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EVSS 680: Case Studies of Env Issues CofC Fall 2010. Defining Sustainability. Agenda. The Lorax Individualization Discussion Lecture: Intro and Chap 1 of PS Lecture: Global Sustainability Vids Discussion. Story of Stuff. Annie Leonard, Story The Lorax. Individualization.

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Evss 680 case studies of env issues cofc fall 2010

EVSS 680: Case Studies of Env Issues


Fall 2010

Defining Sustainability


  • The Lorax

  • Individualization Discussion

  • Lecture: Intro and Chap 1 of PS

  • Lecture: Global Sustainability

  • Vids

  • Discussion

Story of stuff
Story of Stuff

  • Annie Leonard, Story

  • The Lorax


  • planting tree implies envirodegradation as the product of individual shortcomings (e.g. greed)

  • best countered by action that is staunchly individual and typically consumer-based (buy a tree and plant it!)

  • embraces the notion that consumption, consumerism, power and responsibility can be resolved through enlightened, uncoordinated consumer choice. Education is a critical ingredient in this view

Individualization of responsibility
Individualization of Responsibility

  • Responsibility for enviro degradation is upon the individual (e.g. paper or plastic)  it is destructive consumer choice

  • When responsibility for environmental problems is individualized, there is little room to ponder institutions, the nature and exercise of political power, or ways of collectively changing the distribution of power and influence in society—to, in other words, “think institutionally.”

Why individ repsonsibility
Why? IndividRepsonsibility?

  • historical baggage of mainstream environmentalism

  • the core tenets of liberalism (economic)

  • the dynamic ability of capitalism to commodify dissent, and

  • the relatively recent rise of global environmental threats to human prosperity.


  • Indiv of responsibility is “narrowing”

  • It is undermining our capacity to react effectively to environmental threats to human well-being

  • This indiv of responsibility calls for people to see themselves as consumers first and citizens second

  • the individually responsible consumer is encouraged to purchase a vast array of “green” or “eco-friendly” products on the promise that the more such products are purchased and consumed, the healthier the planet’s ecological processes will become. “Living lightly on the planet” and “reducing your environmental impact” becomes, paradoxically, a consumer-product growth industry (p34)

  • Must be reversed  citizens engaged in participatory democracy

Sustainability intro
Sustainability Intro

  • History

  • Consequentialism

  • Pluralism

  • Determinism

  • Secularization

  • Disciplinarity

  • Storylines

Our enviro history
Our Enviro History

  • In NA, mainstream enviro discourses have “failed to halt advancing enviro degradation. Even more, these same discourses have failed to halt advancing social degradation. In spite of our overall optimism, we hold that things are getting worse, not better, and the trajectory of history is directly tied to, if not entirely caused by, the development of liberal capitalism as a means of production.”

History sustainability
History  Sustainability

  • Our shared understanding of “sustainability” is less a scientific concept than an historical discourse through which we might imagine more hopeful futures.”

  • We need “new ways of talking about sustainability that will galvanize diverse and experimental forms of action b/c it is through such experimentation that we will find the vocabulary we need.” (p4)

Themes toward ps
Themes toward PS

  • Consequentialism: idea of SD is first an ethical one…and that it is not the quality of the actions or actors that matters most, but the consequences of those actions

  • Pluralism: need heterogeneity, informality (lack of formal rule bound behavior) and trust  necessary for “complex social equity”

  • Determinism: Technological determinism (wait for tech to save us). Econ determinism, we imagine that econ precedes politics b/c politics are preconditioned by a “univ human nature hard wired to greed. Rather, authors argue that this are historical, and existing tech and econ situations “limit our choices” (p7)

Themes toward ps part ii
Themes toward PS, Part II

  • Secularization: Light  our cosmological status of other living things is not as important than our “attitudes and actions affect well-being. Move from myth of wilderness to actual conditions of place” Unsustainability is not a tech or econ problem, but a social one.

  • Transdisciplinarity: req both interdisc (hybrid knowledge in collaboration across disciplines) and transdisc (hybrid knowledge by subdisc teams to solve real problems) to address sustainability

  • Storylines: Making sense of narratives is more important than being “right about actions taken in the past by others. SD requires stories to make new habits attractive.” (p10)

What is sustainability
What is Sustainability?

  • Sustainability = resource sufficiency and functional integrity

  • Non substantive Sustainability: much of discourse is based on political, ethical, and cultural concerns—that have nothing to do with above (sufficiency)

  • Jamieson: Sustainability does little to explain human activities in terms of philosophy (moral obligations) and/or motivational power (little effect on behavior)

  • Sustainability must be more than optimization (or well being over time), it must be a by product of resource sufficiency and functional integrity of the system

Studying and employing sustainability
Studying and Employing Sustainability

  • Resource Sufficiency = Econ sustainability

  • Functional Integrity = Ecological sustainability

  • Equity Fairness = Social Sustainability

  • Environ + Soc Justice?

