The Natural Edge Project The Natural Advantage of Nations Whole System Design Factor 5 Cents and Sustainability Higher Education and Sustainable Development




"In setting a time-horizon of 50 years - two generations into the future - it was found that ten to twenty-fold eco-efficiency improvements will be needed to achieve meaningful reductions in environmental stress. It was also found that the benefits of incremental technological development could not provide such improvements."
Leo Jensen, Chairman, Dutch Inter-ministerial Sustainable Technology Development Program 2000





 

 

PREFACE

Let us keep in mind that we are the generation for which previous generations committed themselves to save the environment. We are the generation for which the commitment was made to restore the balance. In 1972 the first global inter-governmental meeting on the environment was held in Stockholm, Sweden. Progress since then has been widely regarded as being insufficient. It is now our generation’s responsibility to take on this challenge as a central motivating principle and use the lessons from the last 30 years to do all we can to ensure the next 30 are different. It is essential that we learn from, acknowledge and work with those who have gone before, in order for us to build on their great work as we are at a critical juncture in the Earth’s history. In another 30 years, if things do not change, it will be too late: the impacts of global warming will be truly felt across the globe and the development paths of fast growing economies like China will be
well and truly decided.

What is most concerning, however, are the uncertainties regarding the environment’s response to human development: and increasingly, the responses being monitored are non-linear. There is real cause for concern that scientific models have overestimated the resilience of ecosystems, owing to an inadequate understanding of their complexity, and that these models are being used as the basis for political decision-making. What is clear is that, even if a decision is made tomorrow to truly adopt appropriate strategic approaches to the problems outlined herein, they will still require significant lead-time to implement. For 300 years we have built infrastructure and chosen technological paths (e.g., fossil fuels) without consideration of their long-term environmental impacts. Consequently, there is over 300 years worth of accumulated and often highly inefficient infrastructure that will need to be addressed. The good news, and the main point of this book, is that there are proven examples of practical, profitable and sustainable solutions available now. Studies of these examples clearly demonstrate that, with the right policy balance phased in over time, shifting to a sustainable economy can actually lower costs. This is partly because externalities, such as environmental degradation, are themselves adding significant costs to the economy if we do not act. It is also because new enabling technologies and new methods of design are bringing costs down significantly, thus enabling such a transition despite constant bottom line pressures.

This publication will show that this new form of development, sustainable development, is far from being in conflict with economic goals and actually builds on the traditional central goal of economics that seeks to improve the well-being of all. Sustainable development simply seeks to do that whilst also seeking to ensure nondeclining well-being for future generations. What is reassuring, is that this is no longer a walk into unknown territory; rather, as this book will demonstrate, in many cases the solutions already exist and are being implemented by companies, governments, civil society groups, churches, trade unions, universities, schools and professional bodies around the world. So, if we are humble and willing to learn from the best around the world and apply it to our own context, many of the answers are already there; all we need is a unifying sense of urgency and the will to change. There are now significant national and global networks within many sectors throughout the whole of society that are working on these challenges. Hence, this book is a collection of possible ways to address the systemic problems we will face in the coming century. It provides demonstrably relevant and successful solutions, already being applied, of which its co-authors have first hand experience. These are people who are working at the coalface (or should we say solar face) of change, having been either a part of these processes of reform within significant institutions or advisers to them.

What we need now in every nation are processes, partnerships and collaborations that pool this collective wisdom of the best in academia, government, research and development bodies, the community, business and government. Imagine if, as in the Netherlands, every government initiated a programme to work out how they could achieve a 90 percent plus reduction of their environmental load over the next 50 years? Imagine if, as in Western Australia, every state or regional government worked with business, universities and civil society in a spirit of partnership to develop a sustainability strategy? Imagine if every state or regional government committed to halving its ecological footprint over the next 20 years? Imagine if, as in Goa, a state in India, every nation’s experts tackled the challenge of how to create sustainable cities cost effectively in 30 years? Every nation and regional government can and should. Those involved with these and many other significant projects have given their time and effort to this book because they want to share what they have learnt. They want to share the good news that sustainable development is achievable in our lifetimes. They want to share the joy and excitement of working on projects that provide real solutions and genuine hope because they are grounded in rigorous science, engineering and economics. They want to pass on the truth that it is possible to combine idealism with bottom line reality if we are wise. Finally, they want to pass on an honest account of their experiences and lessons learnt. The challenges facing us are great. However, by being realistic about them and by working together, we are confident that we can achieve sustainable development this century.

