Brundtland Report/Chapter 2. Towards Sustainable Development
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Chapter 2. Towards Sustainable Development
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CHAPTER 2 TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
1. Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
- the concept of 'needs,' in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
- the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs.
2. Thus the goals of economic and social development must be defined in terms of sustainability in all countries — developed or developing, market-oriented or centrally planned. Interpretations will vary, but must share certain general features and must flow from a consensus on the basic concept of sustainable development and on a broad strategic framework for achieving it.
3. Development involves a progressive transformation of economy and society. A development path that is sustainable in a physical sense could theoretically be pursued even in a rigid social and political setting. But physical sustainability cannot be secured unless development policies pay attention to such considerations as changes in access to resources and in the distribution of costs and benefits. Even the narrow notion of physical sustainability implies a concern for social equity between generations, a concern that must logically be extended to equity within each generation.
I. THE CONCEPT OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
4. The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is the major objective of development. The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries for food, clothing, shelter, jobs – are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life. A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises. Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.
5. Living standards that go beyond the basic minimum are sustainable only if consumption standards every have regard for long-term sustainability. Yet many of us live beyond the world's ecological means, for instance in our patterns of energy use. Perceived needs are socially and culturally determined, and sustainable development requires the promotion of values that encourage consumption standards that are within the bounds of the ecological possible and to which all can reasonably aspire.
6. Meeting essential needs depends in part on achieving full growth potential, and sustainable development clearly requires economic growth in places where such needs are not being met. Elsewhere, it can be consistent with economic growth, provided the content of growth reflects the broad principles of sustainability and non-exploitation of others. But growth by itself is not enough. High levels of productive activity and widespread poverty can coexist, and can endanger the environment. Hence sustainable development requires that societies meet human needs both by increasing productive potential and by ensuring equitable opportunities for all.
7. An expansion in numbers can increase the pressure on resources and slow the rise in living standards in areas where deprivation is widespread. Though the issue is not merely one of population size but of the distribution of resources, sustainable development can only be pursued if demographic developments are in harmony with the changing productive potential of the ecosystem.
8. A society may in many ways compromise its ability to meet the essential needs of its people in the future – by overexploiting resources, for example. The direction of technological developments may solve some immediate problems but lead to even greater ones. Large sections of the population may be marginalized by ill-considered development.
9. Settled agriculture, the diversion of watercourses, the extraction of minerals, the emission of heat and noxious gases into the atmosphere, commercial forests, and genetic manipulation are all examples of human intervention in natural systems during the course of development. Until recently, such interventions were small in scale and their impact limited. Today's interventions are more drastic in scale and impact, and more threatening to life-support systems both locally and globally. This need not happen. At a minimum, sustainable development must not endanger the natural systems that support life on Earth: the atmosphere, the waters, the soils, and the living beings.10. Growth has no set limits in terms of population or resource use beyond which lies ecological disaster. Different limits hold for the use of energy, materials, water, and land. Many of these will manifest themselves in the form of rising costs and diminishing returns, rather than in the form of any sudden loss of a resource base. The accumulation of knowledge and the development of technology can enhance the carrying capacity of the resource base. But ultimate limits there are, and sustainability requires that long before these are reached, the world must ensure equitable access to the constrained resource and reorient technological efforts to relieve the pressure.
11. Economic growth and development obviously involve changes in the physical ecosystem. Every ecosystem everhwhere cannot be preserved intact. A forest may be depleted in one part of a watershed and extended elsewhere, which is not a bad thing if the exploitation has been planned and the effects on soil erosion rates, water regimes, and genetic losses have been taken into account. In general, renewable resources like forest and fish stocks need not be depleted provided the rate of use is within the limits of regeneration and natural growth. But most renewable resources are part of a complex and interlinked ecosystem, and maximum sustainable yield must be defined after taking into account system-wide effects of exploitation.
12. As for non-renewable resources, like fossil fuels and minerals, their use reduces the stock available for future generations. But this does not mean that such resources should not be used. In general the rate of depletion should take into account the criticality of that resource, the availability of technologies for minimizing depletion, and the likelihood of substitutes being available. Thus land should not be degraded beyond reasonable recovery. With minerals and fossil fuels, the rate of depletion and the emphasis on recycling and economy of use should be calibrated to ensure that the resource does not run out before acceptable substitutes are available. Sustainable development requires that the rate of depletion of non-renewable resources should foreclose as few future options as possible.
