Sustainable development (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
According to the 1987 report of the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as theBrundtland Commission, humanity has the ability to make development sustainable—to ensure that the current generation meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development involves a process of change 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. The Brundtland Commission envisioned the possibility of continued economic growth, population stabilization, improvements in global economic equity among all nations, and environmental improvement, all occurring simultaneously and in harmony. Since publication of the commission’s report, titled Our Common Future, the goal of sustainable development—both environmental and economic development—has become the dominant global position.
Advocates of sustainable development hold a normative philosophy, or value system, concerned with equal distribution of the earth’s natural capital among current and future generations of humans. They promote three core values. First, current and future generations should have equal access to the planet’s life-support systems—including the earth’s gaseous...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Bowers, John. Sustainability and Environmental Economics: An Alternative Text. Essex, England: Longman, 1997.
Dryzek, John S. “Environmentally Benign Growth: Sustainable Development.” In The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Landon, Megan. Environment, Health, and Sustainable Development. New York: Open University Press, 2006.
Lee, Kai N. Compass and Gyroscope: Integrating Science and Politics for the Environment. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1993.
Rogers, Peter P., Kazi F. Jalal, and John A. Boyd. An Introduction to Sustainable Development. Sterling, Va.: Earthscan, 2008.
Sitarz, Daniel, ed. Agenda 21: The Earth Summit Strategy to Save Our Planet. Boulder, Colo.: EarthPress, 1993.
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Background (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The term “sustainable development” was popularized by the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) in its report, Our Common Future (1987). The Brundtland Commission defined the term as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations.” What is to be sustained is usually confined to economic welfare, although in some cases the concept is broadened to include distributional equity, equality of opportunity, and political and social freedom. In the latter case, the concept becomes ambiguous and incapable of measurement.
To most environmentalists, sustainable development means that the present generation should use the natural resource base it inherits in a manner that will enable future generations to have a level of welfare equal to or greater than that enjoyed by the present generation. The natural resource base includes both the services and material inputs required to produce what is measured in a nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and nontraded amenity services, such as scenic waterfalls, old-growth trees, and a healthy environment, which are not included in the GDP.
In order to sustain economic welfare, the present generation must pass on to future generations not simply natural resources and the environment, but all of the requirements for producing goods and services: industrial and agricultural capital,...
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Obstacles to Sustainability (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The present generation can have little control over how future generations use this legacy, whether for maximizing welfare or engaging in wars that waste and destroy their inheritance. Limiting population growth is an essential element in sustainable development for both present and future generations, since no conceivable amount of technological progress and increased productivity could assure sustainable development at the current rates of population growth in most developing countries.
The concept of sustainable development can be applied globally or to individual countries. For example, the World Bank seeks to promote sustainable development in poor countries that receive its financial and technical assistance, but the bank is also concerned with threats to global sustainability, such as climate changes (from greenhouse gases and ozone depletion) and the extinction of marine life in the oceans. It is generally assumed that no country can maintain sustainable development indefinitely in the face of the continued deterioration of the global environmental base.
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Natural Resource Issues (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Beginning in the early nineteenth century, scholars became concerned with whether the Earth’s supply of natural resources in the form of land and minerals constitutes a limitation on the growth of food and other products essential to human life. Conservationists have argued that humankind must limit output in order to avoid running out of fertile land, minerals, marine life, and water. Even with a stationary population, the finite supply of natural resource inputs, including many energy resources, will eventually become exhausted unless it is possible to find artificial substitutes. For example, if copper were required for transmission lines and electrical appliances, a modern standard of living would be impossible if the Earth’s supply of minable copper were exhausted. However, there are now substitutes for copper that can be made from the most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust; in addition, communication does not require metal wires, as it once did.
Technological optimists believe that substitutes can eventually be found for all natural resource inputs. They also believe that environmental degradation can be limited so that it will not impose a constraint on output and liveability. This position has been identified as “weak sustainability,” in contrast with “strong sustainability.” Those who favor strong sustainability as the only viable concept of sustainability argue that providing for the...
