Technical Unit 1: A New Perspective Part i)Setting the Context – A Global Summary Part ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth? Part iii) The Next Wave of Innovation & Enabling Technologies Part iv) Implications and Benefits for Global Development Part v) Fitting into the picture: Engineers & Sustainability
i) Setting the Context – A Global Summary One of the biggest problems in the world today is that people do not think (M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist & author of The Road Less Travelled)
Historical Perspective: 1980s - the start of a range of major initiatives to find common ground United Nations Brundtland Report (Our Common Future). Key definition of Sustainable Development: Part i) Setting the Context – A Global Summary Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs
First World Summit for Sustainable Development in Rio De Janeiro UN Millennium Goals: 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger 2. Achieve universal primary education 3. Promote gender equality 4. Reduce child mortality 5. Improve maternal health 6. Combat major diseases 7. Develop a global partnership Part i) Setting the Context – A Global Summary Never before has world opinion been so united on a single goal as it is on achieving sustainable development. (United Nations Report)
First World Summit for Sustainable Development in Rio De Janeiro UN Millennium Goals Second World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg Since mid-1990s - disappointment over lack of commitment - concern regarding potential areas of conflict Emerging principles of sustainable development appeared to be conflicting with the short term pressures on businesses financial bottom line. Part i) Setting the Context – A Global Summary
Businesses now constitute the majority of the 100 largest economies in the world. How fast we shift to a sustainable economy depends on if we adopt integrated and holistic approaches. The challenge of sustainable development is complex - requiring integrated systems approaches... Further, there is both a local and global dimension to it…. So our rate of progress will depend on achieving the correct mix and balance between: - The State and the market - Government and NGOs - Competitive & co-operative action at locally, nationally & globally Difficult… but possible! Part i) Setting the Context – A Global Summary
ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth? Given projected increases in global population and the trends of the spread of western consumerism, humanity needs to reduce its negative environmental load by at least 90% or there will, over time, be significant decline of ecosystem resilience. This has been given names such as "reducing our negative impact on the environment" … by a Factor of 4, or a Factor of 10. In short we need to do more, with less for longer.
Changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane in the last millennium: Part ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth?
Plot of CO 2 concentrations and temperature from 400,000 years ago to 1950: Change in CO 2 Concentration Change in Temperature
When (1 + 1) > 2 When one problem combines with another problem, the outcome may be not a double problem, but a super-problem. (Professor Norman Myers, Ecologist) Part ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth? Coupling effect = when different phenomena feed back on each other. The impacts of the greenhouse effect alone may be significantly mitigated, but when these are combined with deforestation and biodiversity loss, the conversion of vast land mass to fresh water intensive modern agriculture, increasing urban waste streams, then the stress on our remaining natural ecosystems can no longer be ignored.
Environmental Surprise Land Degradation, Australia The Aleutian Islands, Alaska The Amazon, South America Fall of the Roman Empire Part ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth? … The Atlantic Conveyor?
Part ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth?
Sometimes the cost of destroying ecosystem services becomes apparent only when the services start to break down. In 2003, the World Bank listed the risks of environmental damage and social unrest as major factors that, if not addressed and significant progress made, will limit the extent to which the world economy can grow. We are facing a form of limiting factor today, unlike anything our economies have faced before… soon it will be forests not mills, fisheries not boats, that which will be the limiting factor for economic growth. (Herman Daly, a leading academic ecological economist) Part ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth?
If we (Australia) continue to waste water as we do now, water will be the limiting factor in Australia's economic development. (David Priestly, CSIRO) Salinity is bigger than tax reform. You can always fix a broken policy, but you can't fix a ruined food-bowl country. (John Anderson, Australias Deputy Leader, & leader of the National Party) Part ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth?
The mounting evidence of ecosystem collapse with its limiting effects on growth, and the great uncertainties that inherently exist when trying to understand the complex systems of nature and society and the biosphere, suggest that we need a humble, precautionary approach. Fundamentally sustainability is wise from a risk management perspective for nations, businesses, governments and communities. Part ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth?
Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity. (Michael Porter, Harvard University) iii) The Next Wave of Innovation & Enabling Technologies
Significant evidence that the next waves of innovation will be driven by the need to improve productivity while lightening our environmental load on the planet... Part iii) The Next Wave of Innovation & Enabling Technologies –Technological innovations –Design know-how –Cost effectively –In some areas very profitably Not only do we now have solutions to many problems, but we are also gaining insight as to which solutions are the most cost-effective and profitable...