13. Development tends to simplify ecosystems and to reduce their diversity of species. And species, once extinct, are not renewable. The loss of plant and animal species can greatly limit the options of future generations: so sustainable development requires the conservation of plant and animal species.
14. So-called free goods like air and water are also resources. The raw materials and energy of production processes are only partly converted to useful products. The rest comes out as wastes. Sustainable development requires that the adverse impacts on the quality of air, water and other natural elements are minimized so as to sustain the ecosystem's overall integrity.
15. In essence, sustainable development is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.
II. EQUITY AND THE COMMON INTEREST
16. Sustainable development has been described here in general terms. How are individuals in the real world to be persuaded or made to act in the common interest? The answer lies partly in education, institutional development, and law enforcement. But many problems of resource depletion and environmental stress arise from disparities on economic and political power. An industry may get away with unacceptable levels of air and water pollution because the people who bear the brunt of it are poor and unable to complain effectively. A forest may be destroyed by excessive felling because the people living there have no alternatives or because timber contractors generally have more influence than forest dwellers.
17. Ecological interactions do not respect the boundaries of individual ownership and political jurisdiction. Thus:
- In a watershed, the ways in which a farmer up the slope uses land directly affect run-off on farms downstream.
- The irrigation practices, pesticides, and fertilizers used on one farm affect the productivity of neighbouring ones, especially among small farms.
- The efficiency of a factory boiler determines its rate of emission and soot and noxious chemicals and affects all who live and work around it.
- The hot water discharged by a thermal power plant into a river or a local sea affects the catch of all who fish locally.
18. Traditional social systems recognized some aspects of this interdependence and enforced community control over agricultural practices and traditional rights relating to water, forests and land. This enforcement of the 'common interest' did not necessarily impede growth and expansion though it may have limited the acceptance and diffusion of technical innovations.19. Local interdependence has, if anything, increased because of the technology used in modern agriculture and manufacturing. Yet with this surge of technical progress, the growing 'enclosure' of common lands, the erosion of common rights in forests and other resources, and the spread of commerce and production for the market, the responsibilities for decision making are being taken away from both groups and individuals. This shift is still under way in many developing countries.
20. It is not that there is one set of villains and another of victims. All would be better off if each person took into account the effect of his or her acts upon others. But each is unwilling to assume that others will behave in this socially desirable fashion, and hence all continue to pursue narrow self-interest. Communities or governments can compensate for this isolation through laws, education, taxes, subsidies, and other methods. Well-enforced laws and strict liability legislation can control harmful side effects. Most important, effective participation in decision-making processes by local communities can help them articulate and effectively enforce their common interest.
21. Interdependence is not simply a local phenomenon. Rapid growth in production has extended it to the international plane, with both physical and economic manifestations. There are growing global and regional pollution effects, such as in the more than 200 international river basins and the large number of shared seas.
22. The enforcement of common interest often suffers because areas of political jurisdiction and areas of impact do not coincide. Energy policies in one jurisdiction cause acid precipitation in another. The fishing policies of one state affect the fish catch of another. No supranational authority exists to resolve such issues, and the common interest can only be articulated through international cooperation.
23. In the same way, the ability of a government to control its national economy is reduced by growing international economic interactions. For example, foreign trade in commodities makes issues of carrying capacities and resource scarcities an international concern. (See Chapter 3.) If economic power and the benefit of trade were more egually distributed, common interests would be generally recognized. But the gains from trade are unequally distributed, and patterns of trade in, say, sugar affect not merely a local sugar-producing sector, but the economies and ecologies of the many developing countries that depend heavily on this product.
24. The search for common interest would be less difficult if all development and environment problems had solutions that would leave everyone better off. This is seldom the case, and there are usually winners and losers. Many problems arise from inequalities in access to resources. An inequitable landownership structure can lead to overexploitation of resources in the smallest holdings, with harmful effects on both environment and development. Internationally, monopolistic control over resources can drive those who do not share in them to excessive exploitation of marginal resources. The differing capacities of exploiters to commander 'free' goods – locally, nationally, and internationally – is another manifestation of unequal access to resources. 'Losers' in environment/development conflicts include those who suffer more than their fair share of the health, property, and ecosystem damage costs of pollution.
