The Fallacy of Global Sustainable Development

by A. Terry Rambo

Asia Pacific Issues, No. 30

Publisher: Honolulu: East-West Center
Publication Date: March 1997
Binding: paper
Pages: 8
Free Download: PDF


The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro made global "sustainable development" an international rallying cry. But after five years of international conventions, intensified scientific research, and large infusions of money, little progress has been made. Indeed, the world's constantly growing population and insatiable appetite for food, energy, and goods continue to stress and degrade the global environment. The result is loss of agricultural land, loss of biodiversity, and growing pollution of the global atmosphere. With prospects increasingly grim, how can we best respond to a deteriorating environment? First, by acknowledging that we don't have the knowledge or the political will to prevent many of the threats we face. Second, by diversifying our responses to the environmental crisis: relying much less on international treaties, whose "central planning" approach to the global environment is rarely effective, and focusing our resources on both nongovernmental and more localized efforts. Most importantly, we must develop our capacities to adapt to environmental changes that may be inevitable.