economic organization. The focus ranges from the total carrying capacity (sustainability) of planet Earth to the sustainability of economic sectors, ecosystems, countries, municipalities, neighbourhoods, home gardens, individual lives, individual goods and services

, occupations, lifestyles, behaviour patterns and so on. In short, it can entail the full compass of biological and human activity or any part of it.<ref>Conceptual Framework Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (2003). “Ecosystems and Human Well-being.” London: Island Press. Chapter 5. “Dealing with Scale”. pp. 107–124. ISBN 155634030.</ref> As Daniel Botkin, author and environmentalist, has stated: “We see a landscape that is always in flux, changing over many scales of time and space.”<ref>Botkin (1990).</ref>

Consumption

A major driver of human impact on Earth systems is the destruction of biophysical resources, and especially, the Earth's ecosystems. The environmental impact of a community or of humankind as a whole depends both on population and impact per person, which in turn depends in complex ways on what resources are being used, whether or not those resources are renewable, and the scale of the human activity relative to the carrying capacity of the ecosystems involved. Careful resource management can be applied at many scales, from economic sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and industry, to work organizations, the consumption patterns of households and individuals and to the resource demands of individual goods and services.<ref>Clark (2006).</ref><ref name=Brower>Brower & Leon (1999).</ref>

One of the initial attempts to express human impact mathematically was developed in the 1970s and is called the I PAT formula. This formulation attempts to explain human consumption in terms of three components: population numbers, levels of consumption (which it terms “affluence”, although the usage is different), and impact per unit of resource use (which is termed “technology”, because this impact depends on the technology used). The equation is expressed:

:::::::: I = P × A × T

::: Where: I = Environmental impact, P = Population, A = Affluence, T = Technology<ref name=Ehrlich&Holden>Ehrlich, P.R. & Holden, J.P. (1974). “Human Population and the global environment.” American Scientist 62(3): 282–292.</ref>

Measurement

Sustainability measurement is a term that denotes the measurements used as the quantitative basis for the informed management of sustainability.<ref>

</ref> The metrics used for the measurement of sustainability (involving the sustainability of environmental, social and economic domains, both individually and in various combinations) are evolving: they include indicators, benchmarks, audits, sustainability standards and certification systems like Fairtrade and Organic, indexes and accounting, as well as assessment, appraisal<ref>Dalal-Clayton, Barry and Sadler, Barry 2009. Sustainability Appraisal. A Sourcebook and Reference Guide to International Experience. London: Earthscan. ISBN 978-1-84407-357-3.</ref> and other reporting systems. They are applied over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.<ref>Hak, T. et al. 2007. Sustainability Indicators, SCOPE 67. Island Press, London.</ref><ref>Bell, Simon and Morse, Stephen 2008. Sustainability Indicators. Measuring the Immeasurable? 2nd edn. London: Earthscan. ISBN 978-1-84407-299-6.</ref>

Some of the best known and most widely used sustainability measures include corporate sustainability reporting, Triple Bottom Line accounting, World Sustainability Society and estimates of the quality of sustainability governance for individual countries using the Environmental Sustainability Index and Environmental Performance Index.

Population

File:Population curve.svg

According to the 2008 Revision of the official United Nations population estimates and projections, the world population is projected to reach 7 billion early in 2012, up from the current 6.9 billion (May 2009), to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. Most of the increase will be in developing countries whose population is projected to rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050. This increase will be distributed among the population aged 15–59 (1.2 billion) and 60 or over (1.1 billion) because the number of children under age 15 in developing countries is predicted to decrease. In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to undergo only slight increase from 1.23 billion to 1.28 billion, and this would have declined to 1.15 billion but for a projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is expected to average 2.4 million persons annually from 2009 to 2050.<ref>United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2009). "World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision." Highlights. Retrieved on: 2009-04-06.</ref> Long-term estimates in 2004 of global population suggest a peak at around 2070 of nine to ten billion people, and then a slow decrease to 8.4 billion by 2100.<ref>Lutz et al. (2004).</ref>

Emerging economies like those of China and India aspire to the living standards of the Western world as does the non-industrialized world in general.<ref>”Booming nations 'threaten Earth'”. BBC News. January 12, 2006.</ref> It is the combination of population increase in the developing world and unsustainable consumption levels in the developed world that poses a stark challenge to sustainability.<ref name=Cohen2006>Cohen, J.E. (2006). “Human Population: The Next Half Century.” In Kennedy D. (Ed.) “Science Magazine's State of the Planet 2006-7”. London: Island Press, pp. 13–21. ISSN 15591158.</ref>

Carrying capacity

Ecological footprint for different nations compared to their Human Development Index (HDI) />

At the global scale, scientific data now indicates that humans are living beyond the carrying capacity of planet Earth and that this cannot continue indefinitely. This scientific evidence comes from many sources but is presented in detail in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the planetary boundaries framework.<ref>Garver G (2011) "A Framework for Novel and Adaptive Governance Approaches Based on Planetary Boundaries" Colorado State University, Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance, 17–20 May 2011.</ref> An early detailed examination of global limits was published in the 1972 book Limits to Growth, which has prompted follow-up commentary and analysis.<ref>Turner, Graham (2008) "A comparison of ''The Limits to Growth'' with thirty years of reality" Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Sustainable Ecosystems.</ref> A 2012 review in Nature by 22 international researchers expressed concerns that the Earth may be “approaching a state shift” in its biosphere.<ref>Barnosky AD, Hadly EA and 20 others (2012) "Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere" Nature Review, 486: 52–58.

</ref>

The Ecological footprint measures human consumption in terms of the biologically productive land needed to provide the resources, and absorb the wastes of the average global citizen. In 2008 it required 2.7 global hectares per person, 30% more than the natural biological capacity of 2.1 global hectares (assuming no provision for other organisms).<ref name=“LPR”/> The resulting ecological deficit must be met from unsustainable extra sources and these are obtained in three ways: embedded in the goods and services of world trade; taken from the past (e.g. fossil fuels); or borrowed from the future as unsustainable resource usage (e.g. by over exploiting forests and fisheries).

