IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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


  • Michael Dittmar

    (Institute of Particle Physics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Dittmar, 2013. "Development Towards Sustainability: How to judge past and proposed policies?," Papers 1309.0348,
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:1309.0348

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Latest version
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:arx:papers:1309.0348. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (arXiv administrators). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.