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Applied Sustainability. Class 3: Sustainability Frames PB Fisher Spring 2013. Trends since Industrial Rev. INPUTs Exponential Increase in Population Exponential increase in Econ Growth Exponential increase in Energy/Energy Demand Globalization (shift in governance from local)

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applied sustainability

Applied Sustainability

Class 3: Sustainability Frames

PB Fisher

Spring 2013

trends since industrial rev
Trends since Industrial Rev


  • Exponential Increase in Population
  • Exponential increase in Econ Growth
  • Exponential increase in Energy/Energy Demand
  • Globalization (shift in governance from local)
  • Urbanization (more live in cities today than rural)
  • Power  US  Asia (as population/econ center)


  • Explosion in GHG Emissions and Pollution
  • Enviro Degradation/Biodiversity Loss
  • Dramatic Increase in Inequality (between rich/poor)

“Limits to Growth”Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens

1972 Projections: Limits

2004 Projections: Limits

sachs common wealth
Sachs, Common Wealth

Economic Convergence: per capita income in poor countries will continue to converge with rich

World Economy will be MUCH bigger by 2050

Avg income for developing countries will be ~$40k, which is the avg income for US in 2005, while in US it will be ~$90k.

More People, but higher incomes for more people

** Must stabilize population at 8b; then econ growth can be positive if we can manage environmental side effects.

Asian Century: Historic shift in the economic gravity of World

Urban Century: Continuing urbanizing trends

Means that cities have tremendous potential, but also will be sites for major destruction: pollution, disasters, and disease with higher density

Poverty Trap: Poorest billion are not achieving econ growth, which is dangerous:

Death from starvation

Lack basic needs (food, water, nourishment, shelter)

Lack political and economic stability

Most population growth

Most enviro destructive

Most potential for conflict

Cycle is self reinforcing, not self-correcting  requires global policies and funding

6 Trends that will Shape the 21st Century

sachs common wealth1
Sachs, Common Wealth

6. Environmental Challenges: Rapid econ growth (in a linear system) means unprecedented enviro destruction; climate change will intensify many of the challenges

I = P*A*T (IPAT equation)

By 2050:

P = increase 40% (1.4 fold increase)

A = increase 4 fold

P * A = 6 fold increase

I (env harm) = 6 times more destruction, if T is constant

Technology works both ways: can protect or destroy

If world is already unsustainable, what will a 6 fold increase in the destruction do?

Based on this equation, two things must happen if we agree A is necessary, reduce P (population) and make technology sustainable

Environmental Challenges in the 21st Century

sustainability framing
Sustainability Framing

Orr, Mykleby and Senge

orr 3 missing pieces
Orr, 3 Missing Pieces
  • Taught “nothing of ecology, systems, and interconnectedness.”
    • Blind spot for country that is “determined to grow and armed with the philosophy of econ improvement”
    • As a result, failed to see our mutual interdep and vulnerability
  • Tech Incompetency: Upwardly mobile (academic track) became tech illiterate or incompetent; yet, they increasingly looked for tech to solve problems.
  • Political Disconnection: Even if we understood ecological interdep and tech savvy, we still lacked the political will and wherewithal to connect our values to “things of livelihood and location, soils and stewardship. We mistook the large abstractions of nationalism, flag, and Presidential authority for patriotism.”
orr taking place seriously
Orr, Taking Place Seriously
  • “a world that takes both its enviro and prosperity seriously over the long run must pay careful attention to the patterns of connect local and the regional with global.” (p160)
  • Why Local is globally important in Preserving “Place”
    • We are place-centric beings shaped in locality
    • Envmvmt is shaped by people to preserve/protect particular places
    • Perceived global problems can be solved through lots of local solutions
    • Purely global perspective creates abstractions
    • We have been unsuccessful at making a global economy ecologically sustainable—probably can’t do it
senge 3 ideas for a sustainable future pp 1 13
Senge : 3 Ideas for a Sustainable Future (pp. 1-13)
  • Must take Future Gens into account
  • Institutions Matter: world is shaped by people, but also networks of businesses, gov’ts and NGOs. Fisher: Systems
  • All “Real Change” is grounded in “new ways of thinking and perceiving”  need to work differently than we have in the past

“The difference between many random initiatives that add up to little and a revolution that can transform society itself boils down to a shift in thinking.” (p11)

“Just as our way of thinking got us into the situation (Industrial Age Bubble)…so too, will our thinking—differently—help us find out way out. Solving isolated social and environmental problems will not get us very far; at best it will provide short-term relief. Neither will preserving the status quo while imagining naively that new technologies alone will somehow save the day.” (p41)

senge how we got here
Senge, How we got here…
  • Shifting the Burden
  • “Business execs have been doing this for years, hiring consultants to sort out their mgmt problems, safety specialists to reduce the # of accidents, and, today, enviro specialists, such as pollution experts, to scrub emissions from smokestacks…The net effect of decades of shifting the burden to experts is that many people today regard issues involving water, waste and toxicity, energy and community health as ‘someone else’s problems’.”
  • “While many businesspeople often have strong views about the ineffectiveness of gov’t regulation, many also simultaneously advocate that it’s up to gov’t to tackle such problems. And rather than working with gov’t…they have shifted the burden to lobbyists who fight to preserve the status quo”.
problem way of thinking
Problem: Way of thinking
  • “But the time for shifting responsibility to others, or covering up deep problems with simplistic solutions that only make the problems ‘go away’ for a short time, is running out.” (p22)
  • We have gotten into this mess by a “way of thinking that focuses on parts and neglects the whole.’
mykleby security sustainability
Mykleby, Security & Sustainability
  • Bottom Line: “national security is the responsibility of every American. 21st C security has just as much to do with the vibrancy and resiliency of the essential systems that operate within our borders as it does with perceived threats lurking outside out borders. Our national systems are intimately intertwined with the larger global system that constitutes human civilization as we understand it—food, water, energy, education, industry, mobility, information, the build environment, public health, and the global ecology.”
  • Sustainability as a central, coalescing grand strategic concept, would serve to inform out national policy decisions regarding investments, security, econ development, energy, the environment and engagement well into this century.