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Development Towards Sustainability: How to judge past and proposed policies?

  • Michael Dittmar

    (Institute of Particle Physics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland)

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    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. 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 policies 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.

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    Paper provided by in its series Papers with number 1309.0348.

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    Date of creation: Sep 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:1309.0348
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