How can we deal with the environmental dilemma?The question from the beginning of the book has gotmany answers in the preceding chapters. Most of them,however, do not go to the root of the problem - the wayour societies work. The paradigm of sustainabledevelopment attempts to do just this.Instead of combating pollution as an isolated pro-blem sustainability deals with the way resources areused in society. It emphasises that resources should beefficiently used and not be turned into pollution. After use resources should be returned to the biogeochemicalcycles. Resources should in particular be renewable tomake their long term use possible.The same applies for land use. A sustainable use of land needs to take into account the long-term productivityof land as well as the return of all resources, e.g.nutrients, as part of the recycling of resources. This isagain the long-term use of resources.Sustainability requires that man and nature beviewed holistically, as part of a single system. This sys-tem has several subsystems that each has to be viewedfrom the point of view of sustainability. Even if we herewill focus on the ecological aspects we need to bear inmind that the economic and social dimension of thesociety are such subsystems. The social aspects refer importantly to the political institutions, where democracyis especially crucial to sustainability.The introduction of sustainability in our societies wasthe topic of the Rio conference in 1992. At this occasionthe Agenda 21 document was agreed on by almost allcountries on earth. Agenda 21, an agenda for developingsustainability during the 21
century, underlinesparticipatory democracy as an important component.Sustainability is however most importantly a newway to see our lives and our societies. This thinkingis relevant in all areas of life. It is a long-term projectfor humanity as a whole. It is a result of the concernfor our global environment but it needs to beintroduced on a local level. It is a concern for all levelsof society from the global institutions to the municipalitiesto each individual.In this final chapter we will search the roots, themeaning and the practice of sustainability. We will re-view how sustainable strategies are developed in energyand materials management, in housing and transport,and in industry, agriculture, forestry and fishery. In so doingwe will partly review the entire book, since many of thesetopics have been discussed before, but in the perspectiveof sustainability. We will, however, do it in the spirit of apositive criticism of society and its organization.If sustainable development, this new project of humankind, will be successful we are on our way to anew civilization, where finally the environmental dilemmawill be resolved.
Authors of this chapter
Tage Sundström and Lars Rydén.
“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when human-ity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one hu-man family and one Earth community with a common destiny. Wemust join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to thegreater community of life, and to future generations.”
The Earth Charter, Preamble(http://www.earthcharter.org/earthcharter/charter.htm)