The human community is an element of the Earth community, not the other way around. All human endeavors are situated within the dynamics of the biosphere. If we wish to have sustainable institutions and enterprises, they must fit well with the processes of the Earth.
Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
the Bruntland Report, ‘Our Common Future’, 1987
Replacing a piece of equipment with a more power efficient equivalent, for example, might seem like an obvious way to help the environment. But will the energy savings over the lifetime of the kit outweigh the environmental cost of its manufacture and the disposal of the equipment being replaced?
We know humans have been polluting the planet and consuming its natural resources as a consequence of their production, consumption, and disposal of desirable goods and services. It’s not a new problem, but governments, businesses and other institutions seem finally to have woken up to the realities of the situation. What’s needed is a return to a more sustainable way of life in which we continue to enjoy nature’s bounty but without depriving future generations of their inheritance.
Let’s make things really simple: in a truly sustainable world, waste is food.
It means that, after use, materials are re-used at an equal or higher level in the production cycle. This requires careful thought at the design stage and in the choice of materials used. It also requires discipline at the end of life to ensure that materials are easily recovered in a reusable form. The end result is a virtuous cycle, more like nature than the earth-plundering, environment-polluting mechanisms of our recent industrial age.
The average PC that is being discarded at the moment required 1.7 tonnes of raw materials in its manufacture.
Some would say that we’re beyond the point of no return. It’s already too late, we’re hooked on a consumer lifestyle and globalization has ensured its future spread to the massive populations of developing countries.
If these people are childless or don’t care about their grandchildren, then who’s to say they’re wrong? They will continue to plunder and to hell with the consequences. But they’re probably a tiny minority.
The rest of us can see the sense of doing what we can to slow, possibly halt, maybe even reverse our negative impact on
Sustainability and cooperation are overshadowed by economic orthodoxy
While initiatives in sustainability and co-operation remain voluntary, the socially responsible and virtuous will be at a huge competitive disadvantage against the exploitative and dishonest. Some tightening and active application of corporate law will be essential for their support. But that will require a government that is prepared to take bold action, rather than just engage in sweet talk and sound bites, while adopting a permissive approach to all sorts of financial abuse.