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Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

Criticisms of anarchism, anarchist vs. non-anarchist debates & anything generally antagonistic towards anarchism. Guest posts welcome.

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Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

Postby Thomas Woodfin » Mon May 17, 2010 7:47 am

Achieving sustainability occurs through the process of sustainable development - discovering, adopting, implementing, establishing, and adjusting appropriate institutions, policies, strategies, and technologies to produce a just transition that moves society toward the envisioned idealized state of existence. Democracy is often viewed in the same way, as a process of working toward the ideal. :roll:

Sustainability is an ambitious goal for humans. We do however have a chance to create a sustainable environment that will allow the human race to endure infinitely. To achieve this we must start with sustaining the earth. The earth provides the raw materials, which become commodities, which are used in the development of everything essential to life, including food, water, and shelter. Water, land and air, are the basic foundations of life that can also serve as representative of our resource depletion and sustainability efforts. The intangible coexistent requirement for future sustainability is a strong social or culture environment that will be responsible for developing processes, policies, laws and other mechanisms that will support sustainability. In 1991, Mohan Munasinghe and Ernst Lutz said:

"Sustainable development is an approach that will permit continuing improvements in the quality of life with a lower intensity of resource use, thereby leaving behind an undiminished or even enhanced stock of natural resources and other assets."

Our goal should be to work toward restoring and maintaining their function and integrity so that their services and human uses can be sustained over the long term. This can be done by incorporating triple bottom line in our personal lives. According to Lozano (2007) the dominant socio-economic paradigm, has led to behaviors that are increasingly pervasive in our society today. We as individuals should set goals that will help restore our global ecosystem, foster healthy living and reduce our impact on the local environment. We should look at our activities and consider some of the not-so-positive ways in which we impact the future and the globe. We should view in a new way the daily decisions we make about energy use, water consumption, recycling, transportation and food.

The first green revolution was considered a failure in terms of environment because did not work alongside nature. It failed because of bad governance. The small farmers were eventually left behind and were not able to get assistance with their farms. Their voices were not heard. The voices of the people who bought the larger farms were heard instead. Alongside this new pollutants arrived such as pests, petroleum, fertilizers, etc… the green revolution turned out to be a failure, they did not listen and take heed to nature and the local farmers.

Green 2 revolution is a good idea because hopefully they have learned from past mistakes and are more keen to understanding and realizing what truly needs to be done to sustain. Perhaps this time they will work alongside nature. According to Rogers there are five elements for the new green 2 revolution. They are:

"1. A redistributive policy that favors the poor by providing them access to land and modern inputs.

2. Increased public funding for less favorable agricultural land.

3. Increased attention to the needs of small holder farms and landless laborers, including credit.

4. Increased investment in rain fed agricultural areas in both Asia and Latin America.

5. Decentralized agricultural research, development, and extension systems focusing on particular issues such as soil and water management"(Rogers, 2008)
These are very sound elements and if put to use correctly should be very successful. They need to work alongside nature as well as the local people…what will sustain the environment yet sustain the people too!

According to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, the purpose of environmental sustainability is to "foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of the present and future generations". To achieve this goal, it is vital for us to always apply the triple bottom approach. Nowadays, living a "green" life is the talk of the day as many people are beginning to realize the consequences of our actions to the environment. Despite all the growing scientific evidence of the detrimental effects of some of our social and economic activities to the environment, a significant number of people continue to deny the effects of global warming for ideological reasons. For us to achieve the goal of sustainability, we all need to look past our ideological differences and focus on the scientific evidence presented before us.

The Green Revolution is a concept that was employed to increase the produce of farmers in developing countries, so as to fight the famine that was a plaque to some developing countries in the world. Despite the fact that it improves the social and economic status in those countries like India and Mexico through an increase in food production, it had its drawbacks on the environment. The use of fertilizers and pesticides led to an increase in soil and water pollution. These countries depended on primitive water sources for drinking and irrigation like "wells", streams, and rivers. These water sources got polluted by the chemicals for the fertilizers and pesticides, thereby destroying marine life and other elements of the ecosystem like the nitrogen fixing bacteria which are essential in recycling some of the elements required to sustain human life. Repeated use of the same piece of farm coupled with the chemicals and land slide due to irrigation led to soil infertility; "shifting cultivation" wasn't practiced anymore. The use of a few genetically engineered seeds and chemicals led to decrease in crop diversity.

As a consequence of the Green Revolution, there is a steep increase in the world's population today. The new challenge to the world is to sustain this rapidly growing population. To do so, we need to explore the field of research and technology which is the main idea behind the Green II Revolution. I believe we can handle these challenges by implementing the concepts of Green II Revolution. To me, Green II Revolution is a good idea. Besides the fact that it minimizes the drawbacks of the Green Revolution and to cope with the demands of the rising population, effective investment in research and biotechnology will create jobs and other social and economic benefits to the people and the community as a whole. By constantly striving for better techniques and production of more humane and environmentally friendly pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation methods, we can sustain our environment. Knowing that the ecosystem is dynamic, and that every action we take has its pros and cons, we can maintain the welfare of humans without destroying our environment by maintaining a balance between our social, economic, and environmental activities.

