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What is Sustainability? Is a Sustainable World Possible?

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Presentation on theme: "What is Sustainability? Is a Sustainable World Possible?"— Presentation transcript:

1 What is Sustainability? Is a Sustainable World Possible?
Md Saidul Islam (Prof Said) Assistant Professor of Sociology Nanyang Technological University Singapore

2 Let’s hear something different and disturbing
1. ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS: Nearly 3.5 billion people live on less than two dollars a day. The Gross Domestic Product of the poorest 48 nations (which is a quarter of the world's countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s 3 richest people combined. 1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world). 8 million people die because they are too poor to stay alive. 800 million people go hungry each day. 50,000 people are dying every day because of poverty and poverty-related diseases


When environment is exploited more than its recycling and regeneration capacity. Two kinds: Resource depletion: when a resource people value is in short supply. Pollution: when human actions change ecosystems in undesirable way.

5 Examples of environmental problems
acid rain air pollution Smog and haze deforestation global warming greenhouse effect indoor air pollution landfill over-crowding low level nuclear wastes ozone depletion radiation from power lines species extinction toxic waste dump desertification

6 So, the environment is changing! WHY?

7 Changing the environment…
Each day humans: Consume 54% of the accessible runoff water on earth. Mine more materials from the earth than the natural erosion of all earth’s rivers. Add over 50 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere. Destroy 180 square miles of tropical rain forest. Create over 60 square miles of desert. Eliminate at least 74 animal or plant species. Erode 70 to 80 million tons of topsoil. Add around 1,400 tons of CFCs to the stratosphere. High-risk of ecological problems: Wildlife ecological alternation/destruction Species extinction and loss of biodiversity Stratosphere ozone depletion Global climate change High-risk health problems: Indoor air pollution Outdoor air pollution Workers’ exposure to industrial or farm chemicals Pollutants in drinking water Pesticide residues on food Toxic chemicals in consumer food

8 Changing the environment…
Waste and pollution: Americans, for example, through away: Enough vehicle tires to encircle the planet almost three times Enough aluminum to rebuild the country’s entire commercial airline fleet every months About 2.5 million non-returnable plastic bottles each year Enough disposable diapers per year which, if lined up to end, would reach to the moon and back seven times About 1.5 billion pounds of edible food per year Enough office paper to build a wall 11 feet high across the country from New York City to San Francisco.

9 Global crises and issues?
Economic: Great Recession—unemployment, poverty, ripple effect in the rest of the world. Social: Extreme and growing inequality, poverty; while a tiny minority has experienced soaring incomes and accumulated grand fortunes. Environmental: Excessive human consumption and waste and a spate of terrible technologies are disrupting Earth’s climate, reducing Earth’s capacity to support life. Political: Reflected in governmental paralysis and a democracy that is weak, shallow, and corrupted—”the best democracy that money can buy”. Politicians around the world have “collective irresponsibility” on the global commons.

10 Big Questions Why? How? With what effects? Is there any solutions?
Why do/don’t some solutions work? What can we do? One answer is: SUSTAINABILITY

“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Three goals of sustainable development: Economic growth Environmental protection Social equity Incorporation of sustainable development in institutions: USAID World Bank

13 SUSTAINABILITY: Ecological modernization approach
Capitalism is flexible enough to embrace a movement in the direction of a “sustainable capitalism” Neither questions the existing capitalist economic and political arrangements nor advocates for retreating to a world of simplicity Argues for a further modernization (“super-industrialization”) through: promoting environmentally friendly technologies, green consumerism, and transformation of state policies towards sustainability

14 Ecological modernization: Huber (1982, 1985)
Industrial breakthrough Industrial revolution Construction of Industrial Society Manufacturing and Service Super-industrialization Ecological switchover of the industrial system Ecological Modernization Green economy, natural capitalism Ecological modernization: Huber (1982, 1985)

15 Ecological modernization…
Adoption of environmental certification regimes in the global agro-food system particularly in aquaculture to address the troubled social and environmental legacies is an example of ecological modernization

16 Ecological modernization: how to achieve
Free-market environmentalism Voluntary actions by corporations and consumers can improve the environment Change through green consumerism and boycotting harmful products CERES (Coalition for environmentally responsible Economies ): voluntary environmental reporting; ongoing environmental improvements (e.g., American airlines, Bethlehem Steels, GM, Sonoco) 3M: Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing ISO: International Standard Organization 3P: Pollution Prevention Policy [product reformulation; process modification; equipment design; recycling/reuse of waste]

17 Ecological modernization… Ideal situation for “green consumerism”

18 Ecological modernization: how to achieve
B. Policy/Reformist Sustainable development: It looks at how policies can be reformed to integrate sustainable development Al Gore advocated for “greening” within the bounds of economic growth Political actors at all levels (local, state, national, international) take reformist approach “Don’t change the system; adapt it to meet the goals of environment, economy, and social equity.”

19 What you can do… About water:
Don’t leave tap running while you are doing other things If you buy a new dishwasher, get an energy-efficient one Take showers rather than baths When you buy a new toilet, buy a water saving one Install a flow constrictor device on faucets, particularly your shower-head

20 Is a sustainable earth possible???
Yes. But…

21 It requires international agreements on sustainability…
So, it is immensely challenging

22 Because of power conflict, differences of opinion, diverse local dynamics…
Last Month A World-Wide Survey Was Conducted By The UN. The Only Question Asked Was..."Could You Please Give Your Honest Opinion About Solutions To The Food Shortage In The Rest Of The world ?" The Survey Was A Massive Failure Because Of The Following: In Western Europe: They Didn't Know What "Shortage" Meant. In Africa: They Didn't Know What "Food" Meant. In China: They Didn't Know What "Opinion" Meant. In The Middle East: They Didn't Know What "Solution" meant. In South America: They Didn't Know What "Please" Meant. In The USA: They Didn't Know What "The Rest Of The World" meant. In The Indian Subcontinent: They Didn't Know What "Honest" Meant.

23 Any questions


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