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The Human Development Index (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has devised a human development index (HDI) as an alternative to the GDP for measuring and comparing national well-being among countries. HDI has three basic components: longevity, knowledge, and standard of living. The HDI may provide a better means of comparing the welfare of the present with that of future generations. However, it must be recognized that future generations will choose to allocate the resources at their disposal, say, between education and material goods, in a manner which differs considerably from that of the present generation.
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Blewitt, John. Understanding Sustainable Development. Sterling, Va.: Earthscan, 2008.
Daly, Herman E. Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.
Elliott, Jennifer A. An Introduction to Sustainable Development. 3d ed. New York: Routledge, 2006.
Friedman, Avi. Sustainable Residential Development: Planning and Design for Green Neighborhoods. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
Hinrichsen, Don. Our Common Future: A Reader’s Guide. London: Earthscan, 1987.
Holliday, Charles O., Jr., Stephan Schmidheiny, and Philip Watts. Walking the Talk: The Business Case for Sustainable Development. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2002.
Newman, Peter, and Isabella Jennings. Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems: Principles and Practices. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2008.
Pearce, David, et al. Blueprint 3: Measuring Sustainable Development. London: Earthscan, 1993.
Rogers, Peter P., Kazi F. Jalal, and John A. Boyd. An Introduction to Sustainable Development. Edited by Stephen J. Banta, David Sheniak, and Anita Feleo. Cambridge, Mass.: Continuing Education Division, Harvard University, 2006.
Roosa, Stephen A. Sustainable Development Handbook. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2008.
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Background (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Sustainable development aims to address a number of interrelated global issues, such as poverty, inequality, hunger, and environmental degradation. The concept emerged out of numerous environmental movements begun in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was one of the major international events to bring sustainable development into the mainstream. However, the progress in sustainable development has been quite slow across the globe. Many challenges and a lack of political will are responsible for this less-than-satisfactory progress.
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Progress and History (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
The term “sustainability” was first officially defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development as entailing “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Although it means many different things to different people, sustainable development generally refers to sustainability in terms of environmental, economic, and social progress and equity, all interconnected and operating within the limits of natural resources. At the heart of such development is the goal of a healthy and harmonious relationship between humans and natural resources, such that the latter can continue to provide for future generations of the former.
Sustainable development has been an urgent global issue for many years, although the record on moving toward achieving the goal has been quite poor. For instance, the world has failed not only to protect the interests of future generations but also to meet the needs of present generations. Currently, 1.3 billion people live without access to clean water, and nearly 50 percent of Earth’s population survives on less than two dollars a day and lacks access to basic sanitation. A further 2 billion people are without electricity. These alarming statistics come in an age of immense wealth that is increasingly concentrated in fewer hands.
In the years since the Rio Earth Summit, sustainable development...
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Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Beginning in the second half of the twentieth century, agricultural productivity increased dramatically. This increase has helped improve the lives of billions, but at the same time it has weakened nature’s ability to deliver other key services. These range from clean air and water to protection from disasters to preservation of biodiversity to prevention of soil erosion. Environmentally damaging industrial agriculture threatens future sustainability. Sustainable development seems to be the best option to halt or even reverse environmental degradation and grow food now without jeopardizing key services later.
Sustainable development must begin with a transformation of fundamental philosophies on agriculture. Many current agricultural systems are operated on business models that are geared solely to make money and profit. In other words, crops are not grown for people to eat but are produced for consumers to buy. This practice leads to a major diversion of land use from food production to profit generation. It also makes food less nutritious and less tasty, as crops are bred for shelf life and uniform appearance (qualities that are evident to shoppers in supermarkets and that facilitate lucrative high-volume models of production) rather than nutritional content or taste (qualities that are invisible until after one makes a purchase).
Much of the best agricultural land in the world is used to grow...