The Green 2 revolution is a good idea to prevent the destruction of our environment due to increase food production. The Green Revolution was an agriculture movement in south Asia which was initiated to combat starvation in the region. The Bangladesh imported fuel to run irrigation pumps but the small farmers were turned away the subsidized prices and were forced to buy more expensive private prices. Bad governance hurt small farmers. As Spangenberg suggests, sustainable Development is based on economic, environmental, social and institution. The institutional part was lacking in the first green revolution. Bangladesh small farmers with little political influence were also unable to "seeds, fertilizers, roads, and communal storehouses."Both circumstances lead to the larger farmers benefitting more greatly from the green revolution than small farmers and overall increased the gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. (Rogers 2008).

A pessimistic view during the green revolution was that the Malthusian catastroph would occur. However, these predictions have failed to materialize. Hiis prediction of impending famine did not prove self evident. The world's population had doubled by 1923 and doubled again by 1973 without fulfilling Malthus' prediction. Mathusian view that "population cannot increase without the food to support it" is true but the technological advancements allow the human race to produce more food. A Malthusian Paul R. Ehrlich, in his 1968 book The Population Bomb, said that "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980" and "Hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs." Ehrlich's warnings failed to materialize when India became self-sustaining in cereal production. Enrlich states in his book the following. "As the most powerful nation in the world today, and its largest consumer, the United States cannot stand isolated. We are today involved in the events leading to famine; tomorrow we may be destroyed by its consequences." Even though the food production dillema has been solved, Ehrlich said in an interview that George W. Bush was his environmental nightmare.
The scarcity of food due to increased population has been a concern even before the times today of larger populations. Malthusian documents, "at Nootka Sound, in the year 1794, fish had become very scarce and bore an exorbitant price; as, either from the badness of the season or from neglect, the inhabitants had experienced the greatest distress for want of provisions during winter." Some will always be pessimistic about our sustainability. In many ways pessimism is needed, for this view may have driven India to solve their food problem rather than ignore it.

In conclusion, the basic problem of the Green revolution was the absence of the triple bottom line approach which must be balanced environmentally, economicall and socially. In addition, institutions failed. Governments gave preferrential treatment to large farmers. The degradation of the land, the increasingly unequal distribution of income and increase in poverty all lead to threats to peace and security. Green revolution was good but emphasised more on the economic. It maximized the economic at the detriment of the environment and social implications. Sustainable development must be enduring. Another factor that affected the Green revolution was unequal distribution of products between the poor and rich countries. They developed countries contributed more in terms of technology and consumed more than what is required. Green 2 was more even in their distribution of the worlds weath. Rogers viewed population growth would not be a significant factor in environmental degradation. Many Malthus believers thought that population would be the failure of that era. In fact it was institutional rules that initiated the failure and created poverty and imbalances in income not the population growth.





References
Borlaug, Norman. "The Green Revolution, Peace, and Humanity." Nobel Lecture. Retrieved 02/08/2010. Website:http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1970/borlaug-lecture.html
Malthus, Thomas Robert (1826), An Essay on the Principle of Population: A View of its Past and Present Effects on Human Happiness; with an Inquiry into Our Prospects Respecting the Future Removal or Mitigation of the Evils which It Occasions (Sixth ed.), London: John Murray, http://www.econlib.org/library/Malthus/malPlong.html, retrieved 2010-02-08

Paul Ehrlich, famed ecologist, answers readers' questions, August 13, 2004, Grist Magazine http://www.grist.org/article/ehrlich/ Retrieved 2010-02-08

Rogers, Peter. P., Jalal, Kazi. F., & Boyd, John. A. (2008). Challenges of sustainable development. In An introduction to sustainable development (pp. 54-83). London, UK: Earthscan
Spangenberg, J. H. (2004). Reconciling sustainability and growth: criteria, indicators, policies. Sustainable development, 12, 74-86.

http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/oi.nsf/8bb15fe43a5fb81788256b58005ff079/398761d6c3c7184988256fc40078499b!OpenDocument. Retrieved 02/08/2010


oRogers, Peter. P., Jalal, Kazi. F., & Boyd, John. A. (2008). Challenges of sustainable development. In An introduction to sustainable development (pp. 54-83). London, UK: Earthscan.

oLozano, R. (2007). Collaboration as a pathway for sustainability. Sustainable Development, 15, 370
Thomas Woodfin
 


Re: Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

Postby Guest » Mon May 17, 2010 6:30 pm

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Re: Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

Postby mj12 » Wed May 26, 2010 12:31 am

So after ploughing through your post your solution to the problem of sustainability is that we should try to be "sustainable"?

As for the alleged food shortages in the world, there is too much food really. The problem is one of distribution, not production. In the West farmers are massively subsidised and even paid to not produce crops. A huge percentage of agricultural production is dumped or not harvested or wasted in production then thrown out and never consumed. The world produces heaps of food, and it could produce a lot more if there was a demand for it.
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Re: Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

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Re: Reflecting on the History of Sustainability

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