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Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

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Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

Postby Thomas Woodfin » 16 May 2010, 08:27

Achieving sustainability occurs through the process of sustainable development - discovering, adopting, implementing, establishing, and adjusting appropriate institutions, policies, strategies, and technologies to produce a just transition that moves society toward the envisioned idealized state of existence. Democracy is often viewed in the same way, as a process of working toward the ideal. :roll:

In applying the concepts and reflecting on the history of sustainability, what do we (as a people) want to sustain and in what ways can individuals work toward sustainability? Why was the first green revolution considered a failure in terms of the environment? Why do you think the green 2 revolution is a good idea?

"The earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed." Ghandi
This discussion is obviously pretty related to the one we had last week. What would we do to ensure that we come up with a sustainable development project?
We would like to emphasize on the importance of "good governance" for this discussion since it is one of the main factors that determines whether or not a project is sustainable. Among others, poor governance was one of the reasons why the first green revolution failed.
With the second green revolution however, we see how good governance (theoretically) plays a huge role in shifting the outcome to a more successful one. The four principles of good governance (accountability, participation and decentralization, predictability, and transparency) are pretty much characteristics that would allow a sustainable development project officer to be successful.
First, we thought that we have to make sure to note that we (as people) want to sustain our environment and our natural resources before anything else. Our country/world's economy sure is vital but we will not be able to use the term economy if we abuse what actually runs our economies all around the planet. Balancing our environmental and natural resources consumption would therefore be the first step towards achieving sustainability.
Once we determine the latter, we as individuals could work towards sustainability by exercising our right to participation. Again, participation is one of the four principles of good governance, so we need to realize that WE are the main stakeholders and beneficiaries in every nation's development efforts. By doing so, we eliminate the risks of corruption by those in power, we decrease the gaps between rich and poor which was one of the major issues faced by the GR.
Julia Butterflies' concept of making sustainability mainstream through individual action was quite interesting, while her actions are a bit extreme she set out to prove a point and did just that by living in the redwood tree she wanted to save…the key points that I want to make are that by her actions she caused questions to be asked by loggers and other community members, conversations were started and she saved the redwoods for a short time…importantly the thought process began, while we can't all save the world alone; we can start a revolution.

Sustainability, I am struggling with whether sustainable development truly means to sustain any and all human activities…while I believe that sustainability is truly necessary and there is a need for real change because resources are diminishing as nature and the environment are suffering, but how much can realistically be changed? Should we be trying to take a step back or a step forward? Is there a way to capitalize on globalization, but still sustain? Will globalizing third world countries hurt or help long term?
Balance among the determinants of sustainability will help transition towards more sustainable societies and cause collaboration. It almost seems like common sense; consumption of too much of anything isn't good…too much food can cause you to be fat, too much sun will cause cancer, etc. Consumption…reducing food consumption would help in the US in more than one regard…obesity…Eco-efficiency/economic efficiency…collaborate vs. compete…
In regards to production let's become leaders ourselves and implement ways to help unsustainable production.
"Sustainability represents an idealized societal state where people live long, dignified, comfortable, and productive lives, satisfying their needs in environmentally sound and socially just ways so as to not compromise the ability of other human beings from doing the same now and into the distant future. It is, in effect, an attempt to merge development and nature conservation efforts in a mutually beneficial way for the common good of the planet's present and future generations alike. In practice, achieving sustainability occurs through the process of sustainable development - discovering, adopting, implementing, establishing, and adjusting appropriate institutions, policies, strategies, and technologies to produce a just transition that moves society toward the envisioned idealized state of existence. Democracy is often viewed in the same way, as a process of working toward the ideal." (Kertmath, 2007)

"In the case of sustainability, the ideal consists of the simultaneous establishment of the two spatially and temporally essential and universal conditions - "environmental integrity" and "social justice" - that must be maintained over the long haul." (Kermath, 2007)
The first Green Revolution was considered a failure because of bad governance and rich farmers didn't give the poor farmers are chance to take advantage of the subsidized fuel and in turn caused an "increased income gap between the rich and poor" (p. 74)

The "Green 2 Revolution" is an agriculture development which is needed to achieve sustainable development in the world. What I like about the Green 2 Revolution is that the five policy elements are trying to promote sustainable development and make a significant impact on poverty reduction. For example the first policy "redistributes policy that favors the poor by providing them access to land and modern impact". (p. 74) hopefully, this can help the poor help themselves, which is the long term goal n all cases. "good governance includes predictability, fair, compensation pursuant to law will be required for a successful redistributive policy." (p. 74)
Increased investment in rain-fed agricultural areas in both Asia and Latin America. "as a one-time cattle owner in South America and understanding the need to be able to level the land and knowing that just because an area may get ample rain, doesn't mean the farm is successful. Many factors come in to play and need to be understood.

The woman beggar on page 77 that was able to take on a micro-loan is a prime example of "showing someone how to fish and you feed them for life" giving someone willing and wanting to learn can give them a chance for change and respect. It enables them to produce their own goods and earn a living. While, microfinance isn't the key way for change, as "microfinance can help the working poor, but not generally the poorest of the poor" (p. 77)
In response to the questions on the failures of GR, a few points are worth mentioning:
1- Despite its production success the GR favored the big agricultural corporations over the small farms leading to a huge disparity between rich and poor. The small farmers had no say in the way the GR worked (centralization and lack of participation) which is a sign of poor governance.

2- The use of pesticides and fertilizers works best on soils with a high degree of water control, so what happens to the small farms that cannot afford to pay for such technologies?

