Friday, November 11, 2011

Sustainable Society Essay

Within the international scientific community there is almost an international consensus that the ecological limits of the earth are being exceeded in many areas.

The need for "sustainable development", based on notions of inter and intra-generational equity has been widely espoused by Governments the world over. However, the situation remains in which approximately 20% of the world's population accounts for 80% of total annual resource consumption. The rate of consumption of natural resources (both renewable and non-renewable) continues to increase and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. Massive biodiversity loss continues unabated. Economic and political power is becoming increasingly centralized and unaccountable.

The high profile "Sustainable Europe" project was the culmination of a 5 year Sustainable Societies Program. At the core of this project was the concept of "Fair Shares in Environmental Space". Environmental Space is effectively a way of measuring sustainability in terms of resource use (energy, non-renewable resources, agricultural land and forests). The notion of "fair shares" introduces the principle of equity in access to environmental space (which is limited by the carrying capacity of the earth) between countries.

There is much consensus amongst FoE groups around the world that contemporary local and global environmental problems and social inequalities are strongly connected to the massive over-consumption of resources in the North, and that the North may need to reduce consumption levels by up to 90% if we are to move towards the establishment of sustainable and equitable societies.

When addressing the issue of sustainability, Western European countries are typically in the situation of having, among otherthings, high per capita consumption rates, relatively high population density, a relatively poor natural resource base (already expended) and few if any "wilderness" areas to protect from industrial development. The material intensity of these economies relies on a massive flow of resources from poorer "Southern" countries. In this context, it has made sense for the sustainability work of Western European FoE groups to focus on reducing resource consumption.