mail sent to the organisiers of the 2008 conference of the Alliance for Global Sustainability. Mail adresses on request.
Geneva, 14 November 2007
I would like to give a feedback to your conference intro text.
I believe one has to base each deliberation on some basic principles/facts.
1. The world and it resources are finite and humanity is overloading the planet by far.
2. Because of economic growth (expansion) and population growth the speed of resource depletion and environmental pollution (which includes greenhouse gases) is increasing. This is in fact a suicidal policy and we must therefore abolish the growth paradigm immediately and design a strategy that reduces raw material use. Localisation, speed reduction, increasing longivety of products, de-mechanisation, bans on wasteful/unnecessary/damaging products and activities/habits are some measures that can be taken.
3. The state of the world and the time scale must be realistically assessed: peak oil, loss of biodiversity, groundwater depletion, soil erosion, immediacy of the effects of climate change (not only for the poor world, also for us in Europe and the USA). In case of doubt the precautionary principle must apply: better safe than sorry.
4. One must design solution with the methods and means that we have. Hope and research for future technological solutions can be no basis for any decision.
5. Fake and counterproductive "solutions", such as carbon trading, carbon capping and sequestration, the Kyoto protocol's so-called Clean development mechanisms and Joint implementation must be denounced. Adjectives like "clean", "sustainable", or the delusive "carbonneutral" must not be used. Sustainability means that a given societal structure and mode of functioning can be maintained UNCHANGED for a very long time, say many hundreds of years. Homo sapiens sapiens has lived more or less sustainably for 4000 to 8000 generations. Modern industrial age has lasted 10 generations and we face total depletion and chaos within give or take 2 to 4 generations. Peak oil is immediate and population is projected to rise to 9 billion. In combination with the effects of climate change, increasing speeds of resource depletion and pollution this must unavoidably lead to collapse within the lifetime of our own children or grandchildren.
6. The discussions must NOT be reduced to energy availabilities and greenhouse gas emissions. Survival of humanity depends on the whole environment and it is the weakest link in the chain that will trigger collapse. That could be a tiny insect or ocean life that ruptures the food chain, for example. Or a populace that starts rioting because of petrol prices. Or another war set off because of oil.
7. Most present-day environmental discussions aim at maintaining our present life styles. This, however, is not possible because we have overshot the planet's carrying capacity. Thus the discussions should no longer be centered on technologies and methods to maintain our exuberant and resource-depleting life-styles. The hard facts must be faced and ways must be discussed to return to a societal structure and size that consumes and pollutes much less than today.
In sum, sustainability is a situation. It is not an adjective that can be added to development. We must be aware of the immediacy and the enormity of the threats and then devise the proper policies for reduction and restructuring. Beyond any doubt we must immediately stop economic growth and commence a process of contraction. And population growth must be courageously denounced as adding to the problems. It is in the interest of NO country to let population increase whilst resources diminish and misery thereby increases. Of course really poor and destitute areas and people must still be helped - by transferring resourced from our wealth, which in fact reduces our consumption levels
You may also compare http://ecoglobe.ch/sustain/e/momf1996.htm - Mind over Matter
I welcome your comments.
Kind regards ... Helmut Lubbers, independent environmental scientist
The 2008 AGS Annual Meeting builds upon progress in 2007 to develop the "pathways" concept as a framework for advancing near-term transitions to sustainability. The meeting is designed to move us from the academic concept of sustainability as "something we study" to "something we study and do." The basis of the pathways concept is how we transition from our present systems, based on today's technologies, infrastructures, and markets, toward more sustainable systems. Pathways can be thought of as alternative bridging technologies and strategies that move us from the present to a sustainable future. The question is what are the pathways and how do we flexibly choose among them?
In order to respond to the urgent need for substantive action on climate, energy, food, and water challenges, pathways design must take into consideration the scale, timing, and social equity of proposed technologies and policies. Will the redesigned system be of a scale to have significant impact for target regions, and can it be adapted for other regions? Can the system be implemented in time to make a difference? Does the pathway foster equitable distribution of resources and opportunities?
+41 22 3212320 helmut @ ecoglobe . ch