The figure (right) examines sustainability at the scale of individual countries by contrasting their Ecological Footprint with their UN Human Development Index (a measure of standard of living). The graph shows what is necessary for countries to maintain an acceptable standard of living for their citizens while, at the same time, maintaining sustainable resource use. The general trend is for higher standards of living to become less sustainable. As always, population growth has a marked influence on levels of consumption and the efficiency of resource use.<ref name=“Ehrlich&Holden”/><ref>Adams & Jeanrenaud (2008) p. 45.</ref> The sustainability goal is to raise the global standard of living without increasing the use of resources beyond globally sustainable levels; that is, to not exceed “one planet” consumption. Information generated by reports at the national, regional and city scales confirm the global trend towards societies that are becoming less sustainable over time.<ref>UNEP Grid Arendal. ://www.grida.no/soe/ A selection of global-scale reports. Retrieved on: 2009-3-12</ref><ref>Global Footprint Network. (2008). "Living Planet Report." Retrieved on: 2008-10-01.</ref>

Global human impact on biodiversity

At a fundamental level energy flow and biogeochemical cycling set an upper limit on the number and mass of organisms in any ecosystem.<ref>Krebs (2001) p. 513.</ref> Human impacts on the Earth are demonstrated in a general way through detrimental changes in the global biogeochemical cycles of chemicals that are critical to life, most notably those of water, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.<ref>Smil (2000)</ref>

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an international synthesis by over 1000 of the world's leading biological scientists that analyzes the state of the Earth’s ecosystems and provides summaries and guidelines for decision-makers. It concludes that human activity is having a significant and escalating impact on the biodiversity of world ecosystems, reducing both their resilience and biocapacity. The report refers to natural systems as humanity's “life-support system”, providing essential “ecosystem services”. The assessment measures 24 ecosystem services concluding that only four have shown improvement over the last 50 years, 15 are in serious decline, and five are in a precarious condition.<ref>Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, pp. 6–19.</ref>

Sustainable development in Cuba

According to data it presents to the United Nations, Cuba was the only nation in the world in 2006 that met the World Wide Fund for Nature's definition of sustainable development, with an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita, 1.5, and a Human Development Index of over 0.8, 0.855.<ref>

</ref><ref>World failing on sustainable development</ref>

Environmental dimension

Healthy ecosystems provide vital goods and services to humans and other organisms. There are two major ways of reducing negative human impact and enhancing ecosystem services and the first of these is environmental management. This direct approach is based largely on information gained from earth science, environmental science and conservation biology. However, this is management at the end of a long series of indirect causal factors that are initiated by human consumption, so a second approach is through demand management of human resource use.

Management of human consumption of resources is an indirect approach based largely on information gained from economics. Herman Daly has suggested three broad criteria for ecological sustainability: renewable resources should provide a sustainable yield (the rate of harvest should not exceed the rate of regeneration); for non-renewable resources there should be equivalent development of renewable substitutes; waste generation should not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment.<ref>Daly H.E. (1990). “Toward some operational principles of sustainable development.” Ecological Economics 2: 1–6.</ref>

Environmental management

At the global scale and in the broadest sense environmental management involves the oceans, freshwater systems, land and atmosphere, but following the sustainability principle of scale it can be equally applied to any ecosystem from a tropical rainforest to a home garden.<ref>

</ref><ref>Buchenrieder, G., und A.R. Göltenboth: Sustainable freshwater resource management in the Tropics: The myth of effective indicators, 25th International Conference of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) on “Reshaping Agriculture’s Contributions to Society” in Durban, South Africa, 2003.</ref>

Atmosphere

At a March 2009 meeting of the Copenhagen Climate Council, 2,500 climate experts from 80 countries issued a keynote statement that there is now “no excuse” for failing to act on global warming and that without strong carbon reduction “abrupt or irreversible” shifts in climate may occur that “will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with”.<ref>University of Copenhagen (March 2009) "Key Messages from the Congress" News item on Copenhagen Climate Congress in March 2009. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref><ref>Adams, D. (March 2009) "Stern attacks politicians over climate 'devastation'". The Guardian. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref> Management of the global atmosphere now involves assessment of all aspects of the carbon cycle to identify opportunities to address human-induced climate change and this has become a major focus of scientific research because of the potential catastrophic effects on biodiversity and human communities (see Energy below).

Other human impacts on the atmosphere include the air pollution in cities, the pollutants including toxic chemicals like nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds and airborne particulate matter that produce photochemical smog and acid rain, and the chlorofluorocarbons that degrade the ozone layer. Anthropogenic particulates such as sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere reduce the direct irradiance and reflectance (albedo) of the Earth's surface. Known as global dimming, the decrease is estimated to have been about 4% between 1960 and 1990 although the trend has subsequently reversed. Global dimming may have disturbed the global water cycle by reducing evaporation and rainfall in some areas. It also creates a cooling effect and this may have partially masked the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming.<ref>Hegerl, G.C. et al. (2007). “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis.” Chapter 9, "Understanding and Attributing Climate Change." Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. p. 676. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Full report at: ://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm IPCC Report. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref>

Freshwater and oceans

Water covers 71% of the Earth's surface. Of this, 97.5% is the salty water of the oceans and only 2.5% freshwater, most of which is locked up in the Antarctic ice sheet. The remaining freshwater is found in glaciers, lakes, rivers, wetlands, the soil, aquifers and atmosphere. Due to the water cycle, fresh water supply is continually replenished by precipitation, however there is still a limited amount necessitating management of this resource. Awareness of the global importance of preserving water for ecosystem services has only recently emerged as, during the 20th century, more than half the world’s wetlands have been lost along with their valuable environmental services. Increasing urbanization pollutes clean water supplies and much of the world still does not have access to clean, safe water.<ref name=“Atlas”>Clarke & King (2006) pp.&nbsp;20–21.</ref> Greater emphasis is now being placed on the improved management of blue (harvestable) and green (soil water available for plant use) water, and this applies at all scales of water management.<ref name=“water”>Hoekstra, A.Y. (2006). "The Global Dimension of Water Governance: Nine Reasons for Global Arrangements in Order to Cope with Local Problems." Value of Water Research Report Series No. 20 UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref>

Ocean circulation patterns have a strong influence on climate and weather and, in turn, the food supply of both humans and other organisms. Scientists have warned of the possibility, under the influence of climate change, of a sudden alteration in circulation patterns of ocean currents that could drastically alter the climate in some regions of the globe.<ref>Kerr, R.A. (2004). “A slowing cog in the North Atlantic ocean's climate machine.” Science 304: 371–372.://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/304/5669/371a Retrieved on: 2009-04-19.</ref> Ten per cent of the world's population – about 600 million people – live in low-lying areas vulnerable to sea level rise.

