OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 4

This article is the last in a series of articles which look into the 1987 report Our Common Future, prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED).

Our_Common_Future_book_cover

For more information on parts 1 & 2, please visit the link below.

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 1

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 2

This article focusses of the final part of the report called Common Endeavours.

Managing the commons

Managing the commons begins with the brilliant realisation that: “traditional forms of national sovereignty are increasingly challenged by the realities of ecological and economic independence.

Within this chapter there is a stunning piece on Antarctica. The authors include their vision that: “Antarctica has been an agreed zone of peace for nearly 30 years, free of all military activities, nuclear tests, and radioactive wastes. This is a foundation on which humanity must build.” When put in that context, the success of Antarctica’s common management is truly remarkable.

Peace, Security, Development and the Environment

The next chapter on peace and security begins with the stark viewpoint that: “among the dangers facing the environment, the possibility of nuclear war, or military conflict of a lesser scale involving weapons of mass destruction, is undoubtedly the gravest.” It is ironic that 30 years on from its publication, we find ourselves trapped in another game of nuclear brinkmanship.

This chapter was one of my personal favourites, especially the sub chapter The Costs of the ‘Arms Culture,’ which was stunningly well written.

This sub-chapter began with the words that: “the absence of war is not peach, nor does it necessarily provide the conditions for sustainable development.”

This chapter also included a quotation from President Eisenhower from the end of his term in office, which I had not seen before but that I thought was brilliant. I will include it in full below.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed”

Shortly after, the authors include a line of their own, which reads: “The true cost of the arms race is the loss of what could have been produced instead with scarce capital, labour skills, and raw materials.” The authors raise an interesting viewpoint.

Towards Common Action

This chapter begins with what I believe to be my favourite line of the entire book.

“In the middle of the 20th century, we saw our planet from space for the first time. Historians may eventually find that this vision had a greater impact on thought than did the Copernican revolution of the 16th century.”

I thought the quotation was marvellous and it is perhaps one of my all-time favourites.

On the next page, the authors include a message about how they want the book to be used. It reads: “We have tried to point some pathways to the future. But there is no substitute for the journey itself, and there is no alternative to the process by which we retain a capacity to the experience it provides.”

Later on, there is an unfortunate example about how the report’s vision has gone unmet. The authors state that: “environmental protection and sustainable development must be an integral part of the mandates of all agencies of governments, of international organisations, and of major private-sector institutions.” This is something which has clearly not happened, and sustainability and environmental management have become silos of their own. We can only hope this is something that the Sustainable Development Goals can address.

Later on, the report brings the reader to grips with reality, with the statement that: “the transition to sustainable development will require a range of public policy choices that are inherently complex and politically difficult.

The book closes with a sub-chapter called A Call For Action. They include a well written statement that: “to keep options open for future generations, the present generation must begin now, and begin together, nationally and internationally.” In the end, this is what sustainability is all about.

What you need to know

Our Common Future was a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 at the behest of the UN General Assembly.

This article dealt with the chapters that make up the part of the book titled Common Endeavours.

There are not many books which have impacted the trajectory of mankind in the way that Our Common Future has. The key takeaway, is will we build on the bold vision for a sustainable future that the authors set out in 1987 or will we let the challenge of creating a more sustainable form of development pass like a ship in the night? This is the challenge that lies ahead.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think about Our Common Future, how has the book impacted you?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 3

This article is the third in a series of articles which look into the 1987 report Our Common Future, prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED).

Our_Common_Future_book_cover

For more information on parts 1 & 2 please visit the links below.

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 1

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 2

This article focusses of the part of the report called Common Challenges.

Population and Human Resources

I personally felt that this was perhaps the most instructive chapter in the entire book.

There was a brilliant point that: “Almost any activity that increases well-being and security lessens people’s desires to have more children than they and national ecosystems can support.”

There was also a very interesting point about education. It is in full below.

