Term Paper: Sustainable Development Is the Process That Responds

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Sustainable Development is the process that responds to the needs of current population without destroy any of opportunities and needs for future population.

What Sustainable Development is about:

Environment and Sustainable Development

Over the past decade the idiom of sustainable development increasingly has come to frame international debates about environment and development policy-making. Catapulted to prominence by the report of the Brundtland Commission 1 in 1987, sustainable development was formally endorsed as a policy objective by world leaders at the Rio Earth Summit 2 five years later. It has been absorbed into the conceptual lexicon of international organizations such as the World Bank and the OECD; been accorded its own global secretariat in the form of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD); and achieved near-constitutional status in the European Union through its incorporation in the Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties. Around the globe political leaders and public administrators now routinely justify policies, projects, and initiatives in terms of the contribution they make to realizing sustainable development.

Yet, while the idea has come to assume a central place in contemporary discussions of environment and development issues, there has been little serious comparative research on the practical political ramifications of the 'turn' towards sustainable development. Among academics we have seen a great deal of discursive 'smoke' -- but little in the way of empirical 'fire'. But what has actually happened with the concept in terms of policy implementation? Where and how has it been taken seriously as a prioritized goal for change; and what differences can be detected in the ways the idea has been interpreted and applied in different national, regional, and cultural contexts?

Economic development and Sustainable Development

The first Task Force, the Innovative Local, State, and Regional Approaches Task Force explored ways communities and regions could engage in strategic planning in managing economic development, community growth, protection of ecosystems, preservation of fisheries, and in creating incentives for environmental stewardship. The Task Force supports the following efforts:

• The Joint Center for Sustainable Communities, established by the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, provides local elected officials with advice, technical assistance, information, and financial support for sustainable communities. The Center provides leadership training, peer exchange programs, information on policy tools, and an advertising and education campaign and conference workshops.

• The Metropolitan Approaches Working Group collects information on how cities, counties, business groups, citizens, and others can facilitate co-operative efforts that cross local government boundaries. The PCSD recommended that the group develop a pilot demonstration programs to facilitate metropolitan-scale sustainable development strategies, identify and seek to change policies that contribute to urban sprawl, and recommend legislative and administrative actions that would increase the flexibility of metropolitan areas to integrate economic, environmental, and equity concerns.

• The Pacific Northwest Regional Council, made up of twenty-eight regional leaders, promotes co-operation among regional non-profit and community groups, awareness of sustainable development concepts, and sharing of information about regional programs. The PCSD is working to establish similar councils in other regions.

The PCSD's support of local government initiatives is particularly important, because it is at this level of government that the idea of sustainable development is helping to shape public policies. Communities in the Pacific Northwest, for example, have been actively pursuing sustainable development policies. The region has undergone dramatic economic growth over the past few decades and its economic base has been transformed. Metropolitan areas have aggressively developed policies to control urban sprawl and develop mass transit. Timber and ranching businesses in the region have emphasized stewardship and responsibility for sustainable use of resources.

Other communities have also aggressively pursued sustainable development initiatives. The East-West/Gateway Co-coordinating Council in St. Louis has developed a twenty-year transportation plan that integrates transportation decisions with economic, environmental, and community goals such as supporting mobility for low income residents and ensuring that development along rail lines is based on sustainability principles. Some communities have formed sustainable development forums to bring community members together to discuss issues and formulate plans. Non-profit organizations throughout the nation formed the Sustainable Communities Network to share information on demonstration projects and conduct outreach programs.

Education Development

Like many other wealthy nations, the United States has fallen well short of that goal, contributing less than 0.2 per cent of its GDP to development assistance (Keating 1993: 52). There has been some shift in international assistance policy, however, that somewhat parallels the idea of sustainable development. Much of the spending for development during the past 40 years was driven by national security, Cold War concerns, rather than the needs of the recipient nations. Development programs often emphasized large-scale, politically visible projects that imposed Western technologies, caused environmental damage, and were not viable in the long-term.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and many other national and international development agencies have begun to embrace an alternative view of development that is rooted in environmental preservation and sustainability. The USAID, for example, regularly uses the term sustainable development in its reports on activities and projects. Its primary objectives are 'achieving both sustainable development and advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives' through six programs: economic growth and agricultural development; population, health, and nutrition; environment; democracy and governance; education and training; and humanitarian assistance.

The PCSD also established, in addition to the three broad Task Forces described above, three interagency working groups to ensure the implementation of sustainable development goals with the federal government: Education for Sustainability, Materials and Energy Flow, and Sustainable Development Indicators. The Education group is working on plans for regional and national business forums for sustainable development to help educate businesses and communities and develop new curricula in professional schools, and for a National Sustainable Development Extension Network that would build on existing federal extension services to assist communities, regions, and states in devising sustainable development programs. The Materials and Energy Flows group seeks to identify and disseminate information on successful efforts to improve efficiency, reduce emissions, and increase recycling. The Sustainable Development Indicators group plans to devise a framework for indicators of sustainable development that will include three elements: endowments or assets and capacities such as natural resources, factories and infrastructure, and educational and legal systems; processes such as driving forces that increase productivity or deplete resources faster than they are replenished and the decisions that are made in response to the indicators themselves; and the goods and services that are produced.

Population Control

The United States initially favored a global convention on biodiversity as a way to bring the various global accords under one umbrella and to make international law more consistent with its own approach to protecting endangered species. But as negotiations proceeded and the agenda was broadened to include access to and control over genetic resources, U.S. industries mobilized to challenge the idea of a global accord as a threat to American interests. The Framework Convention on Biodiversity, signed at the 1992 UNCED conference, engendered a great deal of controversy in the United States. The most controversial proposal dealt with the rights of states to control their own natural resources and their development by external powers. The United States has signed but the Senate has not ratified the treaty because of opposition by industry to the obligations it would impose on U.S. industries.

Land Use / Land Management

The United States has a long history of policies aimed at preserving some forms of biodiversity. Until 1900, wildlife conservation was a state responsibility. Then Congress passed the Lacey Act, which prohibited interstate commerce of wildlife products that had been banned by states. In 1966 Congress responded to concerns raised in the Interior Department that native invertebrates were in danger of extinction by enacting the first federal endangered species law. The law suffered from a number of shortcomings: it only included native vertebrates, species were to be preserved only when it was considered 'practicable and consistent' with the 'primary purposes of the federal agencies;' wildlife refuge areas were narrowly defined; and Congress provided inadequate funding. Congress amended the law in 1969 by requiring invertebrates to be protected, but still required the protected species to be 'threatened with world-wide extinction', and made other changes in 1973. The impact of national demographic trends and factors on the traditional livelihoods of indigenous groups and local communities, including changes in traditional land use because of internal population pressures, should be studied. Land-use and resource policies will both affect and be affected by changes in the atmosphere. Certain practices related to terrestrial and marine resources and land use can decrease greenhouse gas sinks and increase atmospheric emissions.

The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species of fish, wildlife, and plants that are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value; and to ensure the U.S. meets relevant international conservation commitments. Endangered species are defined as those in 'danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range'; threatened species are 'likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its… [END OF PREVIEW]

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