Land use

Loss of biodiversity stems largely from the habitat loss and fragmentation produced by the human appropriation of land for development, forestry and agriculture as natural capital is progressively converted to man-made capital. Land use change is fundamental to the operations of the biosphere because alterations in the relative proportions of land dedicated to urbanisation, agriculture, forest, woodland, grassland and pasture have a marked effect on the global water, carbon and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles and this can impact negatively on both natural and human systems.<ref>Krebs (2001) pp. 560–582.</ref> At the local human scale, major sustainability benefits accrue from sustainable parks and gardens and green cities.<ref>Organic Gardening Techniques, Missouri University Extension. October 2004. Retrieved June 17, 2009.</ref><ref>Sustainable Gardening & Food Production, Daniel Boone Regional Library. Retrieved June 17, 2009]</ref>

Since the Neolithic Revolution about 47% of the world’s forests have been lost to human use. Present-day forests occupy about a quarter of the world’s ice-free land with about half of these occurring in the tropics.<ref>World Resources Institute (1998). World Resources 1998–1999. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-521408-0.</ref> In temperate and boreal regions forest area is gradually increasing (with the exception of Siberia), but deforestation in the tropics is of major concern.<ref>Groombridge & Jenkins (2002).</ref>

Food is essential to life. Feeding more than seven billion human bodies takes a heavy toll on the Earth’s resources. This begins with the appropriation of about 38% of the Earth’s land surface<ref>Food and Agriculture Organization (June 2006). "Food and Agriculture Statistics Global Outlook." Rome: FAO Statistics Division. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref> and about 20% of its net primary productivity.<ref>Imhoff, M.L. et al. (2004). “Global Patterns in Human Consumption of Net Primary Production.” Nature 429: 870–873.</ref> Added to this are the resource-hungry activities of industrial agribusiness – everything from the crop need for irrigation water, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to the resource costs of food packaging, transport (now a major part of global trade) and retail. Environmental problems associated with industrial agriculture and agribusiness are now being addressed through such movements as sustainable agriculture, organic farming and more sustainable business practices.<ref>World Business Council for Sustainable Development This web site has multiple articles on WBCSD contributions to sustainable development. Retrieved on: 2009-04-07.</ref>

Management of human consumption

of manufacturing]] The underlying driver of direct human impacts on the environment is human consumption.<ref>Michaelis, L. & Lorek, S. (2004). “Consumption and the Environment in Europe: Trends and Futures.” Danish Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Project No. 904. ://www2.mst.dk/udgiv/publications/2004/87-7614-193-4/pdf/87-7614-194-2.pdf</ref> This impact is reduced by not only consuming less but by also making the full cycle of production, use and disposal more sustainable. Consumption of goods and services can be analysed and managed at all scales through the chain of consumption, starting with the effects of individual lifestyle choices and spending patterns, through to the resource demands of specific goods and services, the impacts of economic sectors, through national economies to the global economy.<ref>Jackson, T. & Michaelis, L. (2003). “Policies for Sustainable Consumption”. The UK Sustainable Development Commission. ://www.sdcommission.gov.uk/pubs/suscon/.</ref> Analysis of consumption patterns relates resource use to the environmental, social and economic impacts at the scale or context under investigation. The ideas of embodied resource use (the total resources needed to produce a product or service), resource intensity, and resource productivity are important tools for understanding the impacts of consumption. Key resource categories relating to human needs are food, energy, materials and water.

In 2010, the International Resource Panel, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), published the first global scientific assessment on the impacts of consumption and production<ref>''Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials'' 2010, International Resource Panel, United Nations Environment Programme</ref> and identified priority actions for developed and developing countries. The study found that the most critical impacts are related to ecosystem health, human health and resource depletion. From a production perspective, it found that fossil-fuel combusting processes, agriculture and fisheries have the most important impacts. Meanwhile, from a final consumption perspective, it found that household consumption related to mobility, shelter, food and energy-using products cause the majority of life-cycle impacts of consumption.

Energy

2 in an [[ecosystem />

]] The Sun's energy, stored by plants (primary producers) during photosynthesis, passes through the food chain to other organisms to ultimately power all living processes. Since the industrial revolution the concentrated energy of the Sun stored in fossilized plants as fossil fuels has been a major driver of technology which, in turn, has been the source of both economic and political power. In 2007 climate scientists of the IPCC concluded that there was at least a 90% probability that atmospheric increase in CO2 was human-induced, mostly as a result of fossil fuel emissions but, to a lesser extent from changes in land use. Stabilizing the world’s climate will require high-income countries to reduce their emissions by 60–90% over 2006 levels by 2050 which should hold CO2 levels at 450–650&nbsp;ppm from current levels of about 380&nbsp;ppm. Above this level, temperatures could rise by more than 2°C to produce “catastrophic” climate change.<ref>IPCC (2007)."''Climate Change 2007: the Physical Science Basis. Summary for Policymakers''." Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref><ref>UNFCC (2009). "''United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change''." Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref> Reduction of current CO2 levels must be achieved against a background of global population increase and developing countries aspiring to energy-intensive high consumption Western lifestyles.<ref>Goodall (2007).</ref>

Reducing greenhouse emissions, is being tackled at all scales, ranging from tracking the passage of carbon through the carbon cycle<ref>U.S. Department of NOAA Research. "The Carbon Cycle." Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref> to the commercialization of renewable energy, developing less carbon-hungry technology and transport systems and attempts by individuals to lead carbon neutral lifestyles by monitoring the fossil fuel use embodied in all the goods and services they use.<ref>Fujixerox "Carbon Calculator Demonstration". One of many carbon calculators readily accessible on the web. Retrieved on: 2009-04-07.</ref> Engineering of emerging technologies such as carbon-neutral fuel<ref name=Graves2011rev>

(Review.)</ref><ref name=Pearson2012>

(Review.)</ref><ref>

</ref> and energy storage systems such as power to gas, compressed air energy storage,<ref>

</ref><ref>

</ref> and pumped-storage hydroelectricity<ref>

</ref><ref>

</ref><ref>

</ref> are necessary to store power from transient renewable energy sources including emerging renewables such as airborne wind turbines.<ref>

