Monday, August 26, 2002

A number of recent articles criticize the catchphrase "sustainable development" (1, 2, 3 and 4 from Bjorn Lomborg) and the proponents of sustainable development (notably at Johannesburg) who oppose economic growth in at least some forms. James Glassman puts it well, if idealistically: "the word "sustainable" bothers me. While imprecise, it carries connotations of constraint, of limits to growth. The best way to improve the well-being of the people of the world and to improve the environment of the world is to eliminate constraints - especially on the human achievement and imagination. A goal of sustainable development sells the world short. We can do much better."

On the other "side", Nitin Desai, the Secretary General of the Johannesburg summit, defines sustainable development in this interview. Part of his answer: "What does it mean to talk about sustainable energy? It means that you are not going to approach this simply from the perspective of pure environmental management, nor or we going to approach this simply from the perspective of: here is the demand for growth, how are we going to meet it? We need something which seeks to combine the two!" South African president Thabo Mbeki, who spoke at the summit, says "A global human society based on poverty for many and prosperity for a few, characterized by islands of wealth, surrounded by a sea of poverty, is unsustainable." However that seems to be an incompatible (or irrelevant) definition next to Desai's.

According to this article, the phrase was invented in 1987 in the Brundtland report. 'Sustainable development seeks to meet the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability to meet those of the future,' said the report. 'Far from requiring the cessation of economic growth (the notion of sustainability) recognizes that the problem of poverty and underdevelopment cannot be solved unless we have a new era of growth in which developing countries play a large role and reap large benefits.'

No comments:

Blog Archive

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.