Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? Dr. Jacquie McNutt ~ CPBIS PaperCon ’08 Dallas, Texas May 7, 2008 Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? Sustainability is recently receiving much needed focus in many circles ~ yet there are two key questions requiring our full attention ~ • Do we have our focus on sustainability right in terms of embracing a needed comprehensive global view of this major issue; and • Are we considering effectively all major aspects of the sustainability kaleidoscope required to assure needed, effective, & constructive outcomes across time? Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? The quality, depth, & breadth of current global efforts to try to effectively address the complex topic of Sustainability are extraordinarily constructive considering the evolving pressures & demands of mankind on our planet earth . . . And with many efforts targeted to seek a balance across social, cultural, business, economic, consumer, technological, & political arenas ~ these initiatives have a direction that is mostly positive Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? But before we rush on too fast & pat our collective backs ~ maybe we need to take a step back here and ask ourselves ~ do we really do have it right yet? Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? Addressing this objectively is hard ~ Turning back the clock to other times/ events helps shed constructive light ~ • With Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962 we were issued a major wakeup call . . . • Clearly political & societal systems responded ~ even if economic and consumer ones did not ~ at first blush • In fact a Google hit on Carson’s book yields 2,010,000 hits • A “Silent Spring” focus was water & air quality as related to pesticides ~ among other pollution related topics ~ • In fact we can trace the creation of our own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) right here in the USA . . . Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? After nearly 50 years since “Silent Spring” & an enormous amount of world-wide effort and focus ~ Controversies still rage over “how to get that one right”. • This is a many sided coin fraught with successes, failures, blind alleys, & clear mistakes ~ Many mistakes are grounded in failure to initially realize effective responses to issues Carson raised must embrace the complex marriage across social, cultural, business, economic, consumer, technological, and political arenas ~ in a global context • Fixing it ~ such as in the US & Europe ~ is clearly not enough either ~ for example ~ Banned DDT led to reductions in DDT related cancer deaths, especially in developed regions ~ such as the US & Europe But least we forget ~ deaths‟ increases from diseases (e.g., malaria) in developing countries absent DDT access far outweigh cancer reduction benefits elsewhere Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? And as noted, in the current initiatives around Sustainability we have Learned from the past to a degree, and Are seeking to embrace a more balanced view toward this complex multi-discipline marriage ~ at least in the developed economies But do we have it right yet globally? From this perch ~ we still have miles to go before we sleep ~ We have yet to effectively consider true implications of decisions/ directions across all aspects of this complex marriage of arenas as well as within the developing economies ~ where by the way nearly 80% of the world‟s population resides Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? And speaking of developing countries ~ How many are aware 55% of all trees cut for a purpose today are cut for wood to energy supply in ineffective, highly polluting open flame systems, and that nearly 90% of that takes place in developing countries? And, how many are further aware transient agriculture leads to wasteful burning of forest areas to match those cut with a purpose each year in developing countries? How many of us are aware we are on the verge of technologies to generate energy supplies directly from trees more effectively/ efficiently than generated from petroleum, coal, & other agriiproducts? Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? Why this seemingly unrelated transgression? Simply to create another lesson to be learned from when we think we have it right. A key underpinning of the Sustainability Movement is found in perceptions (and realities) related to needs to sustain global resources and systems to assure our planet‟s (and Yet in just one natural resource area ~ forests ~ most of us do not have a clue as to the realities of this resource, its uses, potential; new uses, balances and directions. • Do we have that one right? Arguably far from it ~ and if we do not have that one right ~ there is a major driving force behind Sustainability we likely will need to reassess to fully understand implications of our well intended and well designed efforts there ~ especially as pertaining to developing economies • In essence we have a lot to learn before we can even begin to think we have it right . . . Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? With a longer look back in time ~ these words, by Reverend Thomas Malthus in 1798 in his “Essay on the Principle of Population”, were core to his economic philosophy addressing the then developing conflicting views on the future direction of the peoples of the earth; and of the earth's capacity to meet their ever expanding needs . . . Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? “The theory on which the truth of my (sic) position depends appears to me so extremely clear, that I feel at a loss to conjecture what part of it can be denied. That population cannot increase without the means of subsistence is a proposition so evident that it needs no illustration. That population does invariable increase where there are the means of subsistence; the history of every people that have ever existed will abundantly prove. And, that the superior power of population cannot be checked without producing misery or vice, the ample portion of these too bitter ingredients in the cup of human life, and the continuance of the physical causes that seem to have produced them, bear too convincing a testimony.” Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? Contemporary writers/ philosophers contemplating today's population & resource utilization pressures have invoked similar sentiments to Malthus to support warnings we face a type of “Ecological or Natural Resources Armageddon'„ • Yet contrary to popular beliefs ~ Malthus was not a 1790s ecological alarmist, nor doomsayer predicting catastrophic end of civilized life as known in his day • He was an insightful economist who very early understood some of the critical issues of balancing systems of demand, productivity, and resources sustainability ~ a key fact of life we still face, here in our new millennium Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? Malthus‟s two model points focused on ~ Growth in human population as a proxy for demand and resources’ utilization factors, and The then perceived limits to the earth's potential to sustain this population and its needed resources. • His belief was ~ when earth's potential to provide resources to meet human population's needs is stressed, the solution will be found through corrections of population levels via the proliferation of misery and vice ~ including disease, war, famine and other widespread catastrophes • Malthus did accept advancement of technology is a partial solution, but not at the heart of his main thinking . . . He did not get it right Technology played an enormous role for needed global balances ~ and Malthus essentially ignored needs of/ potentials emanating from the then developing world ~ which by the way for the 1700s British included the US . . . Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? Our lesson here today should then be that ~ We are not so very special as to get something right that has eluded the brightest minds in the world for centuries Are we doing better ~ I wonder what Thomas Malthus would tell us if he were here to counsel us today? I think he would tell us we are getting better, we are making progress, but do not let the firmness of our seemingly clear thinking cause us to believe we have it right yet Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? In closing, let‟s take one more example much closer to home in time and space ~ There is hardly a literate person now unaware of the massive initiatives around the global warming arena ~ and in part this is also directly related to the Sustainability Movement Our thinking is that man-made exhausts and pollutants have created a greenhouse effect of a certain level and direction that will lead to temperature changes of +5 degrees Celsius (or so) during the current century ~ with disastrous implications for mankind. But, how many of us have heard about and understand what the scientists are now calling “global dimming”? Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? Global dimming is ~ Largely, man-generated atmospheric particulates cause a shielding effect from the sun that has led to about a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature drop in the past 50 or so years ~ that is masked by the temperature increase from the global warming mechanisms The problem ~ those who think they have got it right on global warming have solutions that will also lower man-generated particulate levels and actually aggravate, not help resolve the global warming trends we are now trying so very had to deal with. • This is a very complex topic to get right ~ but so is Sustainability . . . Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? The lesson again is ~ That no matter how well we believe we have addressed a very difficult global issue ~ We must sustain a mindset that we do not have it right yet because the consequences to the contrary could very easily be worse than those that would have evolved had we not tried at all . . . However, if we keep our minds open and are ready to take different directions as we learn, then we will be closer to getting it right than if we let our egos tell us we have it all figured out ~ that we have got it right . . . Sustainability ~ Do We Have It Right? Our world deserves an 80% solution ~ Let‟s get it right!!