Sustainabilty: The Dilemma
The dilemma facing supporters of the concept of sustainability is that developed countries continue to demand resources for thier populations in increasing amounts while less developed countries are supplying the resources that make the developed countries more affluent. Further, the rapid increasing populations of the developing countries, especially China and India, are demanding more and more resources themselves.
Supporters of sustainability beleive that in order to satisfiy this dilemma a number of over-riding supra-national policies should come into force:
- states should support an open economic system
- trade policies should not involve arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination
- unilateral actions to address the issues should give away to international consensus
- the environmental and nautral resources of people under oppression, domination and occupation should be protected
- national authorities hsould endeavour to promote the internationalisation of environmental costs, taking into account that the polluter should pay.
For any of these schemes to work, political principles need to be agreed at future global summits. Given the current global political situation, this looks unlikely.
Agenda 21 is a UN sustainable development programme agreed at the various Earth summits. Governments are obliged to formulate national plans or strategies for sustainable development. Agenda 21 states that it is people, not governements, who engage in development, and therefore sustainable development is essentially a local activitiy. Everyone, however poor, has some ability to change what they do in a small way.
Local authorities in many parts of the world are beginning to translate Agenda 21 into local action. Just as global sustainability cannot exist without national sustainable policies, national Agenda 21 is incomplete without a local Agenda 21.
Suggested stratergies by local authorities include:
- effectively monitoring air and water quality
- promoting energy effiecency
- introducing effective recycling systems
- introducing efficient forms of public transport
- placing population management at the heart of any activity.
Authorities is developing countries, such as most sub-Saharan African countries can introduce local population management by:
- training community nurses to be reponsible for all elements of care: prenatal, midwifery, childcare, educating adolesents about AIDS, inoculations and care for the elderly.
- increasing levels of female literacy, thereby raising the apirations and improving levels of prevention and care within families.
Authorities in developing countries can:
- train sufficient medical care workers to look after the rising numbers of elderly people, specially those too old, or infirm to look after themselves. This would reduce the need to recruit medical workers from overseas.
- recognise that birth rates are falling and consider the issues that may arise from having smaller numbers of children and eventually a reduced workforce.