Conclusion

The concept of sustainable development as a constraint to unchecked growth is gaining support from governments, corporations, and environmental groups around the world. It is foolhardy, even dangerous, to ignore the precaution that growth should not exceed levels consistent with the health and well being of future generations. However, this happens in the frenzy to be competitive in the world economy when nations follow a globalization process founded upon an upward, unlimited, and unchecked economic growth model that seriously threatens our global future. The process inevitably leads to the exhaustion of many of the world's natural resources, such as fauna, flora, and non-renewable sources of energy, as well as to the deterioration of natural processes that are crucial for any ecosystem's viability of life on the planet. Kenneth Boulding, a leading pioneer of sustainability, sarcastically quipped, "Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman.or an economist" [52]. Others who understand the gravity of unbridled growth point also to the growing awareness of the social unsustain-ability of the current style of development, that is, globalization, taking place in the midst of increasing social inequality and exclusion, a reality which certainly precedes but also has been exacerbated by the very process of globalization [51].

The concept of sustainable development itself has many meanings and requires much more discussion and research than it has had so far in the U.S. However one defines sustainable development, concrete indicators are still urgently needed to measure progress toward it in different sectors. Traditional measures of economic welfare are just no longer adequate. Standard national accounting indices that measure gross national product or gross domestic product in monetary terms fail to capture many facets of human and environmental well being. For example, these indices count all expenditures for pollution control and cleanup as part of the output of goods and services but do not subtract the economic value of losses caused by environmental degradation and depletion of nonrenewable resources. Increased pollution thus counts positively rather than negatively, whereas depreciation of environmental capital is ignored. A number of scholars and international agencies, including the World Bank, have been developing alternative measures of welfare that more accurately value environmental goods and services and overall quality of life. The U.S. does considerably worse on some of these scales than on conventional economic indices.

Beyond economic indicators, the development not only of better measures of environmental quality per se—that is, the health of ecosystems and the limits to the stresses we can place on them—but also of improved gauges of progress in human activity to reduce society's impacts on natural systems is essential. For example, all nations need to focus on trends in energy consumption, green house gas emissions, land use, waste generation, recycling, and reuse of materials, agricultural practices, and driving habits. However, broad social and cultural factors, such as income inequality, population growth, educational patterns, political representation, and access to information, can also be considered important indicators of sustainability. Many governmental and nongovernmental organizations are working on such indicators, including the EPA and other federal agencies and state and local bodies [52]. Until we begin to think differently and creatively about basic indicators of success, we are unlikely to make genuine progress toward sustainable development.

Although significant changes do not require that we change the whole world all at once, they do require that we draw more complex connections between sustainability and our everyday habits and behaviors, that we act politically at the local level to infuse sustainability within the civic life of communities, and, more importantly, that we recognize an allegiance to our global community. The movement toward a sustainable world requires far more international cooperation and governance than we now have [53]. The challenges we face are ultimately human and political—meeting basic human needs, limiting population growth, restricting consumption of nonrenewable resources, building a sense of world community, and negotiating mutually beneficial agreements among nations. These global sustainable goals can be achieved only within an extended, intergenerational timeframe with a collaborative, enlightened, and powerful political leadership at the helm.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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