Nations and companies that work together to address sustainable development can position themselves to be at the forefront of the next waves of innovation. Part iii) The Next Wave of Innovation & Enabling Technologies Emerging Technologies: Spatial Data Greenhouse technologies Novel Materials: Bamboo New car design Climate Neutral Buildings Mining Wastes or Mining Resources
iv) Implications and Benefits for Global Development It is physically impossible for all developing nations to achieve Western material living standards with current modes of development. –Need a high level of resource productivity and efficiency. At present, about 25% of global development aid capital is spent on energy. Governments, such as Chinas, are increasingly seeing the opportunities in this area, in energy and in water.
Over the next 50 years, one of the major development issues will be fast growing mega-cities. Mega-Cities: Part iv) Implications and Benefits for Global Development Dhaka, Mumbai and Delhi will number among the worlds five largest cities. Asia, as a whole, will account for 12 of the worlds largest 21 mega-cities by Todays largest metropolis is still Tokyo, which has an estimated 27 million residents. By 2050, trends suggest there will be over 50 mega cities globally, with most of them in Asia.
Trends for urbanisation of Developing and Transition Countries and OECD countries:
Historically: Rome was the first settlement to reach 1 million people in 5 BC. In 1800 London became the second. By 2015 Asia alone will have 267 cities with 1 million or more residents. 25 years from now most Asians will live in cities and towns. Of the more than 2 billion people who will be added to the earths total population in the next 50 years, the vast majority will live in urban Asia.
Benefits of Pursuing Sustainable Development: Sustainability adopts multi-disciplinary approaches to complex issues. It provides robust solutions that, if pursued on a global scale, will offer significant benefits for governments, society and business. These benefits impact indirectly with benefits to health, reduced numbers of environmental refugees, increased resilience to infrastructure failure or attack and other benefits to national security. Security experts are now predicting that access to key raw resources, such as oil and water, will be a significant source of conflict this century. Finally, Sustainability offers a way forward to resolve the present conflict between global trade rules and environmental principles.
v) Fitting into the Picture: Engineers & Sustainability It is up to engineers to consider sustainability in every project they design and construct & every product that is made. Sustainability is now a fundamental responsibility that all engineers must carry every day. Doug Jones, President, Engineers Australia 2004
Trust in Institutions to Operate in Societys Best Interests:
We are the generation for which previous generations committed themselves to save the environment. We are the generation for which they made the commitment to restore the balance. It is more than three decades since man first walked on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission captured the imagination of the general public and was viewed at the time as an example of how far we had progressed as a people. In the following years, however, it also became a defining contrast: we were clever enough to put a man on the moon but we couldn't come up with the answers to our problems here on earth – poverty, hunger, disease, cross-border violence and so on. This requires a commitment from governments, industry and the community. Australian Senator Robert Hill (Australias former Minister for the Environment and 2001 Defence Minister)
If someone were to present the Industrial Revolution as a retroactive design assignment, it might sound like this: What were we thinking?!
Part ii) Declining Ecosystems: A New Limiting Factor for Growth? We need to respond to the overarching responsibility for engineers in the application of our engineering education, training and experience to provide excellent sustainable engineering solutions for the benefit of our employees, clients and the community.We need to respond to the overarching responsibility for engineers in the application of our engineering education, training and experience to provide excellent sustainable engineering solutions for the benefit of our employees, clients and the community. Doug Jones, President Engineers Australia 2004
No matter how determined a company or a nation is to change, these changes will take time to implement, hence we have no time to waste. The sooner we start, the longer we have to phase changes in, the less disruptive and more beneficial this will be to business and society and the best chance we have of long term success.
Achieving sustainable development would be impossible without the full input by engineers. Maurice Strong, Secretary General, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, New York, Spring 1992
Closed-loop ecosystem: (WFEO Handout)
Engineers around the world understand that they have a tremendous responsibility in the implementation of sustainable development. Many forecasts indicate there will be an additional five billion people in the world by the middle of the 21st century. This requires more water, waste treatment systems, food production, energy, transportation systems, and manufacturing -- all of which requires engineers to participate in land planning, and to research, study, design, construct, and operate new and expanded facilities. This future "built environment" must be developed while sustaining the natural resources of the world and enhancing the quality of life for all people. The Engineers Response to Sustainable Development by The World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) 1997.
In Summary: Part i) Setting the Context Part ii) Declining Ecosystems Part iii) The Next Wave of Innovation & Technologies Part iv) Implications and Benefits for Global Development Part v) Engineers & Sustainability End of Technical Unit 1