Twenty years of (un)sustainable development

Next year is the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit on Environment and Development. At the 1992 Rio Earth Summit governments committed themselves to the ‘Agenda 21’ programme of action for sustainable development.

After that, everything went on pretty much as it did before.

Clause 4.8(b) of the Agenda 21 document seems particularly laughable after two decades of governments pursuing an agenda based on increasing trade and economic growth, it says: “Developed countries should take the lead in achieving sustainable consumption patterns.”

Rosmarie Bär at Alliance Sud takes aim at the idea that we can have ‘green growth’, calling for the recognition of the finite nature of natural resources and an economic policy based on better sharing what exists:

One concept scares politicians and environmental and development organizations like the plague: that of sufficiency. They are afraid of seeming to be grouchy advocates of sacrifice as well as obstructionists.”

And, if developed countries are really going to take the lead in “achieving sustainable consumption patterns”, we may need to pay some attention to this update on the Millennium Consumption Goals by Erik Assadourian at the Worldwatch Institute blog Transforming Cultures, which includes drafts of eight goals to reduce worldwide consumption.

About Sam Buchanan

Sam Buchanan is a first-generation Pakeha New Zealander of mostly British descent. He sees himself as working-class, though he believes there are only two classes, workers and rulers, so many people might regard him as lower-middle class. He was de-educated at Kapiti College, self-educated by reading, and trained to do things at Wellington Polytechnic. Before working at Global Focus he was communications manager at the Council for International Development and has previously worked, paid or unpaid, as a teacher on the Thai-Burma border, tramping hut warden, shop assistant, engineering draftsperson, sub-editor and park keeper. He likes ducks, espouses anarchism, and lives in Paekakariki.
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