</ref>

Water

Water security and food security are inextricably linked. In the decade 1951–60 human water withdrawals were four times greater than the previous decade. This rapid increase resulted from scientific and technological developments impacting through the economy – especially the increase in irrigated land, growth in industrial and power sectors, and intensive dam construction on all continents. This altered the water cycle of rivers and lakes, affected their water quality and had a significant impact on the global water cycle.<ref name=“Shik” /> Currently towards 35% of human water use is unsustainable, drawing on diminishing aquifers and reducing the flows of major rivers: this percentage is likely to increase if climate change impacts become more severe, populations increase, aquifers become progressively depleted and supplies become polluted and unsanitary.<ref>Clarke & King (2006) pp. 22–23.</ref> From 1961 to 2001 water demand doubled - agricultural use increased by 75%, industrial use by more than 200%, and domestic use more than 400%.<ref>Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, pp. 51–53.</ref> In the 1990s it was estimated that humans were using 40–50% of the globally available freshwater in the approximate proportion of 70% for agriculture, 22% for industry, and 8% for domestic purposes with total use progressively increasing.<ref name=“Shik”>Shiklamov, I. (1998). “World Water Resources. A New Appraisal and Assessment for the 21st century.” A Summary of the Monograph World Water Resources prepared in the Framework of the International Hydrological Programme.://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0011/001126/112671Eo.pdf Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref>

Water efficiency is being improved on a global scale by increased demand management, improved infrastructure, improved water productivity of agriculture, minimising the water intensity (embodied water) of goods and services, addressing shortages in the non-industrialised world, concentrating food production in areas of high productivity, and planning for climate change. At the local level, people are becoming more self-sufficient by harvesting rainwater and reducing use of mains water.<ref name=“water” /><ref>Hoekstra, A.Y. & Chapagain, A.K. (2007). “The Water Footprints of Nations: Water Use by People as a Function of their Consumption Pattern.” Water Resource Management 21(1): 35–48.</ref>

Food

]]

The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a “sustainable food system”<ref>

</ref><ref>

Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref> as “one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities.”<ref>

</ref> Concerns about the environmental impacts of agribusiness and the stark contrast between the obesity problems of the Western world and the poverty and food insecurity of the developing world have generated a strong movement towards healthy, sustainable eating as a major component of overall ethical consumerism.<ref>Mason & Singer (2006).</ref> The environmental effects of different dietary patterns depend on many factors, including the proportion of animal and plant foods consumed and the method of food production.<ref>

Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref><ref>

Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref><ref>Steinfeld H., Gerber P., Wassenaar T., Castel V., Rosales M., de Haan, C. (2006). "Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental Issues and Options" 390 pp. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref><ref>

Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.</ref> The World Health Organization has published a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health report which was endorsed by the May 2004 World Health Assembly. It recommends the Mediterranean diet which is associated with health and longevity and is low in meat, rich in fruits and vegetables, low in added sugar and limited salt, and low in saturated fatty acids; the traditional source of fat in the Mediterranean is olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fat. The healthy rice-based Japanese diet is also high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Both diets are low in meat and saturated fats and high in legumes and other vegetables; they are associated with a low incidence of ailments and low environmental impact.<ref>World Health Organisation (2004). "Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health." Copy of the strategy endorsed by the World Health Assembly. Retrieved on: 2009-6-19.</ref>

At the global level the environmental impact of agribusiness is being addressed through sustainable agriculture and organic farming. At the local level there are various movements working towards local food production, more productive use of urban wastelands and domestic gardens including permaculture, urban horticulture, local food, slow food, sustainable gardening, and organic gardening.<ref>"Earth Stats." Gardensofbabylon.com. Retrieved on: 2009-07-07.</ref><ref>Holmgren, D. (March 2005). "Retrofitting the suburbs for sustainability." CSIRO Sustainability Network. Retrieved on: 2009-07-07.</ref>

Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware about both overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods.

Materials, toxic substances, waste

decoration fair. The reuse of materials is a sustainable practice that is rapidly growing among designers in Brazil.]]

As global population and affluence has increased, so has the use of various materials increased in volume, diversity and distance transported. Included here are raw materials, minerals, synthetic chemicals (including hazardous substances), manufactured products, food, living organisms and waste.<ref name=VITAL>Bournay, E. et al. (2006). ''Vital waste graphics 2.'' The Basel Convention, UNEP, GRID-Arendal. ISBN 82-7701-042-7.</ref> By 2050, humanity could consume an estimated 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year (three times its current amount) unless the economic growth rate is decoupled from the rate of natural resource consumption. Developed countries' citizens consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita (ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries with resource consumption levels far beyond what is likely sustainable.<ref>UNEP (2011). Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth. ISBN 978-92-807-3167-5. Retrieved on: 2011-11-30.</ref>

Sustainable use of materials has targeted the idea of dematerialization, converting the linear path of materials (extraction, use, disposal in landfill) to a circular material flow that reuses materials as much as possible, much like the cycling and reuse of waste in nature.<ref>Anderberg, S. (1998). “Industrial metabolism and linkages between economics, ethics, and the environment”. Ecological Economics 24: 311–320.</ref> This approach is supported by product stewardship and the increasing use of material flow analysis at all levels, especially individual countries and the global economy.<ref>Product Stewardship Council (US). Retrieved on: 2009-04-05.</ref> The use of sustainable biomaterials that come from renewable sources and that can be recycled is preferred to the use on non-renewables from a life cycle standpoint.

File:Waste hierarchy.svg

]]

Synthetic chemical production has escalated following the stimulus it received during the second World War. Chemical production includes everything from herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to domestic chemicals and hazardous substances.<ref>Emden & Peakall (1996).</ref> Apart from the build-up of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, chemicals of particular concern include: heavy metals, nuclear waste, chlorofluorocarbons, persistent organic pollutants and all harmful chemicals capable of bioaccumulation. Although most synthetic chemicals are harmless there needs to be rigorous testing of new chemicals, in all countries, for adverse environmental and health effects. International legislation has been established to deal with the global distribution and management of dangerous goods.<ref>Hassall (1990).</ref><ref>Database on Pesticides Consumption. Statistics for pesticide use around the world. Retrieved on: 2009-3-10.</ref>

Every economic activity produces material that can be classified as waste. To reduce waste industry, business and government are now mimicking nature by turning the waste produced by industrial metabolism into resource. Dematerialization is being encouraged through the ideas of industrial ecology, ecodesign<ref>Fuad-Luke (2006).</ref> and ecolabelling. In addition to the well-established “reduce, reuse and recycle,” shoppers are using their purchasing power for ethical consumerism.<ref name=Brower />