25. As a system approaches ecological limits, inequalities sharpen. Thus when a watershed deteriorates, poor farmers suffer more because they cannot afford the same anti-erosion measures as richer farmers. When urban air quality deteriorates, the poor, in their more vulnerable areas, suffer more health damage than the rich, who usually live in more pristine neighbourhoods. When mineral resources become depleted, late-comers to the industrialization process lose the benefits of low-cost supplies. Globally, wealthier nations are better placed financially and technologically to cope with the effects of possible climatic change.
26. Hence, our inability to promote the common interest in sustainable development is often a product of the relative neglect of economic and social justice within and amongst nations.
III. STRATEGIC IMPERATIVES
27. The world must quickly design strategies that will allow nations to move from their present, often destructive, processes of growth and development onto sustainable development paths. This will require policy changes in all countries, with respect both to their own development and to their impacts on other nations' development possibilities. (This chapter concerns itself with national strategies. The required reorientation in international economic relations is dealt with in Chapter 3.)
28. Critical objectives for environment and development policies that follow from the concept of sustainable development include:
- reviving growth;
- changing the quality of growth;
- meeting essential needs for jobs, food, energy, water, and sanitation;
- ensuring a sustainable level of population;
- conserving and enhancing the resource base;
- reorienting technology and managing risk; and
- merging environment and economics in decision making.
1. Reviving Growth
29. As indicated earlier, development that is sustainable has to address the problem of the large number of people who live in absolute poverty – that is, who are unable to satisfy even the most basic of their needs. Poverty reduces people's capacity to, use resources in a sustainable manner; it intensifies pressure on the environment. Most such absolute poverty is in developing countries; in many, it has been aggravated by the economic stagnation of the 1980s. A necessary but not a sufficient condition for the elimination of absolute poverty is a relatively rapid rise in per capita incomes in the Third World. It is therefore essential that the stagnant or declining growth trends of this decade be reversed.
30. While attainable growth rates will vary. a certain minimum is needed to have any impact on absolute poverty. It seems unlikely that, taking developing countries as a whole, these objectives can be accomplished with per capita income growth of under 3 per cent. (See Box 2–1.) Given current population growth rates, this would require overall national income growth of around 5 per cent a year in the developing economies of Asia, 5.5 per cent in Latin America, and 6 per cent in Africa and West Asia.
31. Are these orders of magnitude attainable? The record in South and East Asia over the past quartet-century and especially over the last five years suggests that 5 per cent annual growth can be attained in most countries, including the two largest, India and China. In Latin America, average growth rates on the order of 5 per cent were achieved during the 1960s and 1970s, but fell well below that in the first half of this decade, mainly because of the debt crisis. A revival of Latin American growth depends on the resolution of this crisis. In Africa, growth rates during the 1960s and 1970s were around 4-4.5 per cent, which at current rates of population growth would mean per capita income growth of only a little over 1 per cent. Towards Sustainable Development Moreover, during the 1980s, growth nearly halted and in two-thirds of the countries per capita income declined. Attaining a minimum level of growth in Africa requires the correction of short-term imbalances, and also the removal of deep-rooted constraints on the growth process.32. Growth must be revived in developing countries because that is where the links between economic growth, the alleviation of poverty, and environmental conditions operate most directly. Yet developing countries are part of an interdependent world economy: their prospects also depend on the levels and patterns of growth in industrialized nations. The medium term prospects for industrial countries are for growth of 3 per cent, the minimum that international financial institutions consider necessary if these countries are going to play a part in expanding the world economy. Such growth rates could be environmentally sustainable is industrialized nations can continue the recent shifts in the content of their growth towards less material- and energy-intensive activities and the improvent of their efficiency in using materials and energy.
33. As industrialized nations use less materials and energy, however, they will provide smaller markets for commodities and minerals from the developing nations. Yet if developing nations focus their efforts upon eliminating poverty and satisfying essential human needs. then domestic demand will increase for both agricultural products and manufactured goods and some services. Hence the very logic or sustainable development implies an internal stimulus to Third World growth.
34. Nontheless, in large numbers of developing countries markets are very small; and for all developing countries high export growth. especially or non-traditional items, will also be necessary to finance imports, demand for which will be generated by rapid development. Thus a reorientation of international economic relations will be necessary for sustainable development, as discussed in Chapter 3.