  • Sustainability as social mvmt

  • Sustainability = interests of labor, marginalized

  • Sustainability = storyline contested in locale

Thompson s conclusion
Thompson’s conclusion

  • Social Sustainability (or non-substantive sustainability) amount to merely normative commitments and is insufficient.

    • Need empirical factors like resources & functionality

  • Yet, sustainability as social impetus is important and compensates for its vagueness.

  • Believes that storylines are important, esp around democracy and social justice

Defining sustainability

  • Visions of Sustainable Future

Clashing backdrop to 1972 stockholm convention
Clashing Backdrop to 1972 Stockholm Convention

Indira Gandhi at Stockholm: “Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters?...How can we speak to those who live in villages and slums about keeping oceans, rivers and air clean when their own lives are contaminated at the source? The environment cannot be improved in conditions of poverty.”

Developed: Surge of environmental concern, primarily within nation

Developing (G77): concern over preserving their sovereignty and control over their resources poverty, lower life expectancies, illiteracy, sanitation, etc

1972 stockholm conference on the human environment
1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment

Serves as Foundationb/c:

  • Biosphere and planet were identified as objects necessitating protection (1st time)

  • Widely attended (114 or 131 UN states)—stirrings of civil society--NGOs on side

  • Creation of the UNEP (UN Environmental Program)—the 1st int’l organization with an exclusively environmental mandate

  • Stockholm Declaration, outlining duties and responsibilities of citizens/states

Assumptions of stockholm declaration
Assumptions of Stockholm Declaration

Core of Declaration is based on assumptions:

  • (1) “In the long and tortuous evolution of the human race on this planet a stage has been reached when, through the rapid acceleration of science and technology, man has acquired the power to transform his environment in countless ways and on an unprecedented scale…”

  • (3) We see around us growing evidence of man-made harm in many regions of the earth…

  • (4) In the developing countries most of the environmental problems are caused by under-development …In the industrialized countries, environmental problems are generally related to industrialization and technological development…

  • (7) Local and national governments will bear the greatest burden for large-scale environmental policy and action within their jurisdictions.”

Fundamental principles of stockholm declaration
Fundamental Principles of Stockholm Declaration

  • Principle 1: Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.

  • Principle 21: States have…the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

  • Principle 22: States shall cooperate to develop further the international law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage caused by activities within the jurisdiction or control of such States to areas beyond their jurisdiction.

Central environ issues from stockholm
Central Environ Issues from Stockholm

  • Is global pollution a problem of poverty or affluence?

  • Can development or ‘growth’ operate as complement to environmental protection?

  • Who is responsible, and who should shoulder this responsibility via North/South?

  • Role of “sovereignty” help or hinder global efforts on environmental issues?

World charter for nature 1982
World Charter for Nature, 1982

  • Goal: set forth “principles of conservation by which all human conduct affecting nature is to be guided and judged”—symbolic expression

  • Non-binding, differs from Stockholm in substance and form—an ecological instrument

  • Biocentric—protection of nature as end itself

  • Strongly supported by GS (developing countries) which differs from Stockholm

  • Many treaties thereafter incorporated itsethical components

Major environmental treaties stockholm to rio
Major Environmental Treaties Stockholm to Rio

  • 1973 – CITES: Conv on Int’l Trade of Endangered Species

  • 1973 – CLRTAP: Conv on Long Range Transboundary Pollution

  • 1982 – UNCLOS: UN Conv on the Law of the Sea (entered force 1994)

  • 1985 – Vienna Conv on the Protection of the Ozone Layer

  • 1987 – Montreal Protocol (Ozone)

  • 1989 – Basel Convention: control of hazardous waste & disposal

  • 1991 – GEF created

Brundtland commission 1987 our common future
Brundtland Commission – 1987 “Our Common Future”

  • World Commission on Environment and Development seminal report in 1987 chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland

  • Built on the foundations of sustainable development

  • SD (def’n): “meets the needs of the present without compromising future generations to meet their own needs”

  • Environmental Degradation and Poverty inextricably linked:

    • “the ‘environment’ is where we live; and ‘development’ is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot in that abode. The two are inseparable…Many of the development paths of the industrialized nations are clearly unsustainable. And the development decision of these countries, because of their great econ and political power, will have a profound effect on the ability of all peoples to sustain human progress for generations to come.”

    • “these links between poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation (require) a new era of economic growth that is…social and environmentally sustainable.”

Unced rio 1992 earth summit
UNCED, Rio 1992 (“Earth Summit”)

  • Dealt extensively with difference

    between GN and GS (as in Stockholm)

  • Tough Qs:

    • Who was more to blame for rise in pollution and depletion of natural resources—GN because of profligate consumption or GS for population explosion?

    • Which enviro issues deserved prioritization: climate change and biodiversity or livelihood issues such as access to freshwater, desertification, and food security?

Unced rio 1992 earth summit1
UNCED, Rio 1992 (Earth Summit)

Four Institutional Results

  • Rio Declaration

  • Agenda 21 (Non-binding Action Plan)

  • Nonbinding Stmt of Principles for Global Consensus on Management, Conservation and SD of Forests

  • Ceremonial signing of UNFCCC (climate change) and CBD (conv on biodiversity)

Rio declaration
Rio Declaration

  • Replaced the “Earth Charter”—not binding but seen as affirming Int’l Environ Law (IEL).