3- The GR was completely dependent on the new technologies, where resources were consumed at unreasonable levels compared to the GR2 which worked with nature rather than used nature's resources (issue of system of irrigation and drainage).

4- The increase in production was mostly done for rice and wheat, leaving regions where such production is not very popular, struggling to find a way out of their food crises like Africa.

5- Greed is what has harmed the GR in the past and will harm the GR2 sooner or later. We need to find a way to develop policies and programs that are fair to all stakeholders, without destroying our earth by unreasonably using up its resources.

Kermath, Brian M. 2007. "What is Sustainability? The Global Environmental Management Education Center (GEM) University of Wisconsin. Reviewed 3 Feb 10.
Rogers, Peter. P., Jalal, Kazi. F., & Boyd, John. A. (2008). Challenges of sustainable development. In An introduction to sustainable development (pp. 54-83). London, UK: Earthscan.
Thomas Woodfin
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Re: Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

Postby NinjaPuppy » 16 May 2010, 18:33

Hi Thomas. Welcome!
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Re: Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

Postby Craig Browning » 17 May 2010, 00:07

:shock: OVERLOAD :shock:

Though I'm the crowned prince of long posts, I have the hardest time wading through them :?

Welcome Thomas and in regards to your proposition let me try to convey a "proper" response based on what I could digest... sadly, I'm not in my prime this morning so this may come off rather odd...

The "Green" campaign of the 60s/70s didn't fail, it laid some important groundwork and made some exceptionally powerful changes... I remember those near black skies and rivers that caught on fire, bobby for tin cans on Lake Erie, etc. I watched as mining companies were forced into redeveloping lands they had strip mined as well as how mining operations were seriously overhauled and cleaned up... understand, I was but a kid when all of this was happening, but I could see the process. I've also seen where "the process" has hurt situations, such as the "clear cut" laws found in farming regions... farmers must now turn under all left over vegetation in their fields by a given date or be fined... I don't know all the reason behind it outside of fire, but the practice has cost us a once potent Pheasant, Grouse & Quail population not to mention how it has affected deer and smaller animals (fox, rabbits and even field mice). I've likewise seen how some of the "Conservation" laws set into play during that era has resulted in population control issues and thus, the invasion of woodland critters into the urban world... granted, it's we that usurped their lands and homes but we've refused to accept responsibility when it comes to how our selfish actions demand taking drastic actions in animal control... :roll:

Now, when we come into the current Green Campaign I have both kudos and bitches again... Kudos in that we do need to become more responsible when it comes to respecting this planet and all of it's inhabitants. Bitches in the sense that the idea has become a platform by which a ton of money grabbing hippies are building small empires by not just guilting society into paying over-inflated prices for questionable services, but likewise exaggerating an issue.

Yes, climate change is a fact.

No, it is not 100% our fault... a great deal of it stems from the natural cycles of the earth system.

Yes, we have affected some of these cyclic changes, the quality of the air/water and even the temperature rates of the atmosphere. But, not nearly as much as the drama keeps suggesting... a drama that is quickly costing the Green Effort II to fall on deaf ears. It's become too militant (one more time) and again, the grotesque commercialism and usury tied to its patrons has become a major detour... a turn off to many, including those that were involved with the campaign previously.

Creating a society that is sustaining isn't that hard to do...IF YOU WANT TO GO BACK IN TIME. Humankind lived in that world for thousands of years. The problem is, we are now spoiled and unwilling to apply "technology" in moderation let alone control our habit of consumption.

Seems like every time I see reports about Landfill issues I'm watching commercials for Swifters and 101 other products that are "disposable". On top of this I'm seeing fear centered ads for Sanitizing lotions and now we have devices for dispersing those lotions that are likewise more sterile, all of which is made of PLASTIC and none of which seems to weigh the fact that we exist in a world that isn't sanitary and that some of that germ contact is necessary for the sake of survival... the long term results of this fear based propaganda tied to Green Movement II may likely give us a very unhealthy human animal in a few short generations. Even now much of western society is viewed as being overly "soft" and careful... out of touch with the realities of life on this planet.

Sustainability can be reclaimed if we return to the standards known just a century ago, when city dwellers actually had gardens, their own chickens, goats, or pigs, maybe even a milk cow. I don't think we can see this same model come in reprise but we can develop a comparable urban sense of agriculture; one of the better ideas to come out of the Green Movement II -- high rise & roof top gardens, parks, etc. being a huge contribution towards this end, as would the exploitation of wind & solar resources by way of the High Rise facilities found in each community (especially major cities). These things are such a logical and "low cost" step they really should be written into code/law but they won't... there's too much money to be had and the power merchants will insist on taking more than their share by charging us for the sun and the air we breathe. But, as Gandhi implied, if we could knock the greed out of these jerks and get them to look at the greater good of all, then we could have such a wonder in the world and as an end result play host to a healthier population, healthier economy, healthier planet.

A "Sustainable" culture is possible, just not probable. Humankind is just too self-centered and no matter how large the movement might be when it comes to this sort of thing, there will always be those in the position of political and economic influence to keep "it" from happening... at least not at the communal level that's required... what I call the Roddenberry-Bradbury vision -- a culture free of economy as we know it, a global political base and married between the advantages of RESPONSIBLE technology and the "old ways" -- the more primitive traditions associated with agriculture... my favorite example is seen in the episode of Star Trek (Next Generation) when Picard returns home for some R&R after his Borg ordeal... the family vineyard sat in the middle of a technological world where people can choose to sustain life and the planet in different ways, according to their nature.

:oops: Enough of my rambling... while I can share the sentiment of building a responsible culture, my cynicism keeps reminding me of what is in the way when it comes to making it happen.
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