2. Changing the Quality of Growth
35. Sustainable development involves more than growth, it requires a change in the content of growth, to make it less material- and energy-intensive and more equitable in its impact. These changes are required in all countries as part at a package of measures to maintain the stock or ecological capital, to improve the distribution of income, and to reduce the degree of vulnerability to economic crises.
36. The process or economic development must be more soundly based upon the realities or the stock or capital that sustains it. This in rarely done in either developed or developing countries. For example income from forestry operations is conventionally measured in terms of the value of timber and other products extracted. minus the costs of extraction. The costs or regenerating the forest are not taken into account, unless money is actually spent on such work. Thus figuring profits from logging rarely takes full account of the losses in future revenue incurred through degradation of the forest. Similar incomplete accounting occurs in the exploitation of other natural resources, especially in the case or resources that are not capitalized in enterprise or national accounts: air, water, and soil. In all countries. rich or poor, economic development must take full account in its measurements or growth or the improvement or deterioration in the stock of natural resources.37. Income distribution is one aspect of the quality or growth, as described in the preceding section. and rapid growth combined with deteriorating income distribution may be worse than slower growth combined with redistribution in favour or the poor. For instance, in many developing countries the introduction or large-scale commercial agriculture may produce revenue rapidly, but may also dispossess a large number of small farmers and make income distribution more inequitable. In the long run, such a path may not be sustainable; it impoverishes many people and can increase pressures on the natural resource base through overcommercialized agriculture and through the marginalization of subsistence farmers. Relying more on smallholder cultivation may be slower at first, but more easily sustained over the long term.
38. Economic development is unsustainable if it increases vulnerability to crises. A drought may force farmers to slaughter animals needed for sustaining production in future years. A drop in prices may cause farmers or other producers to over exploit natural resources to maintain incomes. But vulnerability can be reduced by using technologies that lower production risks, by choosing institutional options that reduce market fluctuations, and by building up reserves, especially of food and foreign exchange. A development path that combines growth with reduced vulnerability is more sustainable than one that does not.
39. Yet it is not enough to broaden the range of economic variables taken into account. Sustainability requires views of human needs and well-being that incorporate such non-economic variables as education and health enjoyed for their own sake, clean air and water, and the protection of natural beauty. It must also work to remove disabilities from disadvantaged groups, many of whom live in ecologically vulnerable areas, such as many tribal groups in forests, desert nomads, groups in remote hill areas, and indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australasia.
40. Changing the quality of growth requires changing our approach to development efforts to take account of all of their effects. For instance, a hydropower project should not be seen merely as a way of producing more electricity: its effects upon the local environment and the livelihood of the local community must be included in any balance sheets. Thus the abandonment of a hydro project because it will disturb a rare ecological system could be a measure of progress, not a setback to development. Nevertheless, in some cases, sustainability considerations will involve a rejection of activities that are financially attractive in the short run.
41. Economic and social development can and should be mutually reinforcing. Money spent on education and health can raise human productivity. Economic development can accelerate social development by providing opportunities for underprivileged groups or by spreading education more rapidly.
3. Meeting Essential Human Needs
42. The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is so obviously an objective of productive activity that it may appear redundant to assert its central role in the concept of sustainable development. All too often poverty is such that people cannot satisfy their needs for survival and well-being even if goods and services are available. At the same time, the demands of those not in poverty may have major environmental consequences.
43. The principal development challenge is to meet the needs and aspirations of an expanding developing world population. The most basic of all needs is for a livelihood: that is, employment. Between 1985 and 2000 the labour force in developing countries will increase by nearly 6O0 million, and new livelihood opportunities will have to be generated for 60 million persons every ear. The pace and pattern of economic development have to generate sustainable work opportunities on this scale and at a level of productivity that would enable poor households to meet minimum consumption standards.
44. More food is required not merely to feed more people but to attack undernourishment. For the developing world to eat, person for person, as well as the industrial world by the year 2000, annual increases of 5.0 per cent in calories and 5.8 per cent in proteins are needed in Africa; of 3.4 and 4.0 per cent, respectively, in Latin America; and of 3.5 and 4.5 per cent in Asia. Foodgrains and starchy roots are the primary sources of calories, while proteins are obtained primarily from products like milk, meat, fish, pulses, and oil-seeds.