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Sustainable Energy Sources (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Among the most important resources that must be sustained are energy resources. Alternative and renewable energy sources, particularly clean energy sources, are necessary components of any plan of sustainable development. Such sources include biofuels, geothermal power, solar power, wind power, and wave power. In the short term, any technology that improves energy efficiency may be considered a component of the transition to sustainable energy practices.
Biofuels in particular can be produced from almost any organic carbon source. However, most biofuels are produced using plants and plant-derived materials. The first generation of biofuels includes vegetable oils, biodiesel, bioalcohols, and solid biofuels such as wood, grass cuttings, domestic refuse, and dried manure. The most common use of these substances is as liquid fuel for transportation. Two common strategies are employed to produce biofuels: Sugar and starchy crops are used to produce ethanol through yeast fermentation, while natural plant oils, such as canola, soybean, and palm oils, are extracted and processed for use as biodiesel.
Production of first-generation biofuels is highly controversial, because it requires direct use of grains and takes away land from growing food crops, exacerbating world hunger. Moreover, biofuel crops, particularly corn, are extremely hard on soil, making them among the least sustainable crops in the world. The low...
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Context (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
By and large, current societies and socioeconomic practices are unsustainable. As a result, future generations will have a poorer, more polluted world to live in. Everyone depends on nature and ecosystem services for the resources necessary to live decent, healthy, and sustainable lives, including clean air, drinkable water, nutritious food, clothing, shelter, and so forth. Human activities in recent decades have pushed the Earth to the brink of massive species extinctions, threatening humanity’s well-being. While the Industrial Revolution and technological advancement have served to improve the living standards of millions, the associated environmental degradation remains a heavy price.
Anthropogenic scourges of the planet have become significant barriers to sustainable development. Better protection and more efficient uses of various natural assets are vital if humans expect to inhabit the Earth in harmony with the planet’s many other species and their ecosystems. Real sustainable development must recognize the interconnectedness between human beings and the environment if true environmental and social justice is to be obtained. Measures must be taken and technology must be developed to conserve natural resources, to secure alternative forms of energy, to develop an economy friendly to the environment, and to preserve cultural diversity and heritages. These goals can be achieved only through coordinated global efforts, across...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Adkin, Laurie E. The Politics of Sustainable Development: Citizens, Unions, and the Corporations. Buffalo, N.Y.: Black Rose Books, 1998. Explores the attitudes of different entities in society as they reflect on not only their stake in protecting particular interests but also the limits of their abilities to envision alternatives regarding economic development. Argues for the convergence of both in pursuing sustainable development.
Buck, Louise, J. P. Lassoie, and Erick C. M. Fernandes. Agroforestry in Sustainable Agricultural Systems. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 1998. Examines the environmental and social conditions that affect the roles and performance of trees in field- and forest-based agricultural production systems; presents case studies from around the world that offer innovative strategies that have been used successfully in raising forests and tree products on a sustainable basis.
Hawken, Paul. The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability. New York: Collins Business, 2005. Provides a visionary blueprint for a marketplace in which businesses and environmentalists collaborate to redesign and manufacture products in innovative ways that move toward a profitable, productive, and ecologically sound future.
Mason, John. Sustainable Agriculture. 2d ed. Collingwood, Vic.: Landlinks Press, 2003. A must-read book for anyone who wants to know the fundamentals...
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Sustainable Development (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
The term "sustainable development" was popularized in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development. It refers to a systematic approach to achieving human development in a way that sustains planetary resources, based on the recognition that human consumption is occurring at a rate that is beyond Earth's capacity to support it. Population growth and the developmental pressures spawned by an unequal distribution of wealth are two major driving forces that are altering the planet in ways that threaten the long-term health of humans and other species on the planet.