Economic dimension

]] On one account, sustainability “concerns the specification of a set of actions to be taken by present persons that will not diminish the prospects of future persons to enjoy levels of consumption, wealth, utility, or welfare comparable to those enjoyed by present persons.”<ref name=“Bromley”>Bromley, Daniel W. (2008). “sustainability,” The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.</ref> Sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and ecological consequences of economic activity.<ref name=“Daly & Cobb 1989”/> Sustainability economics represents: “…&nbsp;a broad interpretation of ecological economics where environmental and ecological variables and issues are basic but part of a multidimensional perspective. Social, cultural, health-related and monetary/financial aspects have to be integrated into the analysis.”<ref>Soederbaum (2008).</ref> However, the concept of sustainability is much broader than the concepts of sustained yield of welfare, resources, or profit margins.<ref>Hasna, A.M., Sustainability and Economic Theory : an Organism in Premise. The International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management,9(11): p. 1-12.</ref> At present, the average per capita consumption of people in the developing world is sustainable but population numbers are increasing and individuals are aspiring to high-consumption Western lifestyles. The developed world population is only increasing slightly but consumption levels are unsustainable. The challenge for sustainability is to curb and manage Western consumption while raising the standard of living of the developing world without increasing its resource use and environmental impact. This must be done by using strategies and technology that break the link between, on the one hand, economic growth and on the other, environmental damage and resource depletion.<ref>Ruffing, K. (2007). “Indicators to Measure Decoupling of Environmental Pressure from Economic Growth.” In: Hak et al. (2007) pp. 211–222.</ref>

A recent UNEP report proposes a green economy defined as one that “improves human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”: it “does not favour one political perspective over another but works to minimise excessive depletion of natural capital”. The report makes three key findings: “that greening not only generates increases in wealth, in particular a gain in ecological commons or natural capital, but also (over a period of six years) produces a higher rate of GDP growth”; that there is “an inextricable link between poverty eradication and better maintenance and conservation of the ecological commons, arising from the benefit flows from natural capital that are received directly by the poor”; “in the transition to a green economy, new jobs are created, which in time exceed the losses in “brown economy” jobs. However, there is a period of job losses in transition, which requires investment in re-skilling and re-educating the workforce”.<ref>United Nations Environmental Program (2011). Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication – A Synthesis for Policy Makers.</ref>

Several key areas have been targeted for economic analysis and reform: the environmental effects of unconstrained economic growth; the consequences of nature being treated as an economic externality; and the possibility of an economics that takes greater account of the social and environmental consequences of market behaviour.<ref>Hawken et al. (1999).</ref>

Decoupling environmental degradation and economic growth

Historically there has been a close correlation between economic growth and environmental degradation: as communities grow, so the environment declines. This trend is clearly demonstrated on graphs of human population numbers, economic growth, and environmental indicators.<ref>Adams & Jeanrenaud (2008) p. 15.</ref> Unsustainable economic growth has been starkly compared to the malignant growth of a cancer<ref>Abbey, E. (1968). Desert Solitaire. New York: Ballantine Books, Random House. ISBN 0-345-32649-0. Actual quote from novel is: growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell</ref> because it eats away at the Earth's ecosystem services which are its life-support system. There is concern that, unless resource use is checked, modern global civilization will follow the path of ancient civilizations that collapsed through overexploitation of their resource base.<ref name=collapse>Diamond, J. (2005).Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking Books. ISBN 1-58663-863-7.</ref><ref>Diamond (1997).</ref> While conventional economics is concerned largely with economic growth and the efficient allocation of resources, ecological economics has the explicit goal of sustainable scale (rather than continual growth), fair distribution and efficient allocation, in that order.<ref>Daly & Farley (2004) p.xxvi.</ref><ref>Costanza et al. (2007). Ch. 1, pp. 1–4, Ch.3, p. 3.</ref> The World Business Council for Sustainable Development states that “business cannot succeed in societies that fail”.<ref>WBCSD's 10 messages by which to operate World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Retrieved 2009-04-06.</ref>

In economic and environmental fields, the term decoupling is becoming increasingly used in the context of economic production and environmental quality. When used in this way, it refers to the ability of an economy to grow without incurring corresponding increases in environmental pressure. Ecological economics includes the study of societal metabolism, the throughput of resources that enter and exit the economic system in relation to environmental quality.<ref>Cleveland, C.J. "Biophysical economics", Encyclopedia of Earth, Last updated: 14 September 2006. Retrieved on: 2009-03-17.</ref><ref>Costanza et al. (2007).</ref> An economy that is able to sustain GDP growth without having a negative impact on the environment is said to be decoupled. Exactly how, if, or to what extent this can be achieved is a subject of much debate. In 2011 the International Resource Panel, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), warned that by 2050 the human race could be devouring 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year – three times its current rate of consumption – unless nations can make serious attempts at decoupling.<ref>Decoupling: natural resource use and environmental impacts of economic growth. International Resource Panel report, 2011</ref> The report noted that citizens of developed countries consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita per annum (ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries). By comparison, the average person in India today consumes four tons per year. Sustainability studies analyse ways to reduce resource intensity (the amount of resource (e.g. water, energy, or materials) needed for the production, consumption and disposal of a unit of good or service) whether this be achieved from improved economic management, product design, or new technology.<ref>Daly, H. (1996). Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-4709-0.</ref>

There are conflicting views whether improvements in technological efficiency and innovation will enable a complete decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation. On the one hand, it has been claimed repeatedly by efficiency experts that resource use intensity (i.e., energy and materials use per unit GDP) could in principle be reduced by at least four or five-fold, thereby allowing for continued economic growth without increasing resource depletion and associated pollution.<ref>Von Weizsacker, E.U. (1998). Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use, Earthscan.</ref><ref>Von Weizsacker, E.U., C. Hargroves, M.H. Smith, C. Desha, and P. Stasinopoulos (2009). Factor Five: Transforming the Global Economy through 80% Improvements in Resource Productivity, Routledge.</ref> On the other hand, an extensive historical analysis of technological efficiency improvements has conclusively shown that energy and materials use efficiency improvements were almost always outpaced by economic growth, in large part because of the rebound effect (conservation) or Jevons Paradox resulting in a net increase in resource use and associated pollution.<ref>Huesemann, M.H., and J.A. Huesemann (2011). Techno-Fix: Why Technology Won't Save Us or the Environment, Chapter 5, “In Search of Solutions II: Efficiency Improvements”, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada.</ref><ref>Cleveland, C.J., and M. Ruth (1998). “Indicators of Dematerialization and the Materials Intensity of Use”, Journal of Industrial Ecology”, 2(3):15-50.</ref> Furthermore, there are inherent thermodynamic (i.e., second law of thermodynamics) and practical limits to all efficiency improvements. For example, there are certain minimum unavoidable material requirements for growing food, and there are limits to making automobiles, houses, furniture, and other products lighter and thinner without the risk of losing their necessary functions.<ref>Huesemann, M.H., and J.A. Huesemann (2011). Techno-Fix: Why Technology Won't Save Us or the Environment, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada, p. 111.</ref> Since it is both theoretically and practically impossible to increase resource use efficiencies indefinitely, it is equally impossible to have continued and infinite economic growth without a concomitant increase in resource depletion and environmental pollution, i.e., economic growth and resource depletion can be decoupled to some degree over the short run but not the long run. Consequently, long-term sustainability requires the transition to a steady state economy in which total GDP remains more or less constant, as has been advocated for decades by Herman Daly and others in the ecological economics community.