45. Though the focus at present is necessarily on staple foods, the projections given above also highlight the need for a high rate of growth of protein availability. In Africa, the task is particularly challenging given the recent declining per capita food production and the current constraints on growth. In Asia and Latin America, the required growth rates in calorie and protein consumption seem to be more readily attainable. But increased food production should not be based on ecologically unsound production policies and compromise long-term prospects for food security.46. Energy is another essential human need, one that cannot be universally met unless energy consumption patterns change. The most urgent problem is the requirement of poor third World households, which depend mainly on fuelwood. By the turn of the century, 3 billion people may live in areas where wood is cut faster than it grows or where fuelwood is extremely scarce. Corrective action would both reduce the drudgery of collecting wood over long distances and preserve the ecological base. The minimum requirements for cooking fuel in most developing countries appear to be on the order at 250 kiloqrammes of coal equivalent per capita per year. This is a fraction of the household energy consumption in industrial countries.
47. The linked basic needs of housing, water supply, sanitation, and health care are also environmentally important, Deficiencies in these areas are often visible manifestations of environmental stress. In the Third World, the failure to meet these key needs is one or the major causes or many communicable diseases in such as malaria, gastro-intestinal infestations, cholera, and typhoid. Population growth and the drift into cities threaten to make there problems worse. Planners must find ways or relying more on supporting community initiatives and self-help efforts and on effectively using low-cost technologies. See Chapter 9.
4. Ensuring a sustainable Level or Population
48. The sustainability of development is intimately linked to the dynamic: or population growth. The issue however, is not simply one of global population size. A child born in a country where levels or material and energy use are high place a greater burden on the Earth's resources than a child born in a poorer country. A similar argument applies within countries. Nonetheless, sustainable development can be pursued more easily when population sizeis stabilized at a level consistent with the productive capacity of the ecosystem.
49. In industrial countries, the overall rate of population growth is under 1 per cent, and several countries have reached or are approaching zero population growth. The total population or the industrialized world could increase from its current l 2 billion to about 1.4 billion in the year 2025.
50. The greater part or global population increase will take place in developing countries, where the 1955 population of 3.7 billion may increase to 6.8 billion by 2025. The Third World does not have the option of migration to 'new' lands, and the time available for adjustment is much less than Industrial countries had. Hence the challenge now is to quickly lower population growth rates, especially in regions such as Africa, where these rates are increasing.
51. Birth rates declined in industrial countries largely because at economic and social development. Rising levels or income and urbanization and the changing role or women all played important roles. Similar processes are now at work in developing countries. These should be recognized and encouraged. Population policies should be integrated with other economic and social development programmes – female education, health care, and the expansion of the livelihood base of the poor. But time is short, and developing countries will also have to promote direct measures to reduce fertility, to avoid going radically beyond the productive potential to support their populations. In fact, increased access to family planning services is itself a form of social development that allows couples, and women in particular, the right to self-determination.
52. Population growth in developing countries will remain unevenly distributed between rural and urban areas. UN projections suggest that by the first decade or the next century, the absolute size or rural populations in most developing countries will start-de-lining. Nearly 90 per cent of the increase in the developing world will take place in urban areas, the population or which in expected to rise from 1.15 billion in l985 to 3.25 billion in 2025. The increase will be particularly marked in Africa and to a lesser extent, in Asia.
53. Developing-country cities are growing much faster than the capacity of authorities to cope. Shortages or housing, water. sanitation, and mass transit are widespread. A growing proportion of city-dwellers live in slums and shanty towns, many of them exposed to air and water pollution and to industrial and natural hazards. Further deterioration is likely, given that most urban growth will take place in the largest cities. Thus more manageable cities may be the principal gain from slower rates or population growth.
54. Urbanization is itself part or the development process. The challenge is to manage the process so as to avoid a severe deterioration in the quality of life. Thus the development of smaller urban centres needs to be encouraged to reduce pressures in large cities. solving the impending urban crisis will require the promotion of self-help housing and urban service by and for the poor, and a more positive approach to the role or the informal sector, supported by sufficient funds for water supply, sanitation, and other services. See Chapter 9.
5. Conserving and Enhancing the Resource Base
55. It needs are to be pier on a sustainable basis the Earth's natural resource base must be conserved and enhanced. Major changes in policies will he needed to cope with the industrial world's current high levels or consumption, the increases in consumption needed to meet minimum standards in developing countries, and expected population growth. However, the case for the conservation or nature should not rest only with development goals. It is part of out moral obligation to other living beings and future generations.
