Open Future ImageBuilding Sustainability
If the Earth was being used sustainably by humankind, we would be able to imagine our own family members ten generations into the future walking the same forest trail we walked and fishing from the same river, perhaps from the same rock.


Utah Phillips: The Earth is not dying - it is being killed. The people who are killing it have names and addresses.

The originator of the www link "Ecological Footprint", Dr. William Rees, wonders why our otherwise intelligent species appears unable to recognise the ecological crises and respond appropriately. Rees thinks that two human characteristics which have served us well in the past that are now dysfunctional. These are our urge to expand and explore, and our desire to use all the available resources. Open Future believes that given our new scientific knowledge, the growth drivers of our society promote insane behaviour. If we are unable to change how we think and act, and so our future doesn't look good.

www link At Rio Earth Summit, in 1992, for the first time the nations of the world faced the scientific evidence about the harm that humanity was doing to the planet. The framework for change was called Agenda 21. The response was a lot of disconnected charter writing and the creation of agreements in principle but there was no willingness to consider serious action. Worse than that, in the USA, the whole idea of Agenda 21 was considered an insult to the American way. Many politicians took up the call to rubbish the very idea of binding international agreements that every nation would be expected to honour. America would never submit to "world government".

This year, 2012, twenty years later we get to revisit Rio, and to face those same issues again. Are we any wiser? I fear not.

Causes of Global WarmingClimate disruption because of human activity is essentially irreversible on a time scale of at lest a thousand years. The climate is slow to warm because of the ocean is a heat sink, and it will be slow to return to more moderate temperatures for the same reason. The market failure that neglects to price the externality of greenhouse emissions, encourages us to overuse what looks like a "free" resource. Our stated objective several years ago was to limit global warming to two degrees centigrade. We failed to act on that commitment and now we'll be fortunate to do better than three degrees centigrade, if we act strongly now. That will require a massive shift in understanding and political will. Without strong and vocal public commitment to change, such political will not exist.

The concept of sustainability, must move to the centre of decision making, in governments and in the business and corporate world. This is a major shift of thinking. In the past financial considerations were the key factor behind every decision. Restoring the environment, and protecting the social fabric of society are equally important. Economics and accountancy, as professions, need to recognise the equal value of five forms of capital, and find ways to treat each of those with equivalent respect. Those five forms of capital are:
spacerBuilt capital.
spacerNatural capital
spacerHuman capital
spacerSocial capital
spacerand Financial capital
The conversion of built capital, human capital, natural capital and social capital, into financial capital, by a process of destruction, is unacceptable practice.

From the Club of Rome comes this explanation of the "Limits to Growth" proposals made in 1972. You may not have the right idea about what that book really said.

www link Sustainable development is a question of your opportunity to choose an Open Future™, taking the responsibility for what happens and passing on a legacy worth having to our children and grandchildren. You have to empower yourself, because there are many malign forces in the community who seek for their own purposes to undermine your choices. Both governments and large corporate interests have refused to act as guardians of the environment and have acted against the public interest in favour of private interests. Most of the problem was clearly explained in the www link Brundtland Report (1987) called "Our Common Future". It possible for the inhabitants of the Earth to share it. It's possible for the inhabitants of the Earth to try and steal the best parts of the Earth off each-other. We can eradicate poverty and Local File build thriving communities while reducing the impact of climate change if we choose. Or we can go to war for land, and oil and water and political power; that being the obvious direction of the world today. We badly need a new paradigm which makes sustained life on Earth possible.

www link The importance of biodiversity is seldom understood. The variety of genes, in a population, make that population more resilient to diseases and other adverse events. In the same way the diversity of species, animal and vegetable, in a region, increase the ability of that region to respond to change. There are not many 500 year old forests left in the world, but that forest will be much more diverse and resilient than any of the plantations planted in my lifetime. Mankind takes diverse habitat and converts them for farming purposes, creating large mono-crop areas which lack diversity and are vulnerable to floods and winds and droughts.

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