Development towards sustainability: How to judge past and proposed policies?. Dittmar, M. Science of The Total Environment, 472:282--288, February, 2014.
Development towards sustainability: How to judge past and proposed policies? [link]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
Abstract Most countries have, at least since the 1992 United Nations summit in RIO, adopted some vague “sustainable development” policies. The goals of such policies are to combine economic growth with social development, while protecting our fragile planetary life support system. The scientific data about the state of our planet, presented at the 2012 (Rio + 20) summit, documented that today's human family lives even less sustainably than it did in 1992. The data indicate furthermore that the environmental impacts from our current economic activities are so large, that we are approaching situations where potentially controllable regional problems can easily lead to uncontrollable global disasters. Despite these obvious failures, our political global leaders and their institutions are continuing the same “sustainable development” policies, which are now supplemented by equally vague ideas about future “green economies”. Assuming that (1) the majority of the human family, once adequately informed, wants to achieve a “sustainable way of life” and (2) that the “development towards sustainability” roadmap will be based on scientific principles, one must begin with unambiguous and quantifiable definitions of these goals. As will be demonstrated, the well known scientific method to define abstract and complex issues by their negation, satisfies these requirements. Following this new approach, it also becomes possible to decide if proposed and actual policy changes will make our way of life less unsustainable, and thus move us potentially into the direction of sustainability. Furthermore, if potentially dangerous tipping points are to be avoided, the transition roadmap must include some minimal speed requirements. Combining the negation method and the time evolution of that remaining natural capital in different domains, the transition speed for a “development towards sustainability” can be quantified at local, regional and global scales. The presented ideas allow us to measure the rate of natural capital depletion and the rate of restoration that will be required if humanity is to avoid reaching a sustainable future by a collapse transition. Unfortunately, the existence of quantifiable methods and tools in no way guarantees that they will be used in changing the direction of our journey.
@article{dittmar_development_2014,
	title = {Development towards sustainability: {How} to judge past and proposed policies?},
	volume = {472},
	issn = {0048-9697},
	shorttitle = {Development towards sustainability},
	url = {http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969713012941},
	doi = {10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.11.020},
	abstract = {Abstract
Most countries have, at least since the 1992 United Nations summit in RIO, adopted some vague “sustainable development” policies. The goals of such policies are to combine economic growth with social development, while protecting our fragile planetary life support system.

The scientific data about the state of our planet, presented at the 2012 (Rio + 20) summit, documented that today's human family lives even less sustainably than it did in 1992. The data indicate furthermore that the environmental impacts from our current economic activities are so large, that we are approaching situations where potentially controllable regional problems can easily lead to uncontrollable global disasters.

Despite these obvious failures, our political global leaders and their institutions are continuing the same “sustainable development” policies, which are now supplemented by equally vague ideas about future “green economies”.

Assuming that (1) the majority of the human family, once adequately informed, wants to achieve a “sustainable way of life” and (2) that the “development towards sustainability” roadmap will be based on scientific principles, one must begin with unambiguous and quantifiable definitions of these goals. As will be demonstrated, the well known scientific method to define abstract and complex issues by their negation, satisfies these requirements. Following this new approach, it also becomes possible to decide if proposed and actual policy changes will make our way of life less unsustainable, and thus move us potentially into the direction of sustainability. Furthermore, if potentially dangerous tipping points are to be avoided, the transition roadmap must include some minimal speed requirements. Combining the negation method and the time evolution of that remaining natural capital in different domains, the transition speed for a “development towards sustainability” can be quantified at local, regional and global scales.

The presented ideas allow us to measure the rate of natural capital depletion and the rate of restoration that will be required if humanity is to avoid reaching a sustainable future by a collapse transition. Unfortunately, the existence of quantifiable methods and tools in no way guarantees that they will be used in changing the direction of our journey.},
	urldate = {2013-12-06},
	journal = {Science of The Total Environment},
	author = {Dittmar, Michael},
	month = feb,
	year = {2014},
	keywords = {Development towards sustainability, IPAT equation, Natural capital, Unsustainable living},
	pages = {282--288},
	file = {ScienceDirect Full Text PDF:files/37997/Dittmar - 2014 - Development towards sustainability How to judge p.pdf:application/pdf;ScienceDirect Snapshot:files/38092/S0048969713012941.html:text/html}
}
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