56. Pressure on resources increases when people lack alternatives. Development policies must widen people's options for earning s sustainable livelihood, particularly for resource-poor households and in areas under ecological stress. In a hilly area, for instance, economic self-interest and ecology can be combined by helping farmers shift from grain to tree crops by providing them with advice. equipment. and marketing assistance. Programmes to protect the incomes of farmers, fishermen, and foresters against short-term price declines may decrease their need to overexploit resources.
57. The conservation of agricultural resources is an urge, task because in many parts of the world cultivation has already been extended to marginal lands, and fishery and forestry resourcing have been overexploited. These resources must be conserved and enhanced to meet the needs of growing populations. Land use in agriculture and forestry must be based on a scientific assessment of land capacity, and the annual depletion of topsoil, fish stock, or forest resources must not exceed the rate of regeneration.
58. The pressures on agricultural land from crop and livestock production can be partly relieved by increasing productivity. But short-sighted. short-term improvements in productivity can create different forms of ecological stress, such as the loss of genetic diversity in standing crops, salinization and alkaliration of irrigated lands, nitrate pollution of ground-water, and pesticide residues in food. Ecologically more benign alternatives are available. Future increases in productivity, in both developed and developing countries, should be based on the better controlled application of water and agrichemicals, as well as on more extensive use of organic mannures and non-chemical means of pest control. These alternatives can be promoted only by an agricultural policy based on ecological realities. (See Chapter 5.)
59. In the case of fisheries and tropical forestry, we rely largely on the exploitation of the naturally available stocks. The sustainable yield from these stocks may well fall short of demand. Hence it will be necessary to turn to methods produce more fish, fuelwood, and forest products under controlled conditions. Substitutes for fuelwood can be promoted.60. The ultimate limits to global development are perhaps determined by the availability of energy resources and by the biosphere's capacity to absorb the by-products of energy use. These energy limits may be approached far sooner than the limits imposed by other material resources. First, there are the supply problems: the depletion of oil reserves, the high cost and environmental impact of coal mining, and the hazards of nuclear technology. Second, there are emission problems, most notably acid pollution and carbon dioxide build-up leading to global warming.
61. Some of these problems can be met by increased use of renewable energy sources. But the exploitation of renewable sources such as fuelwood and hydropower also entails ecological problems. Hence sustainability requires a clear focus on conserving and efficiently using energy.
62. Industrialized countries must recognize that their energy consumption is polluting the biosphere and eating into scarce fossil fuel supplies. Recent improvements in energy efficiency and a shift towards less energy-intensive sectors have helped limit consumption. But the process must be accelerated to reduce per capita consumption and encourage a shift to non-polluting sources and technologies. The simple duplication in the developing world of industrial countries' energy use patterns is neither feasible nor desirable. Changing these patterns for the better will call for new policies in urban development, industry location, housing design, transportation systems, and the choice of agricultural and industrial technologies.63. Non-fuel mineral resources appear to pose fewer supply problems. Studies done before 1980 that assumed an exponentially growing demand did not envisage a problem until well into the next century. Since then, world consumption of most metals has remained nearly constant, which suggests that the exhaustion of non-fuel minerals is even more distant. The history of technological developments also suggests that industry can adjust to scarcity through greater efficiency in use, recycling, and substitution. More immediate needs include modifying the pattern of world trade in minerals to allow exporters a higher share in the value added from mineral use, and improving the access of developing countries to mineral supplies, as their demands increase.
64. The prevention and reduction of air and water pollution will remain a critical task of resource conservation. Air and water quality come under pressure from such activities as fertilizer and pesticide use. urban sewage, fossil fuel burning. the use of certain chemicals, and various other industrial activities. Each of these is expected to increase the pollution lead on the biosphere substantially, particularly in developing countries. Cleaning up after the event is an expensive solution. Hence all countries need to anticipate and prevent these pollution problems, by, for instance, enforcing emission standard that reflect likely long-term effects. promoting low-waste technologies. and anticipating the impact of new products, technologies, and wastes.