The Natural Advantage of Nations has been developed as an initiative of The Natural Edge Project (TNEP). TNEP having been founded by volunteers, is now driven by an growing number of active and dynamic young professionals and researchers committed to working towards meeting the major challenges of the 21st century. The team receives mentoring from a range of professionals, public servants, business leaders and academics internationally. TNEP is supported by partnerships with a range of groups, bodies, companies, government agencies and institutions and operates on a not-forprofit model with donations, sponsorship, royalties and revenue being invested in further projects and initiatives. Our work over the past three years started as an attempt to draw together some of the best case studies in sustainability and to communicate them to businesses in a way which would show them that the days of trade-offs between the environment, society and business were over. Through this experience we found that there was a need to improve the communication generally of how science, engineering, business and institutions can together play a constructive role in meeting the global challenges. This publication will take you on a journey through many areas of society, touching on the various roles of the key players, and showing how we, as a society, can move towards a sustainable future by working together. We are confident that this book has something for everyone. This work is part of a larger conversation that is needed to examine the key issues of sustainable development and identify ways forward from a business, innovation and governance perspective. The material in this publication has been peer reviewed by a range of groups, institutions, corporations and bodies. This book seeks to build on and integrate a range of the best and most important journal papers, reports and books in the field. It is a major overview, designed to save you significant time.

There are several seminal works upon which this book builds. These include:



* Denotes that this individual or group has made direct contributions towards the development of this publication or the project either through endorsement, mentoring, peer review or through the contribution of material, content and research.

Whilst this book deals with contentious issues, such as the Kyoto Protocol, we seek to stick to the facts and avoid hyperbole. In Australia we have a saying in sporting circles, that one should ‘play the ball and not the person’. So for instance, on the Kyoto issue we present the facts, the latest reports and scientific studies and let you draw your own conclusions. We have also made every effort to report the leading case studies and examples of best practice from all over the world. It is too easy to criticize business and governments. We live in an imperfect world where things could always be better. Most acknowledge that we face serious challenges. What is so heartening is that recent developments in information technology are allowing easy communication amongst the thousands who wish to work together to constructively address these issues. This book is an example of that. We have consciously done our best to build upon the major reports and forums of the last few years to build a strong resource for the coming decade. Even more encouraging is the fact that increasingly, business, government and civil society are adopting integrated approaches to strive for a future that does not leave successive generations to clean up the mess. In this book, rather than focusing on the negative, we seek to learn from the success stories in these sectors from all over the world. Sometimes people tend to deny problems when they cannot see any solutions to them. We believe that what little remaining opposition to sustainable development exists, remains because people still do not realize that we now have most of the solutions and working models we need to achieve sustainable development. This is no longer a leap into the unknown or a political risk if approached wisely. Through sharing these solutions and inspiring institutional reforms in this book, we hope to inspire greater cooperation and progress towards a sustainable future for this world.

Many have asked us for more Australian case studies. We ask you to understand that, despite the fact we come from the land ‘Down Under’, this is a truly global book. Our task was to seek best practice internationally and in many cases we have found just that in Australia. For those specifically interested in Australian case studies and research, we recommend the online document Natural Advantage: Blueprint for A Sustainable Australia containing detailed online case study folders. We hope that this book, The Natural Advantage of Nations, inspires all nations to develop similar detailed online blueprints for a sustainable future such as that which Australian Conservation Foundation has provided for Australia. We trust you will understand that above all we have tried to be honest and balanced. We have conducted many interviews and consulted with many experts to ensure that many varied views have been considered. At all times we have asked what is true, and tried to communicate it simply whilst doing justice to the complexity of the real world. The Earth is the only planet we have. Our generation simply must work together this century to restore the balance before it is too late. This book and the online companion resource is a step towards showing how we can realistically do this.

Where otherwise not attributed in the Contents, the text has been researched, compiled, written and proofed equally by the editors in consultation with TNEP’s advisory, steering, working group and editorial committees. Michael H. Smith, TNEP Content Coordinator, is the point of contact for enquiries regarding the material presented. Karlson ‘Charlie’ Hargroves, TNEP Project Coordinator, is the point of contact for further information on collaborations, training, speaking and education material based on the material presented.

Karlson ‘Charlie’ Hargroves and Michael H. Smith
October 2004