Sunday, October 11, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
The principles of sustainability aim to address the problems of environmental degradation and lack of human equality and quality of life, by supporting development that is sustainable in economic and social terms and is capable of retaining the benefits of a healthy stable environment in the long term. Sustainable thinking goes against our primitive instinct of putting ourselves before others in the fight for survival. It rationally prioritises globally favourable long-term solutions over short-term individual gains. Perhaps nature conservation organisations that invest time and money towards saving and protecting natural environments are the closest examples of a non-anthropocentric approach. In reality, most humans would put human survival before that of nature, and many would put human well-being before nature’s survival. The sustainability thinking goes against our primitive instinct for immediate survival. A significant problem the world faces today is that too many people are still struggling to survive and do not have the education or financial means to consider environmental issues at all. There is immense inequality between developed and developing countries: developed countries, on the whole, enjoy provision for health, employment, education and an average gross national product hundreds of times greater than that of some developing countries, Addressing such deprivation and inequality must be a priority for the global community if individuals in developing nations are to be able to consider environmental issues. The current government approach to sustainability, while reflecting an understanding that both environmental health and social inequalities need to be addressed, pragmatically accepts the reality of human behaviour, which makes a socially stable and economically prosperous environment a prerequisite to environmental improvements.
The concept of sustainability now embraces a triple bottom line that addresses social, economic and environmental sustainability concurrently. Social and economic issues are considered of equal importance to environmental issues, despite the fact that many perceive any further deterioration of the environment ultimately as negatively affecting the social and economic well-being of the global population. The current approach and the most used definition of sustainable development – ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (Brundtland 1987) – reflect a deeply anthropocentric position, and while purporting to consider long-term impacts, the focus on human interests may, in fact, prove short-sighted. For most individuals, embracing principles of sustainability, whether adopting an anthropocentric or non-anthropocentric approach, requires a major ethical shift. One of the key concepts of sustainability is equity: equity between all people around the world living today, and also equity between people living today and people living in the future. In addition, a non-anthropocentric approach extends the concept of equity to all species and nature. Embracing the concept of equity requires refocusing away from personal benefits onto the needs and interests of others. Achieving the ambitious goals of sustainability requires a realism that recognises the limitations of humans, but also recognises the urgent need to embrace a different life philosophy. ‘If sustainability is to be achieved, the ethics and values that support it will be just as important as scientificand technological advance’