6. Reorienting Technology and Managing Risk
65. The fulfilment of all these tasks will require the reorientation of technology he key link between humans and nature. First, he capacity for technological innovation needs to be greatly enhanced in developing countries so that hey can respond more effectively to the challenges of sustainable development. Second, the orientation of technology development must be changed to pay greater attention to environmental factors.
66. The technologies of industrial countries are not always suited or easily adaptable to the socio-economic and environmental conditions of developing countries. To compound the problem, the bulk of world research and development addresses few of the pressing issues facing these countries, such as arid-land agriculture or the control of tropical diseases. Not enough is being done to adapt recent innovations in materials technology, energy conservation, information technology, and biotechnology to the needs of developing countries. These gaps must be covered by enhancing research. design, development, and extension capabilities in the Third World.
67. In all countries, the processes of generating alternative technologies. upgrading traditional ones, and selecting and adapting imported technologies should be informed by environmental resource concerns. Most technological research by commercial organizations is devoted to product and process innovations that have market value. Technologies are needed that produce 'social goods', such as improved air quality or increased product life. or that resolve problems normally outside the cost calculus of individual enterprises. such as the external costs of pollution or waste disposal.
68. The role of public policy is to ensure, through incentives and disincentives, that commercial organizations find it worthwhile to take fuller account of environmental factors in the technologies they develop. (See Chapter 8.) Publicly funded research institutions also need such direction, and the objectives of sustainable development and environmental protection must be built into the mandates of the institutions that work in environmentally sensitive areas.
69. The development of environmentally appropriate technologies is closely related to questions of risk management. Such systems as nuclear reactors, electric and other utility distribution networks, communication systems, and mass transportation are vulnerable if stressed beyond a certain point. The fact that they are connected through networks tends to make them immune to small disturbances but more vulnerable to unexpected disruptions that exceed a finite threshold. Applying sophisticated analyses of vulnerabilities and past failures to technology design, manufacturing standards, and contingency plans in operations can make the consequences of a failure or accident much less catastrophic.
70. The best vulnerability and risk analysis has not been applied consistently across technologies or systems. A major purpose of large system design should be to make the consequences of failure or sabotage less serious. There is thus a need for new techniques and technologies – as well as legal and institutional mechanisms for safety design and control, accident prevention, contingency planning, damage mitigation, and provision of relief.
71. Environmental risks arising from technological and developmental decisions impinge on individuals and areas that have little or no influence on those decisions. Their interests must be taken into account. National and international institutional mechanisms are needed to assess potential impacts of new technologies before they are widely used, in order to ensure that their production, use, and disposal do not overstrees environmental resources. Similar arrangements are required for major interventions in natural systems. such as river diversion or forest clearance. In addition, liability for damages from unintended consequences must be strengthened and enforced.
7. Merging Environment and Economics in Decision Making
72. The common theme throughout this strategy for sustainable development is the need to integrate economic and ecological considerations in decision making. They are, after all, integrated in the workings of the real world. This will require a change in attitudes and objectives and in institutional arrangements at every level.
73. Economic and ecological concerns are not necessarily in opposition. For example, policies that conserve the quality of agricultural land and protect forests improve the long-term prospects for agricultural development. An increase in the efficiency of energy and material use serves ecological purposes but can also reduce costs. But the compatibility of environmental and economic objectives is often lost in the pursuit of individual or group gains, with little regard for the impacts on others, with a blind faith in science's ability to find solutions, and in ignorance of the distant consequences of today's decisions. Institutional rigidities add to this myopia.
74. One important rigidity is the tendency to deal with one industry or sector in isolation, failing to recognize the importance of intersectoral linkages. Modern agriculture uses substantial amounts of commercially produced energy and large quantities of industrial products. At the same time, the more traditional connection – in which agriculture is a source of raw materials for industry –– is being diluted by the widening use of synthetics. The energy-industry connection is also changing, with a strong tendency towards a decline in the energy intensity of industrial production in industrial countries. In the Third World, however, the gradual shift of the industrial base towards the basic material-producing sectors is leading to an increase in the energy intensity of industrial production.
75. These intersectoral connections create patterns of economic and ecological interdependence rarely reflected in the ways in which policy is made. Sectoral organizations tend to pursue sectoral objectives and to treat their impacts on other sectors as side effects. taken into account only if compelled to do so, Hence impacts on forests rarely worry those involved in guiding public policy or business activities in the fields of energy, industrial development, crop husbandry, or foreign trade. Many of the environment and development problems that confront us have their roots in the sectoral fragmentation of responsibility. Sustainable development requires that such fragmentation be overcome.