Nature as an economic externality

of native rain forest in Rio de Janeiro City for extraction of clay for civil engineering (2009 picture)]]

The economic importance of nature is indicated by the use of the expression ecosystem services to highlight the market relevance of an increasingly scarce natural world that can no longer be regarded as both unlimited and free.<ref name = Tragedy>Hardin, G. (December 1968). "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science 162(3859), 1243–1248. Retrieved on: 2009-03-17.</ref> In general, as a commodity or service becomes more scarce the price increases and this acts as a restraint that encourages frugality, technical innovation and alternative products. However, this only applies when the product or service falls within the market system.<ref>Nemetz, P.N. (2003). “Basic Concepts of Sustainable Development for Business Students.” Journal of International Business Education 1(1).</ref> As ecosystem services are generally treated as economic externalities they are unpriced and therefore overused and degraded, a situation sometimes referred to as the Tragedy of the Commons.<ref name = Tragedy/>

One approach to this dilemma has been the attempt to “internalise” these “externalities” by using market strategies like ecotaxes and incentives, tradeable permits for carbon, and the encouragement of payment for ecosystem services. Community currencies associated with Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS), a gift economy and Time Banking have also been promoted as a way of supporting local economies and the environment.<ref>[[Robert Costanza] et al., “Complementary Currencies as a Method to Improve Local Sustainable Economic Welfare”, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, December 12th, 2003.]</ref><ref>David Boyle, "Sustainability and social assets: the potential of time banks and co-production", ''Grassroots Initiatives for Sustainable Development'', June 10, 2005.</ref> Green economics is another market-based attempt to address issues of equity and the environment.<ref>Scott Cato, M. (2009). Green Economics. London: Earthscan, pp. 142–150. ISBN 978-1-84407-571-3.</ref> The global recession and a range of associated government policies are likely to bring the biggest annual fall in the world's carbon dioxide emissions in 40 years.<ref>

</ref>

Economic opportunity

Treating the environment as an externality may generate short-term profit at the expense of sustainability.<ref>Kinsley, M. (1977). "Sustainable development: Prosperity without growth." Rocky Mountain Institute, Snowmass, Colorado, USA. Retrieved on: 2009-06-17</ref> Sustainable business practices, on the other hand, integrate ecological concerns with social and economic ones (i.e., the triple bottom line).<ref>Kinsley, M. and Lovins, L.H. (September 1997). "Paying for Growth, Prospering from Development." Retrieved on: 2009-06-15.</ref><ref>Sustainable Shrinkage: Envisioning a Smaller, Stronger Economy</ref> Growth that depletes ecosystem services is sometimes termed “uneconomic growth” as it leads to a decline in quality of life.<ref>Daly, H. (2007). Ecological economics: the concept of scale and its relation to allocation, distribution, and uneconomic growth. pp. 82–103. In H. Daly. Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development: Selected Essays of Herman Daly. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.</ref><ref>Daly, H. (1999). Uneconomic growth and the built environment: in theory and in fact. In C.J. Kibert (ed.). Reshaping the Built Environment: Ecology, Ethics, and Economics. Washington DC: Island Press.</ref> Minimising such growth can provide opportunities for local businesses. For example, industrial waste can be treated as an “economic resource in the wrong place”. The benefits of waste reduction include savings from disposal costs, fewer environmental penalties, and reduced liability insurance. This may lead to increased market share due to an improved public image.<ref>Jackson, T. (February 2008). Tim Jackson, Roland Clift, "Where's the Profit in Industrial Ecology?" Journal of Industrial Ecology 2:(1): 3–5.</ref><ref>Hargroves, K. & Smith, M. (eds.) (2005). The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century. London: Earthscan/James&James. ISBN 1-84407-121-9. (See the book's online companion)</ref> Energy efficiency can also increase profits by reducing costs.

The idea of sustainability as a business opportunity has led to the formation of organizations such as the Sustainability Consortium of the Society for Organizational Learning, the Sustainable Business Institute, and the World Council for Sustainable Development.<ref>See, for example: Zhexembayeva, N. (May 2007). "Becoming Sustainable: Tools and Resources for Successful Organizational Transformation." Case Western University, Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit 3(2) and websites of The Sustainable Business Institute, and the WBCSD." Retrieved on: 2009-04-01.</ref> Research focusing on progressive corporate leaders who have embedded sustainability into commercial strategy has yielded a leadership competency model for sustainability.<ref>Leadership in sustainability Retrieved on: 2009-04-01.</ref><ref>Leadership competency model Retrieved on: 2009-04-01</ref> The expansion of sustainable business opportunities can contribute to job creation through the introduction of green-collar workers.<ref>Leo Hickman, "The future of work is green" The Guardian, February 2009.</ref>

Social dimension

Sustainability issues are generally expressed in scientific and environmental terms, as well as in ethical terms of stewardship, but implementing change is a social challenge that entails, among other things, international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism.<ref>Agenda 21 “Declaration of the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development.” Retrieved on: 2009-03-16.</ref> “The relationship between human rights and human development, corporate power and environmental justice, global poverty and citizen action, suggest that responsible global citizenship is an inescapable element of what may at first glance seem to be simply matters of personal consumer and moral choice.”<ref name = Blewitt2008,96>Blewitt (2008) p. 96.</ref>

Peace, security, social justice

Social disruptions like war, crime and corruption divert resources from areas of greatest human need, damage the capacity of societies to plan for the future, and generally threaten human well-being and the environment.<ref name = Blewitt2008,96/> Broad-based strategies for more sustainable social systems include: improved education and the political empowerment of women, especially in developing countries; greater regard for social justice, notably equity between rich and poor both within and between countries; and intergenerational equity.<ref name=Cohen2006/> Depletion of natural resources including fresh water<ref>"Water and Political Conflicts" from United Nations Environment Programme 2008 "Vital Water Graphics" Retrieved on: 2009-03-16.</ref> increases the likelihood of “resource wars”.<ref>Billon, P. (ed.) (2005) The Geopolitics of Resource Wars Retrieved on: 2009-04-05.</ref> This aspect of sustainability has been referred to as environmental security and creates a clear need for global environmental agreements to manage resources such as aquifers and rivers which span political boundaries, and to protect shared global systems including oceans and the atmosphere.<ref>Kobtzeff, O. (2000). “Environmental Security and Civil Society”. In Gardner, H. (ed.) Central and South-central Europe in Transition. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, pp. 219–296.</ref>

