Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Blogging opportunity #2

The United Nations Division for Sustainable Development defines sustainable development as:

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

What do you think about this definition?

9 comments:

Whitney Knapp said...

I would disagree. That view is so anthropocentric. What about the environment? The animals? The plants?

While it would be sustainable from a human perspective, what if a forest is to be developed that has this rare species of squirrel found no where else in the world? According to this definition, the squirrel doesnt matter so long as there are enough trees for future generations to meet their needs.

This definition needs to be broader and less self centered.

Drew Moxon said...

I think that definition takes what you are talking about into account. There will be those in the future that want that squirrel to exist, therefore it would be meeting the needs of the future. You just have to decide on a discount value to determine how much that future need is weighed...

Anonymous said...

Matthew Pickett
Sustainable development... I guess the argument is sustainable for who. Unfortunately since only homo sapien sapiens sit on the panel or committee it would be an anthropocentric view, besides the fact that the un seems to be a leader in proponency for the environment. The squirrel in this instance may be screwed, but it is not the first and certainly not the last to have such a lovely ending. Loss of species is one of the most unfortunate side effects of our quest for global domination. In the long run, those trees are probably more vital to everyone, and thing, than the squirrel and it would be appropriate to question if cutting is sustainable. This definition is certainly to narrow and I find it hard to believe, as a veteran of the modelun and una-usa, that it wasn't more like three pages.

Anonymous said...

matthew pickett
I know I already commented on this but I was reviewing for an exam and found this conclusion drawn up by veteran american conservationist Vic Scheffer of Washington, "The goal of the American environmental movement, then, is to somehow strike a balance between idealism and realism; to preserve the diversity and the wondrous beauty of our world while recognizing that billions must steadily draw upon its substance for survival." Granted this isn't sustainable yield but it is an insightful perspective.
Peace love and collards
Pickett

Schuhmann said...

OK, good stuff.... let me see if I can take this to a more practical level. What would policy makers need to know in order to create policy that would meet this definition?

-Schuhmann (blogging from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados)

Mandy Isaac said...

The first problem that came to my attention was the use of the word "needs." Without clearly defining the word, the entire definition is nearly left to interpretation. How much development do we really NEED? With empty shopping centers and old houses left with for sale signs for years, is it really neccessary for us to build anything new? Can't we improve on previous developments? Some may think that new development is a NEED while in reality it could be simply a want.
Second I noticed, how are they predicting the needs of the future generations? When taking each new development into consideration, do they estimate population growth? And if so, by what period? How many future generations are we concerned about here?
Both of these points are somewhat over-specific, I know. But when laws or regulations are left to interpretation because of broad terminology, they can often miss the point. It does not say WHAT needs they want future generations to be able to meet. Is it simply land development? Or does it include animals and natural resources? The terms used in this "definition" need to be defined in order to successfully enforce it and base policies off it in my opinion.

BrandonHedrick said...

With the current development needs in the U.S. being negative in nature (major surplus of residential and commercial properties), this really is not even a realistic statement. There is obviously a need for balance, and the environment is worth a price. Humans are the only species that will dictate the forecast for needs in the future. Thus far, the greed of man has played the largest role in development needs in the U.S.

With a major collapse in housing and a collapse in commercial real estate on the horizon, it will be years before anyone can access the future needs of our country. This is the largest problem with the statement. How do you access needs? Are there non-use values involved with the environment in the assessment? Are we going to solely look at human wants or needs? This is really an ethical and moral dilemma more than anything else. It is a statement that is trying to put ideology together with reality, but seems very ineffective in doing so.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Bledsole

To begin, we have to speculate that with an ever rising global population, the needs of the future will be much higher,and at the very least,the same.

Technology is a key peice to the equation. Given the "foward" moving history of technological advancement it is not hard to speculate that over time some "needs" may phase out... Unfortunately we cannot gaurantee what we dont know.

What we can gaurantee and what is currently proven, is that future generations (somewhere along the line) will not be here to make a better definition of sustainable development if we do not move towards are more friendly "earth policy".

So what the policy maker needs to know to make a policy that would fit the UN definition?

Pay to Play Folks.

Dr. Peter Schuhmann said...

Good points everyone. I think Mandy nailed it.

We have cell phones that can surf the internet and cars that can go 150 MPH ... are these needs? What if I tell you that I need to protect my children when I travel, so I need to drive a tank?

What will future generations need? We cannot possibly know this.

The definition sounds nice, but falls apart when you try to put it to use.