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Roger Petry Luther College Sustainable Campus Seminar Series Session #1 October 1, 2003 What is Sustainability? What Would a Sustainable Campus Look Like?
What is sustainability? • Sustain: to support, bear the weight of; to keep going; to keep alive • Sustainability: the ability to maintain a desired condition over time (Toakley and Aroni, 1998) ; when something can be maintained profitably and indefinitely, without degrading the systems on which it depends (Newton, 2003) • Implies formulating some criteria for success, a desired set of outcomes to be sustained
Definitions of Sustainable Development • the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations (the World Conservation Strategy of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), 1980) • development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Our Common Future, The World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) • a situation in which development understood as a vector of desirable social objectives (e.g. increases in real income per capita; improvements in health and nutritional status; educational achievement; access to resources; a 'fairer' distribution of income; increases in basic freedoms) increases monotonically over time”(Pearce, Markandaya, and Barbier 1989) • development that promotes the capabilities of people in the present without compromising the capabilities of future generations (Sen 2001)
Implications for What is to be Sustained: Sustainability Outcomes • Sustaining natural capital: human beings living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems (i.e. resources not used more rapidly than nature’s capacity to replenish them) • Sustaining ecosystems and biodiversity • Sustaining the human population: meeting the essential needs for all, particularly the world's poor • Sustaining improvements in quality of life • Sustaining people's capacity to develop and exercise autonomy
Key Factors Impacting Sustainability Outcomes • Population growth • Urbanization • Availability of natural resources • Pollution • Geopolitical problems particularly as they arise from income inequality (Toakley and Aroni 1998)
Approaches to SD: The Neo-liberal Approach • Sustainable development understood as sustainable economic growth: the ability to continue economic growth as measured by the consumption of goods and services traded in the market (Ayres 1998) • Accumulation of primarily man-made capital supposed to ensure future generations have the same chance at the good life as the current generation
Problems with the Neo-Liberal Approach • Fails to focus on SD outcomes: economic growth at best a means to an end; development vs. growth • Adverse impacts of current economic growth model on sustainability outcomes • Economic growth vs. quality of life (GDP vs. Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI)) • Increasing consumption and population growth, urbanization • Growth in inequality
Non Neo-liberal Approaches to SD • Take ecological constraints on human activity as fundamental (e.g. use thresholds for natural capital) • Weak sustainability: the maintenance of the overall capital base needed for a certain level of income but that allows substitutions of man-made capital for natural capital • Focus on technological solutions to minimize impacts and produce substitutable alternatives • Problems with lack of substitutability for multifunctional resources; uncertainty and irreversibility of some harms; ecosystem integrity needed to support life and absorb wastes • Lack of attention to underlying social and economic factors
Strong Sustainability • Strong sustainability: assumes categories of capital are non-substitutable • Assumes overall stock of natural capital should be maintained over time • Each generation inherits an adequate per capita stock of natural capital assets no less than the stock of such assets inherited by the previous generation • Need to account for depreciation of natural capital • Need for integrated (vs. intensive) management of natural resources; appropriate technology, local knowledge and local adaptation
Declarations for Sustainability in Higher Education • The Stockholm Declaration on the human environment (1972) • Tbilisi declaration (1977) • Talloires declaration: University Presidents for a sustainable future (1990) • The Halifax declaration (1991) • U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (Chapter 36, Promoting education, public awareness, and training; 1992) • The Kyoto Declaration: Ninth International Association of Universities Round Table (1993) • The Swansea Declaration: Association of Commonwealth Universities' Fifteenth Quinquennial Conference (1993) • CRE-Copernicus charter (1994) • Declaration of Thessaloniki: International Conference on Environment and Society (1997)
Reasons for the University as a Key Contributor to SD • Breadth of knowledge, particularly of human and ecological systems • Capacity to integrate knowledge regarding ecological, economic, and social issues, including local knowledge • Capacity for global and local sharing of knowledge • Knowledge of poor and marginalized groups • Capacity for longterm research • Academic freedom and institutional autonomy • Public accountabilities
Common Principles of Sustainability in Declarations • sustainable physical operations • sustainable academic research • public outreach • inter-university co-operation • partnerships with government, NGOs, and industry • development of interdisciplinary curriculum • ecological literacy • moral obligation to promote sustainability (Wright 2002)