Poverty

A major hurdle to achieve sustainability is the alleviation of poverty. It has been widely acknowledged that poverty is one source of environmental degradation. Such acknowledgment has been made by the Brundtland Commission report Our Common Future<ref>

</ref> and the Millennium Development Goals.<ref>

</ref> According to the Brundtland report, “poverty is a major cause and effect of global environmental problems. It is therefore futile to attempt to deal with environmental problems without a broader perspective that encompasses the factors underlying world poverty and international inequality.”<ref>

</ref> Individuals living in poverty tend to rely heavily on their local ecosystem as a source for basic needs (such as nutrition and medicine) and general well-being.<ref>

</ref> As population growth continues to increase, increasing pressure is being placed on the local ecosystem to provide these basic essentials. According to the UN Population Fund, high fertility and poverty have been strongly correlated, and the world’s poorest countries also have the highest fertility and population growth rates.<ref>

</ref> The word sustainability is also used widely by western country development agencies and international charities to focus their poverty alleviation efforts in ways that can be sustained by the local populous and its environment. For example, teaching water treatment to the poor by boiling their water with charcoal, would not generally be considered a sustainable strategy, whereas using PET solar water disinfection would be. Also, sustainable best practices can involve the recycling of materials, such as the use of recycled plastics for lumber where deforestation has devastated a country's timber base. Another example of sustainable practices in poverty alleviation is the use of exported recycled materials from developed to developing countries, such as Bridges to Prosperity's use of wire rope from shipping container gantry cranes to act as the structural wire rope for footbridges that cross rivers in poor rural areas in Asia and Africa.<ref>//www.bridgestoprosperity.org</ref>

Human relationship to nature

According to Murray Bookchin, the idea that humans must dominate nature is common in hierarchical societies. Bookchin contends that capitalism and market relationships, if unchecked, have the capacity to reduce the planet to a mere resource to be exploited. Nature is thus treated as a commodity: “The plundering of the human spirit by the market place is paralleled by the plundering of the earth by capital.”<ref>Bookchin (2004) pp. 24–25.</ref> Social ecology, founded by Bookchin, is based on the conviction that nearly all of humanity's present ecological problems originate in, indeed are mere symptoms of, dysfunctional social arrangements. Whereas most authors proceed as if our ecological problems can be fixed by implementing recommendations which stem from physical, biological, economic etc., studies, Bookchin's claim is that these problems can only be resolved by understanding the underlying social processes and intervening in those processes by applying the concepts and methods of the social sciences.<ref>Bookchin (2007) p. 19.</ref>

A pure capitalist approach has also been criticized in Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change to mitigation the effects of global warming in this excerpt …

Deep ecology establishes principles for the well-being of all life on Earth and the richness and diversity of life forms. This requires a substantial decrease in human population and consumption along with the reduction of human interference with the nonhuman world. To achieve this, deep ecologists advocate policies for basic economic, technological, and ideological structures that will improve the quality of life rather than the standard of living. Those who subscribe to these principles are obliged to make the necessary change happen.<ref>Devall & Sessions (1985) p. 70.</ref> The concept of a billion-year Sustainocene has been developed to initiate policy consideration of an earth where human structures power and fuel the needs of that species (for example through artificial photosynthesis) allowing Rights of Nature.<ref>Faunce, T 2012, 'Towards a global solar fuels project - Artificial photosynthesis and the transition from anthropocene to sustainocene', Procedia Engineering, vol. 49, no. 2012, pp. 348-356.</ref>

Human settlements

One approach to sustainable living, exemplified by small-scale urban transition towns and rural ecovillages, seeks to create self-reliant communities based on principles of simple living, which maximize self-sufficiency particularly in food production. These principles, on a broader scale, underpin the concept of a bioregional economy.<ref>

</ref> These approaches often utilize commons based knowledge sharing of open source appropriate technology.<ref>Pearce, J.M. “The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology”, Environment, Development and Sustainability, 14, pp. 425-431 (2012). free download</ref> Other approaches, loosely based around new urbanism, are successfully reducing environmental impacts by altering the built environment to create and preserve sustainable cities which support sustainable transport. Residents in compact urban neighborhoods drive fewer miles, and have significantly lower environmental impacts across a range of measures, compared with those living in sprawling suburbs.<ref>Ewing, R "Growing Cooler - the Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change". Retrieved on: 2009-03-16.</ref> The concept of Circular flow land use management has also been introduced in Europe to promote sustainable land use patterns that strive for compact cities and a reduction of greenfield land take by urban sprawl.

Large scale social movements can influence both community choices and the built environment. Eco-municipalities may be one such movement.<ref>LaColla, T. "It’s Easy to be Green! Eco-Municipalities: Here to Stay". theplanningcommission.org. Retrieved on: 2009-03-16.</ref> Eco-municipalities take a systems approach, based on sustainability principles. The eco-municipality movement is participatory, involving community members in a bottom-up approach. In Sweden, more than 70 cities and towns—25 per cent of all municipalities in the country—have adopted a common set of "Sustainability Principles" and implemented these systematically throughout their municipal operations. There are now twelve eco-municipalities in the United States and the American Planning Association has adopted sustainability objectives based on the same principles.<ref name = James>James, S. (2003). "Eco-municipalities: Sweden and the United States: A Systems Approach to Creating Communities". Retrieved on: 2009-03-16.</ref>

There is a wealth of advice available to individuals wishing to reduce their personal and social impact on the environment through small, inexpensive and easily achievable steps.<ref>Sustainable Environment for Quality of Life. "100 Ways to Save the Environment." Retrieved on: 2009-06-13.</ref><ref>Suzuki, D. (2009)."What you can do" David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved on: 2012-01-30.</ref> But the transition required to reduce global human consumption to within sustainable limits involves much larger changes, at all levels and contexts of society.<ref>Stockholm Environment Institute "Great Transitions". Retrieved on: 2009-04-12.</ref> The United Nations has recognised the central role of education, and have declared a decade of education for sustainable development, 2005–2014, which aims to “challenge us all to adopt new behaviours and practices to secure our future”.<ref>United Nations Environment Programme (2009). "United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development." Retrieved on: 2009-04-09.

