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Sustainability Class 11: Defining Sustainability Fall 2012: POLI 294 P. Brian Fisher.

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Presentation on theme: "Sustainability Class 11: Defining Sustainability Fall 2012: POLI 294 P. Brian Fisher."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sustainability Class 11: Defining Sustainability Fall 2012: POLI 294 P. Brian Fisher

2 Story of Stuff Annie Leonard, StoryStory

3 Wessels Vid Wessels Speech (part I) (9m) Wessels Speech Wessels Speech (part II) (3m) Wessels Speech

4 Heinberg, “Beyond Limits to Growth”

5 Beyond Limits to Growth Heinberg 1. Rapidly Reduce dependence on fossil fuels 2. Adapt to the end of economic growth: reworking our current economic system without “continuous expansion” 3. Design and Provide basic needs for 7billion people (and constrain pop growth (e.g. education) 4. Address environmental consequences—first and foremost is GCC Post Carbon Transition: “must entail the thorough redesign of our societal infrastructure, which today is utterly dependent on cheap fossil fuels…This difference will be reflected in urban design, land use patterns, food systems, manuf output, distribution networks, job mkt, transportation, health care, tourism, etc…It will also require a fundamental rethinking of our financial and cultural systems.” (p10-11)

6 What is Sustainability Heinberg Heinberg’s five axioms 1. Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse 2. Pop growth and/or growth in rates of consumption cannot be sustained 3. To be sustainable, the use of renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is less than or equal to rate of natural replenishment 4. To be sustainable, the use of non-renewables must proceed at a rate that is declining, and the rate of decline must be greater than or equal to the rate of depletion 5. Sustainability requires that substances introduced into the enviro from human activities be minimized and rendered harmless to the biosphere

7 Worldwatch, “What is Sustainability, Anyway”

8 Sustainability = Political Issue “Ultimately, sustainable development and sustainability itself are about collective values and related choices and are therefore a political issue, almost certainly the supreme global political issue of this century. Because values, politics, and our understanding of the Earth and its systems will evolve, notions of what is sustainable will never be static.” – Worldwatch, “What is Sustainability, Anyway”

9 Care Instructions for Sustainability Sustainability: “things can keep going, and sustain themselves, and keep going into the future.” Planet Sustainability: “can continue to do what it was designed to do” Reduce dependence on fossil fuels Reduce dependence on chemicals Reduce destruction of nature Remove barriers to meeting basic needs

10 Sustainability UN (Brundtland Commission): “development that meet the needs & aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” Fisher: Improving well-being for human and ecological systems at all scales in ways that can endure to future generations (living within the carrying capacity of ecosystems)

11 Simple Sustainability: How many people can Earth’s systems support? Depends… the typical level of material well-being; the distribution of material well-being; available technology; political institutions; economic arrangements; demographic arrangements; physical, chemical, and biological environments; how much variability in total population is acceptable; peoples’ willingness to risk local ecological disaster; the time horizon; and fashions, tastes, and moral values.

12 What is Sustainability, Anyway Human Survival Environment/Biodiversity Equity Human Well-Being/Life Quality “Since the industrial revolution, we have increasingly ignored or altered the natural cycles—carbon, nitrogen, hydrological—that replenish these systems. The resulting explosion in economic output has come at the cost of the long-term and dangerous depletion of natural capital.”

13 Lessons from Easter Island 1.Human beings respond strongly to incentives to overuse resources. 2.We have great difficulty noticing when things are going wrong, unless it happens over relatively short periods. 3.Declining resource availability can undermine the very organizational structures and capacities needed to fashion a response. 4.Failure of Easter Island culture to grasp what was happening to it led, not to its extinction, but to its radical impoverishment and simplification -Easter Island Sustainable? If def’n is about “survival”, yes; but if it’s about “thriving” then no. -Ecosystem and society became simplified from loss of biodiversity and quality of life.

14 3 E’s of Sustainable Development

15 Environment Dimension: Management of Planetary Resources Enviro Management – Biosphere – Freshwater/Oceans – Land Use Human Management – Energy – Water – Food – Transportation – Materials, Toxins, and Waste

16 Waste Example Environmentalism: Stresses individualization based on recycling Sustainability: Stresses minimization and Prevention by changing systems

17 Economic and Social Spheres Economic Dimension – Decoupling Econ Growth & Enviro Decline – Economic Externalities (of nature) – Economic Opportunity Social Dimension – Security and Social Justice – Poverty and Inequality – Human Settlements and New Urbanism – Eco-Democracy

18 Thompson’s “What is Sustainability”?

19 History  Sustainability Our shared understanding of “sustainability” is less a scientific concept than an historical discourse through which we might imagine more hopeful futures.” We need “new ways of talking about sustainability that will galvanize diverse and experimental forms of action b/c it is through such experimentation that we will find the vocabulary we need.” (p4)

20 What is Sustainability? Sustainability = resource sufficiency and functional integrity Non substantive Sustainability: much of discourse is based on political, ethical, and cultural concerns—that have nothing to do with above (sufficiency) Jamieson: Sustainability does little to explain human activities in terms of philosophy (moral obligations) and/or motivational power (little effect on behavior) Sustainability must be more than optimization (or well being over time), it must be a by product of resource sufficiency and functional integrity of the system

21 Studying and Employing Sustainability Resource Sufficiency = Econ sustainability Functional Integrity = Ecological sustainability Equity Fairness = Social Sustainability Environ + Soc Justice? Sustainability as social mvmt Sustainability = interests of labor, marginalized Sustainability = storyline contested in locale

22 Thompson’s conclusion Social Sustainability (or non-substantive sustainability) amount to merely normative commitments and is insufficient. – Need empirical factors like resources & functionality Yet, sustainability as social impetus is important and compensates for its vagueness. Believes that storylines are important, esp around democracy and social justice

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