Human health is dependent on the healthy functioning of the earth's ecosystem. These systems would be overwhelmed if all of the earth's inhabitants were to match the consumption patterns of wealthier nations. Sustainable development requires alterations in the lifestyle of the wealthy to live within the carrying capacity of the environment. To achieve sustainability there is a need for holistic responses to global issues such as urbanization and energy overconsumption, and there is a need for better measures of ecological and social sustainability. While sustainable development is a prerequisite for the long-term health of humans, it will not be possible to achieve sustainability in much of the world unless the toll of major health scourges, such as malaria and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection, is significantly reduced.
BERNARD D. GOLDSTEIN
(SEE ALSO: Atmosphere; Brownfields; Carson, Rachel; Climate Change and Human Health; Ecosystems; Environmental Justice; Environmental Movement; Equity and Resource Allocation; International Health; Pollution; Urban Health; Urban Sprawl)
McMichael, A. J.; Smith, K. R.; and Corvalan, C. F. (2000). "The Sustainability Transition: A New Challenge." Bulletin of the World Health Organization 78(9):1067.
McMichael, A. J., and Powles, J. W. P. (1999). "Human Numbers, Environment, Sustainability, and Health." British Medical Journal 319:97780.
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992). Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme.
Sustainable Development (Encyclopedia of Business)
- THE PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
- SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND NON- GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
The term "sustainable development" is used widely throughout the world today, and it is used in many contexts. Yet, it has become almost a buzz word, used by many people without a clear articulation of its meaning. Therefore, it is important to begin with a definition. The United Nations (UN) is credited with developing the term, which was defined by a UN body called the World Commission on the Environment and Development in a 1987 report titled Our Common Future. The World Commission defined sustainable development as development which, "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Since Our Common Future was released, the goal of sustainable development has been embraced by environmentalists, governments, and businesses throughout the world.
Sustainable development needs to be viewed in the context of a global economy in which goods, people, information, and ideas are moving across borders at an unprecedented pace. It is a far-reaching overall concept that encompasses multiple social, economic, and environmental goals.
The world's population doubled between 1950 and 1990, and it is expected to have doubled again early in the 21st century, demonstrating the social needs of sustainable development. Yet, much of the world lives in poverty. Hundreds of millions lack access to clean drinking water and suffer from malnutrition. Sustainable development can help up the basic needs of the world's population.
Economic growth can help reduce poverty. In Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere, economic growth has created new industrial centers. But, increased industrialization leads to environmental problems including air, water, and ground pollution.
Further, increased population and economic development have led to destruction of habitats and species. It is said that 80 percent of the world's forests have been destroyed, and deforestation continues in India, China, Latin America, and elsewhere. The amounts of ocean species such as whales, salmon, and cod have been seriously depleted by fishing. Irreplaceable coral reefs are being destroyed through human use as well as pollution. Further, by burning fossil fuels, we are depleting limited natural resources at the same time that we are causing imbalances in the atmosphere that lead to global warming and climate changes.
Overall, sustainable development requires a shift in thinking around the world. It is an underlying goal that can only be met through attention to social needs, economic development, and environmental protection. Sustainable development is often articulated as policy, but it must also be translated into action in our daily lives.
The various aspects of sustainable development can fill volumes, and therefore this article will provide only an introduction to some of the topic's many facets. First, it summarizes the history of the concept. Next, it discusses the pursuit of sustainable development in the United States. And finally, it examines three differing, yet interrelated, avenues through which the goal of sustainable development is being pursued: trade agreements, programs established by non-governmental organizations, and environmental law.
ARTICULATION OF THE CONCEPT AND GOALS
The United Nations (UN) has become increasingly involved in environmental issues since the late 1960s. In 1968, the UN passed a resolution in which it pledged to work to find solutions to environmental problems. In 1972, it held a Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, and, as a result of that conference, the UN General Assembly established the United Nations Environmental Programme. In 1983, the General Assembly took another major step by establishing the World Commission on the Environment and Development (World Commission).
THE WORLD COMMISSIONUR COMMON FUTURE.