76. Sustainability requires the enforcement of wider responsibilities for the impacts of decisions. This requires changes in the legal and institutional frameworks that will enforce the common interest. Some necessary changes in the legal framework start from the proposition that an environment adequate for health and well-being is essential for all human beings including future generations. Such a view places the right to use public and private resources in its proper social context and provides a goal for more specific measures.
77. The law alone cannot enforce the common principally needs community knowledge and support, which entails greater public participation in the decisions that affect the environment. This is best secured by decentralizing the management of resources upon which local communities defend, and giving these communities an effective say over the use of these resources. It will also require promoting citizens initiatives, empowering people's organizations, and strengthening local democracy.
78. Some large-scale projects, however, require participation on a different basis. Public inquiries and hearings on the development and environment impacts can help greatly in drawing attention to different points of view. Free access to relevant information and the availability of alternative sources of technical expertise can provide an informed basis for public discussion. When the environmental impact of a proposed project is particularly high, public scrutiny of the case should be mandatory and. wherever feasible. the decision should be subject to prior public approval, perhaps by referendum.
79. Changes are also required in the attitudes and procedures of both public and private-sector enterprises. Moreover, environmental regulation must move beyond the usual menu of safety regulations, zoning laws, and pollution control enactments; environmental objectives must be built into taxation, prior approval procedures for investment and technology choice, foreign trade incentives, and all components of development policy.
80. The integration of economic and ecological factors into the law and into decision making systems within countries has to be matched at the international level. The growth in fuel and material use dictates that direct physical linkages between ecosystems of different countries will increase. Economic interactions through trade, finance, investment, and travel will also grow and heighten economic and ecological interdependence. Hence in the future, even more so than now sustainable development. requires the unification of economics and ecology in international relations, as discussed in the next chapter.
81. In its broadest sense, the strategy for sustainable development aims to promote harmony among human beings an between humanity and nature. In the specific context of the development and environment crises of the 1980s, which current national and international political and economic institutions have not and perhaps cannot overcome, the pursuit of sustainable development requires:
- a political system that secures effective citizen participation in decision making,
- an economic system that is able to generate surpluses and technical knowledge on a self-reliant and sustained basis,
- a social system that provides for solutions for the tensions arising from disharmonious development.
- a production system that respects the obligation to preserve the ecological base for development,
- a technological system that can search continuously for new solutions.
- an international system that fosters sustainable patterns of trade and finance. and
- an administrative system that is flexible and has the capacity for self-correction.
82. These requirements are more in the nature of goals that should underlie national and international action on development. What matters is the sincerity with which these goals ate pursued and the effectiveness with which departures from them are corrected.
- UNCTAD, Handbook of International Trade and Development Statistics 1985 Supplement (New York 1985).
- Department of International Economic and Social Affairs (DIESA) Doubling Development Finance, Meeting a Global Challenge, Views and Recommendations of the Commitee for Development Planning (New York: UN. 1986).
- One example of such a decision to forgo a developmental benefit in the interest, of conservation is provided by the dropping of the Silent Valley Hydro project in India
- Based on data from World Bank, World Development Report 1984 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).
- Based on per capita consumption data from FAO.Production Yearbook 1984 (Rome: 1985) and population projections from DESA, World Population Prospects: Estimates and Projections as Assessed in 1984 (New York' UN, 1986).
- FAO,Fuelwood Supplies in Developing Countries, Forestry Paper No.42 (Rome: 1983)
- DIESA World Population Prospects,op. cit.
- W. Häfele and W. Sassin, ' Resources and Endowments, An Outline of Future Energy Systems'. in P.W Hemily and M.N. Ozdas (eds.), Science and Future Choirs (Oxford : Clarendon Press. 1979).
- See, for example, OCED, Interfutures: Facing the Future (Paris: 1979) and Council on Environmental Quality and U. S. Department of State, The Global 2000 Report to the President: Entering the Twenty-First Century, The Technical Report Vol. Two (Washington. DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1980).
- See 'For Municipal Initiative and Citizen Power', in INDERENA, La Campana Verde y los Concelos Verdes (Bogota, Colombia: 1985).