  • “Set a dubious foundation for IEL (reversing many ideas in Stockholm)”

  • Some scholars even suggested Rio undermined the autonomy of IEL and its future application

  • Built on compromises between EP (environ protection) and economic development

  • More specific than Stockholm, but controversial

Key principles of rio
Key Principles of Rio

  • Principle 1: Reflects an anthropocentric approach to environment– “human beings are at the center of concerns for SD”—no rt to clean environ

  • Principle 2: Nascent rt to wholesome environment (Stockholm) replaced by rt to development

    • Duty not to cause TB harm (Principle 21) was weakened by Principle 2 allowing states to “exploit their own natural resources pursuant to their environ and develop policies”

  • Principle 3&4: Reformulation of obligation to conserve (for future generations) changed to right to consume and develop (3) GS; while (4) states that EP shall constitute an integral part of the development process “not isolated from it” (GN)

  • Principles 4, 11, 12:advocate open economic trade system premised on economic growth and SD as platform for econ growth

  • Principle 13: “States shall develop national law regarding liability and compensation for victims of pollution and other environ damage” (Nat’l juris; indiv rts)

  • Effects of rio
    Effects of Rio

    • Balances EP v. Development, or does rt to development weaken environmental concerns?

    • First int’l environment document based on true collective effortcompromise between GN and GS

    • Agenda 21 (Action Plan) implemented by the creation of CSD (Commission on Sustainable Development)—long on dialogue, short on action however

    • Enshrines distinct principles of IEL

    • GEF (Global Environment Facility) provides financing as supplement to broader (than national) environmental goals and projects

    • Helps to move GEP from normative features to techniques of implementation

    Rio momentum more enviro agrs
    Rio Momentum: More EnviroAgrs

    • 1994 - UN Conv to Combat Desertification: aimed at desertification and drought, particularly in Africa

    • 1997 – Kyoto Protocol: Individual nations to reduce emission of GHGs by 2008-12 (5% below ‘90 levels)

      • Entered into force 2005 (13 years after agreed to)

    • 1998 Rotterdam Conv on Prior Informed Consent: trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides

    • 2000 – Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety: regulate trade in living GMOs (genetically modified organisms

    • 2001 – Stockholm Conv on POPS (persistent organic pollutants): release of POPs is known to harm human health

    Wssd 2002 jo burg goals world summit on sustainable development
    WSSD (2002) Jo’burg GoalsWorld Summit on Sustainable Development

    • Triple bottom line calculus: economy, enviro, and society—so, added social develop as part of SD

    • Focus on UN Millennium Development Goals (sanitation, effects of toxic chems, restore fish stocks, water, and BD) as fall back position

    • Implement Agenda 21 and Rio Framework

    • Reversing agriculture from desertification

    Wssd problems
    WSSD Problems

    • Plan of Implementation silent

      on follow-up mechanisms

    • No fresh contributions; no leadership

    • Fading recognition of Precautionary Principle (strongly estab at Rio)

    • Almost made environ treaties subservient to WTO rules

    • Growing doubt (GS) that treaty system works (lacks accountability and credibility)

    Wssd outcomes
    WSSD Outcomes

    • Increasing direct participatory role for NGOs and nonstateactors

    • Increasing partnerships among diversified groups

    • Galvanized like-minded countries on climate change and BD loss

    • Ironically, more willing to discuss economic/social pillars of SD than the environment

    • Failed to advance new goals to protect environment

    • Large countries resisted specific goals/targets, showing a great divide between GN/GS

    Environmentalism after wssd
    Environmentalism After WSSD

    • Global N v. S—have arrived at a sense of understanding that environment and development are connected

    • Environmentalism v. Environment--where environmentalism may not be enough to combat environ harm, b/c

      • 9/11

      • US has disengaged on environ issues

      • Environ agrs trumped by trade agrs (‘94 GAAT & ’95 WTO creation)

      • Little support for environ orgs and institutions

    • Future

      • Sustainable Development: great vision, untenable policy?

      • Too much on environmentalism’s plate?

      • Most effective when aligned with main engines of environ degradation: unmindful affluence, pop growth, inappropriate technology, and ideological worldview

    Speth s 8 transitions for sd
    Speth’s 8 Transitions for SD

    • Smaller global population

    • Alleviate mass poverty

    • Ecological technological revolution

    • Environmentally honest prices

    • Sustainable Consumption

    • Education

    • Effective Government Action

    • Conscious Citizenry

    Sustainable development
    Sustainable Development

    • Addresses the “need to reconcile economic development with protection of the environment” Gabcikovo-Nagymaros case

    • Complex matter—4 different approaches

      • Preserve natural resources for future gens

      • Sustainable Use of natural resources

      • ‘equitable use’ of resources

      • Development needs in applying environ objs

    Defining sustainability
    Defining Sustainability

    • Sustainability Explained Animation (2m)