The World Commission conducted an in-depth, four-year study addressing interlocking ecological and economic threats and resulting concerns for the earth. As a result of its study, the Commission released a 1987 report titled Our Common Future, which is sometimes referred to as the Brundtland Report. In that report, the Commission defined sustainable development and its pursuit as important goals for the nations of the world. The Commission discussed the interrelationships among various crises facing citizens throughout the world. "[A]n environmental crisis, a development crisis, an energy crisis. They are all one.Ecology and economy are becoming ever more interwovenocally, regionally, nationally, and globallynto a seamless net of causes and effects."
RIO DE JANEIRO SUMMIT.
The United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), was held in Rio de Janeiro (the Rio Conference) in 1992 and attended by representatives of over one hundred nations. As a result of the Rio Conference, UNCED issued "Agenda 21," which is a statement of principles for implementing sustainable development in industrialized and developing countries around the world. Agenda 21 recommends that each country create a national council for sustainable development. As of late 1997, nearly 100 such councils had been created around the world including the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD), created by President Bill Clinton in the United States.
THE PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
President Clinton appointed leaders of major corporations, environmental groups, labor organizations, civil rights groups, and others to serve on the PCSD. Also serving were the Secretaries of Agriculture, Energy, and Commerce, as well as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
After meetings held around the United States, the PCSD delivered a report to President Clinton in which it adopted the World Commission's definition of sustainable development and set out principles, 10 national goals, and 59 policy recommendations designed to promote sustainable development in the United States. The policy recommendations cover topics including population, agriculture, natural resource management, environmental regulation, strengthening communities, and public education. In its report, the PCSD emphasized the need for an integrated approach at the community level. Each person must be provided with opportunities to participate in decisions that will affect his or her future. The report emphasizes that knowledge is a key component in economic development, solving environmental problems, and working toward sustainable development.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND TRADE NEGOTIATIONS
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect on January 1, 1994. It includes more provisions related to the environment than any international agreement or treaty entered into by the United States prior to that date. Environmentalists and labor leaders had a major influence on NAFTA. They worked together during debate on NAFTA, and their actions led to the negotiation of an Environmental Side Agreement and a Labor Side Agreement that were appended to NAFTA before it was considered by the U.S. Congress. NAFTA has been hailed as taking a major step forward for the environment, even though its provisions are limited. The Environmental Side Agreement mentions the pursuit of sustainable development three times, however, it is named only as a goal. NAFTA does not require pursuit or attainment of sustainable development. The body of NAFTA does, however, include numerous provisions related to environmental protection. For example, it covers phytosanitary measures (related to protection of human, animal, or plant life) and standards-related measures. The Side Agreement does not create new environmental laws, but the United States, Canada, and Mexico each promise to enforce their own environmental laws.
SUMMIT(S) OF THE AMERICAS.
In December of 1994, President Clinton and leaders of 33 other Western Hemisphere countries met in Miami, Florida for the first Summit of the Americas since 1967. The purpose of the Summit was to plan for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FT A A) to be established by the year 2005. The Miami Summit produced a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action. The Plan of Action included 23 initiatives, divided among four sets. The first set concerns strengthening democracy in the Americas. The second set outlines steps toward creating the FTAA, and the third set includes measures designed to eliminate discrimination and poverty in the Western Hemisphere. The fourth set is titled, "Guaranteeing Sustainable Development and Conserving Our Natural Environment for Future Generations" and includes three initiatives covering sustainable energy use, biodiversity, and pollution prevention.
Efforts have continued since the 1994 Summit. Sustainable development was addressed in a separate summit: the Santa Cruz Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development held in December 1996 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Representatives of all of the 34 Miami Summit countries participated and produced a Plan of Action that includes 65 action items. In addition, funding was promised by the World Bank, the Organization of American States (OAS), and Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND NON- GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
Business leaders are involved in the pursuit of sustainable development through various avenues. In some cases, they work with coalitions of environmentalists and other citizens. Other cases, they have incorporated discussion of sustainable development in the programs of privately-run organizations.
