Sustainable Development in the South Asian Context
The objective of this study is to explore the meaning of 'sustainable development' in the Southeast Asian context.
(1) Can there be a common definition of sustainable development?
(2) Does it define a starting point, a process, or an end goal?
(3) Can if provide a coherent theory?
(4) Is it a workable concept in practice?
(5) How do different political parties enforce the implementation of sustainable development?
(6) What contradictions exist between economic growth and environmental protection in Southeast Asia?
(7) Is there a common definition of sustainable development, which applies to all cases?
Sustainable development means different things to different individuals and groups and there is yet to be a commonly acknowledged and accepted definition for sustainable development. Sustainable development falls under the influence of various political mindsets and the implementation of sustainable development can be differentiated on the bases of these varying perspectives. What is sustainable development in one area or world region to another area of world region results in great costs to the environment and the community.
I. Examination of Sustainable Development in General
Practices such as "green consuming and socially responsible investing have seen a resurgence of interest" and this is stated to be much due to the impact of the Internet. (Conca, Princen, and Maniates, 2001, p.2) It is reported that organizations such as "the Center for Civil Renewal and the Center for the New American Dream" have witnessed resurgence in the demand for their materials on the reduction of consumption. (Conca, Princen, and Maniates, 2001, paraphrased) It is reported that many local communities have "launched 'Agenda 21' initiatives that examines questions of growth, planning, sustainability and the quality of life." (Conca, Princen, and Maniates, 2001, p.2)
As well, there is a growth in "cultural backlash against gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and intrusive cellular phones -- symbols of the frenetic, overconsuming society…" (Conca, Princen, and Maniates, 2001, p.2) In addition, there has been a growth of "anti-sprawl movements." (Conca, Princen, and Maniates, 2001, p.2) The work of Meadowcroft (2000) notes that during the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 it was reported that "a large proportion of the world's population was still living in poverty…there were grave disparities in patterns of resource use between rich and poor countries…global ecosystems were already suffering acute stress…" (p.370) Sustainable development is defined in the work of Lange, Wise and Nahman (2010) as "…progression along a development path that maintains or improves the diversity and scope of prospects that enable individuals and communities to achieve their ambitions, while maintaining the resilience of economic, social and environmental systems (p.375).
Lange, Wise and Nahman (2010) state that sustainability is "…therefore based on the adaptive capacity of economic, social, and ecological systems." (p.375) It is reported that the Brundtland Commission brief provided the definition of sustainable development as "the ability to make development sustainable -- to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." (Kates, Parris, and Leiserowitz, 2005, p.10) Shaw and Black (2010) note that citizens who want to "influence and direct the development of a more sustainable economy and lifestyle" have several choices, individual and group in nature that they can choose from including "political activism, directed consumption, community participation and withdrawal from a consumerist society." (p.385)
The motivators for such are inclusive of environmental, political, ethical, or social concerns. (Shaw and Black, 2010, p.386) Stated by Shaw and Black as antecedents are: (1) disenchantment with political processes; (2) consumer sovereignty; (3) cultural significance of goods and goods as expression of identity; (4) information upon which to base choice; and (5) choice of products or services available. (2010, p.386) Actions available are stated to include market actions such as boycott of goods or services or brand loyalty in addition to supporting actions, which includes such as volunteering, demonstrating, corresponding, and signing of petitions. (Shaw and Black, 2010, p. 386) These actions signal the market, which adjusts through product features, manufacturing practices and supply chain management. (Shaw and Black, 2010, p. 386)
The outcomes of all of this are stated to include redesigned products or services, the reduction of exploitative marketing, which provides signals to competitors and to the government. (Shaw and Black, 2010, p. 386) The work of Quental, Lourenco, and Silva (2011) entitled "Sustainable Development Policy: Goals, Targets and Political Cycles" states that the introduction of sustainable development "as a concept was an intellectual answer to reconcile the conflicting goals of environmental protection and economic growth. Sustainability gained wide acceptance after the publication of the Brundtland Commission's report 'Our Common Future' whose blurred definition is the most commonly cited in the literature. (p.16) Environmental discourse is reported to have grown slowly from the 1950 triggered by worsening socio-economic and ecological conditions." (Quental, Lourenco, and Silva, 2011, p.18)
Quental, Lourenco, and Silva (2011) report During the 1970s, a number of key multilateral environmental agreements were achieved. They include the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (1971), the World Heritage Convention (WHC) (1972), the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (1972), the Conference on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (1973), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (1979) and the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) (1979)." (p.18) It is reported that the period between 1980 to 1986 was characterized by stagnation however, during the period between 1987 and 1995 major achievements were made including the accomplishment of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). This commission is reported to have been set up by the General Assembly of the united Nations in1982 "as an independent group of high level experts and government officials…" (Quental, Lourenco, and Silva, 2011, p.18) This commission was asked to "formulate a 'global agenda for change' and to propose "long-term environmental strategies for achieving sustainable development by the year 2000 and beyond." (Quental, Lourenco, and Silva, 2011, p.19)
It is reported that the "follow-up of the Rio Earth Summit took place in Johannesburg in 2002…" and was attended by more than 100 heads of stated and 25,000 various organizations. The primary goal of the summit was to "put in place the necessary mechanisms to implement Rio's decisions, since progress during the 10-year interval had been disappointing. The conference is considered a flop." (Quental, Lourenco, and Silva, 2011, p.20) It is reported that the world was "not able to pursue more stringent commitments" and that September 11 and the concern over the terrorism threat is to blame and stated specifically is that "the old principle of requiring environmental protection in the North and asking for development aid in the South was overruled by the belief that economic globalization was a cure for all problems." (Quental, Lourenco, and Silva, 2011, p.20)
According to Quental, Lourenco, and Silva (2011) sustainable development measurements should be on the basis of the following six measures: (1) sustainable national capital which includes biodiversity, water and air; (2) sustaining life support system including ecosystems, ecosystem services, and resources, (3) minimization of human impacts including climate change, pollution, waste, desertification, and population growth; (4) development of human capital including human rights, political liberties, learning, equity and health; (5) development of social capital, including solidarity, community and culture; (6) development of economy, including the economy itself, agriculture, consumption, employment, technology; and (7) development of institutions to include good governance, democracy, transparency, public participation, international cooperation. (Quental, Lourenco, and Silva, 2011, p.27)
II. Criticism of Sustainable Development
Sustainable development "is determined by the adaptive capacity of a society's underlying economic, social, and natural systems." ( p.380) Many countries and areas of the world require an investment on the part of richer countries if these poverty-stricken areas and countries are even to begin to realize any amount of sustainable development. This is because colonialism has left its impacts in many areas of the world and these areas are struggling with basic needs such as water and firewood leaving them little time to focus on such as sustainable development. In other words, the scales are unbalanced in terms of the potential of countries and regions to implement sustainable development practices. It is reported, "communal, state, or private property rights to goods and services are essential for more sustainable development paths, as they give the owner incentives to monitor and maintain these resources. Sub-Saharan Africa is characterized by: (1) forced introduction of Western governance and education as well as religious systems; (2) exposure to Western consumerism; (3) colonially imposed borders that ignored traditional tribal and cultural boundaries forcing previously independent communities to live together and separating previously integrated communities which led to breakdown of social systems and creation of conflict; (4) borders between colonies were set along major rivers and that has served to interfere with natural migration routes of wildlife and creation of conflict over scarce water resources; and (6) dual economies were established and modern formal…