</ref> The Worldwide Fund for Nature proposes a strategy for sustainability that goes beyond education to tackle underlying individualistic and materialistic societal values head-on and strengthen people's connections with the natural world.<ref>WWF. Sustainability also refers to social structure (April, 2008). "Weathercocks and Signposts: The Environment Movement at a Crossroads". Summary also available here ://wwf.org.uk/strategiesforchange. Retrieved on: 2009-03-13.</ref>

See also

Topics

Further reading

  • Beckmann, Volker, Nguyen Huu Dung, Max Spoor, Justus Wesseler, Shi Xiaoping (eds.) (2011). Economic Transition and Natural Resource Management in East and Southeast Asia. Series on Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Shaker-Publisher, Aachen.
  • Wesseler, Justus, Hans-Peter Weikard and Robert Weaver (eds.) (2003). Risk and Uncertainty in Environmental and Resource Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Beckmann, Volker and Justus Wesseler (2003). “How labour organisation may affect technology adoption: an analytical framework analysing the case of integrated pest management.” Environment and Development Economics 8(3): 437-450.
  • Madhavan, Guruprasad and Barbara Oakley, David Green, David Koon, Penny Low (eds.) (2012). Practicing Sustainability. Springer, New York. ISBN 978-146144348

Notes

References

  • Adams, W. M. and Jeanrenaud, S. J. (2008). ''Transition to Sustainability: Towards a Humane and Diverse World.'' Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 108 pp.&nbsp;ISBN 978-2-8317-1072-32.
  • Bakari, Mohamed El-Kamel. “Globalization and Sustainable Development: False Twins?.” New Global Studies 7.3: 23-56. ISSN (Online) 1940-0004, ISSN (Print) 2194-6566, DOI: 10.1515/ngs-2013-021, November 2013
  • Blewitt, J. (2008). Understanding Sustainable Development. London: Earthscan. ISBN 978-1-84407-454-9.
  • Botkin, D.B. (1990). Discordant Harmonies, a New Ecology for the 21st century. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507469-7.
  • Bookchin, M. (2004). Post Scarcity Anarchism. Oakland: AK Press, pp.&nbsp;24–25. ISBN 978-1-904859-06-2.
  • Bookchin, M. (2005). The Ecology of Freedom: the emergence and dissolution of hierarchy.” Oakland: AK Press. ISBN 1-904859-26-7.
  • Bookchin, M. (2007). Social Ecology and Communalism. Oakland: AK Press, p.&nbsp;19. ISBN 978-1-904859-49-9.
  • Brower, M. & Leon, W. (1999). The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists. New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-609-80281-X.
  • Clark, D. (2006). A Rough Guide to Ethical Living. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-1-84353-792-2
  • Clarke, R. & King, J. (2006). The Atlas of Water. London: Earthscan. ISBN 978-1-84407-133-3.
  • Costanza, R. et al. (2007). An Introduction to Ecological Economics. This is an online editable text available at the Encyclopedia of Earth. First published in 1997 by St. Lucie Press and the International Society for Ecological Economics. ISBN 1-884015-72-7.
  • Daly, H. & J. Cobb (1989). For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment and a Sustainable Future. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-4703-1.
  • Daly, H.E. & Farley, J. (2004). Ecological economics: principles and applications. Washington: Island Press. ISBN 1-55963-312-3.
  • Devall, W. and G. Sessions (1985). Deep Ecology: Living As If Nature Mattered. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, p.&nbsp;70. ISBN 978-0-87905-247-8.
  • Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-06131-0.
  • Emden, H.F. van & Peakall, D.B. (1996). Beyond Silent Spring. Berkeley: Springer. ISBN 978-0-412-72810-5.
  • Fuad-Luke, A. (2006). The Eco-design Handbook. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-28521-3.
  • Goodall, C. (2007). How to Live a Low-carbon Life. London: Earthscan. ISBN 978-1-84407-426-6.
  • Groombridge, B. & Jenkins, M.D. (2002). World Atlas of Biodiversity. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23668-4.
  • Hak, T. et al. (2007). Sustainability Indicators, SCOPE 67. London: Island Press. ISBN 1-59726-131-9.
  • Hassall, K.A. (1990). The Biochemistry and Uses of Pesticides. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-49789-9.
  • Hawken, P, Lovins, A.B. & L.H. (1999). Natural Capitalism: Creating the next Industrial Revolution. Snowmass, USA: Rocky Mountain Institute. ISBN 0-316-35300-0.
  • Huesemann, M.H., and J.A. Huesemann (2011). ''Technofix: Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment''. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada, ISBN 0865717044, 464 pp.
  • Krebs, C.J. (2001). Ecology: the Experimental Analysis of Distribution and Abundance. Sydney: Benjamin Cummings. ISBN 0-321-04289-1.
  • Leakey, R. & Lewin, R. (1995). The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind. New York: Bantam Dell Publishing Group. ISBN 0-385-46809-1
  • Lutz W., Sanderson W.C., & Scherbov S. (2004). The End of World Population Growth in the 21st Century London: Earthscan. ISBN 1-84407-089-1.
  • Macy, J. & Young Brown, M. (1998). Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, pp.&nbsp;25–37. ISBN 0-86571-391-X.
  • Mason, J. & Singer, P. (2006). The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. London: Random House. ISBN 1-57954-889-X
  • Smil, V. (2000). Cycles of Life. New York: Scientific American Library. ISBN 978-0-7167-5079-6.
  • Soederbaum, P. (2008). Understanding Sustainability Economics. London: Earthscan. ISBN 978-1-84407-627-7.
  • Visser, Wayne, Dirk Matten, Manfred Pohl, and Nick Tolhurst (Editors) (2007). The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility. London, England; New York, NY: Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-72395-1.
  • Von Weizsacker, E.U. (1998). Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use. Earthscan, ISBN 1853834068.
  • Von Weizsacker, E.U., C. Hargroves, M.H. Smith, C. Desha, and P. Stasinopoulos (2009). Factor Five: Transforming the Global Economy through 80% Improvements in Resource Productivity. Routledge, ISBN 1844075915.
  • Wright, R. (2004). A Short History of Progress. Toronto: Anansi. ISBN 0-88784-706-4.
  • Wilson, E.O. (2002). The Future of Life. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45078-5.

Sustainability Environmental terminology Environmentalism Environmental economics Environmental social science

sustainability.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/12 18:39 (external edit)