Coalitions of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are credited with encouraging professional business organizations to develop guidelines on environmental management practices. One example is the Responsible Care(r) (CARE(r)) Program, adopted by the Chemical Manufacturers' Association (CMA). The program is designed to improve handling and disposal of chemicals. All members of the CMA are required to participate in the CARE(r) program. Another example is found in the activities of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), a coalition of environmental groups, government agencies, investors, and economists that convened in the aftermath of a March 1989 accident in which the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound. The CERES group a set of ten principles for environmental management that were first named the Valdez Principles and later renamed the CERES Principles. The group's initiatives have encouraged businesses to disclose environmental performance records to the public.
The efforts of the CMA, CERES, environmental groups, and others set the stage for action by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The ISO is a private standards organization that has been in operation since 1947. In 1996, the ISO issued its new ISO 14000 Series International Environmental Management Standards. Those standards name attainment of sustainable development as a major goal, and they include standards for environmental management systems (EMSs) that can be adopted by companies around the world. Provisions within the ISO 14000 Series allow companies to obtain certification for environmental management standards, thus providing a way for companies to demonstrate environmental efforts to governments, environmentalists, consumers, and other companies. The standards and their widespread implementation are viewed evidence of a major shift in corporate attitudes and practices with respect to environmental protection.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
Finally, individual countries continue to pursue sustainable development through national environmental law. In the United States such laws include, but are not limited to, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substance Control Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Clean-up and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund), and the regulations implementing those statutes. The U.S. Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, predates worldwide discussion of sustainable development, but its importance is underscored as we work toward sustainable development. In addition, new laws are needed to deal with concerns about biotechnology and biodiversity. For example, while some scientists promote biotechnology as a tool for developing a sustainable global environment, others fear that genetically modified organisms pose a threat to the environment.
A few U.S. laws are mentioned here by way of example, but discussion of the environmental laws of individual countries is beyond the scope of this article. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that such laws are part of the overall set of tools that will continue to be used by citizens and governments around the world in the pursuit of sustainable development.
Sustainable development involves the pursuit of myriad social, economic, and environmental goals. Thus, it must be pursued through many avenues, by millions of people, and through thousands of organizations.
Since the UN's World Commission defined sustainable development in Our Common Future in 1987, progress has been made. For example, coalitions of business people and citizens worked to develop the CERES Principles in 1989. Those principles, and the efforts of those who developed them, have prompted businesses to work to voluntarily develop environmental management systems (EMSs). In connection with that impetus, the ISO 14000 Series Environmental Management Standards have been developed. As a result, over 200,000 companies around the world have developed EMS systems that have been certified pursuant to the ISO 14000 Series standards.
Simultaneously, governments have agreed to name sustainable development as a goal in trade agreements, in international agreements, and in national-level statutes. Thus, sustainable development is named as a goal in NAFTA, and it is a primary topic of discussion among the nations of the Western Hemisphere as they work toward a Free Trade Area of the Americans. And, it is considered, and often incorporated, as new environmental laws are drafted and existing laws are revised.
Sustainable development requires the efforts of all of us working as individuals and as groups. As coalitions of various interest groups work on various levels within the community, nationally, and globally, a synergy is created. That synergy is essential if we are to create a world economy based on sustainable development.
In closing, it is important to acknowledge that sustainable development is not a target that can be set, pursued, and reached. Instead it represents a goal that is still being defined, and it will continue to be redefined during the decades to come. We cannot foresee the state of our world decades from now, but we can work toward a point at which the essential needs of the world's citizens are being met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
SEE ALSO: Economic Development; Global Warming; International Organization for Standardization (ISO); ISO 14000; Summit of the Americas
[Paulette L. Stenzel]
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Robinson, Nicholas A. "Attaining Systems for Sustainability through Environmental Law," Natural Resources And Environment, Fall 1997.
Stenzel, Paulette, L. "Can NAFTA's Environmental Provisions Promote Sustainable Development?" Albany Law Review, 1995.
World Commission On Environment And Development, Our Common Future. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1987.