Environmental education should be included in and should run throughout the other disciplines of the formal education curriculum at all levels – to foster a sense of responsibility for the state of the environment and to teach students how to monitor, protect, and improve it.

This is quite a vision put forward by the report’s authors; we have a long way to go to make this a reality.

Food Security: Sustaining the Potential

This chapter had a lot of cold and uncomfortable truths about industrial farming and the industrial scale of subsidies that support this industry.

The authors begin with the following situation below.

It has become politically more attractive, and usually cheaper, to export surpluses – often as food aid – rather than to store them. These heavily subsidised surpluses depress the international market prices of commodities such as sugar and have created severe problems for several developing countries whose economies are based on agriculture. Non-emergency food aid and low-priced imports also keep down prices received by Third World farmers and reduce the incentive to improve domestic food production.

They make it clear that: “it is in the interests of all, including the farmers, that the policies be changed.

Species and Ecosystems: Resources for Development

This chapter contains a poignant reminder of the importance of biodiversity with the statement that: “it would be grim irony indeed if just as new genetic engineering techniques begin to let us peer into life’s diversity and use genes more effectively to better the human condition, we looked and found this treasure sadly depleted.”

Energy: Choices for Environment and Development

This chapter has a particularly interesting sub-chapter on reducing urban industrial air pollution. This is a problem we have known about for 30 years and failed to act appropriately.

There was also a very interesting sub-chapter on wood fuel. The authors made the stunning rebuke that: “forestry must enlarge its horizons: beyond trees – to the people who just exploit them.” This is something I certainly agree with.

There was also a very enlightening sub-chapter on energy conservation, where the authors make the bold suggestion that: “within the next 50 years, nations have the opportunity to produce the same levels of energy-services with as little as half the primary supply currently consumed.

Industry Producing More With Less

The chapter begins with the pro-business statement that: “Industry is central to the economies of modern societies and an indispensable motor of growth.

The authors bring forward an ominous belief on the nature of pollution with the statement that: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the sources and causes of pollution are far more diffuse, complex and interrelated – and the effects of pollution more widespread, cumulative, and chronic – than hitherto believed.” Achieving sustainable development is a complex task.

The Urban Challenge

This chapter begins with the prediction that: “by the turn of the century, almost half the world will live in urban areas – from small towns to huge megacities.”

Later on in the chapter, they link this prediction back to the challenge of sustainable development. The authors belief is that: “the future will be predominantly urban, and the most immediate environmental concerns of most people will be urban ones.

What you need to know

Our Common Future was a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 at the behest of the UN General Assembly.

This article dealt with the chapters that make up the part of the book titled Common Challenges.

A Subsequent article will deal with the final part of the book, Common Endeavours.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think about Our Common Future, how has the book impacted you?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 2

This article is the second in a series of articles which look into the 1987 report Our Common Future, prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED).

Our_Common_Future_book_cover

For more information on part 1, please visit the link below.

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 1

This article focusses of the part of the report called Common Concerns.

A Threatened Future

Within Common Concerns the first chapter is called A Threatened Future. This begins with a stunning quotation, which I will include in full below.

The Earth is one but the world is not. We all depend on one biosphere for sustaining our lives. Yet each community, each country, strives for survival and prosperity with little regard for its impact on others.

I found these words to be some of the best that I have seen written about the contradiction which lies at the heart of a global struggle for growth, which undermines the very growth potential that, that struggle depends upon.

Later on there is a classically pragmatic piece on the needs and environmental consequences of development in developing countries. It goes: “with the increase in population and the rise in incomes, per capita consumption of energy and materials will go up in the developing countries, as it has to if essential needs are to be met.” What this necessitates is, is a need for a quicker transition towards sustainable development in developed countries.

Next there is another great quotation on the growth / conservation dichotomy, which I will include below.

Environment and development are not separate challenges; they are inexorably linked. Development cannot subsist upon a deteriorating environmental resource base; the environment cannot be protected when growth leaves out of account the costs of environmental destruction.

Just shortly after this wonderful quotation, there was another piece which shone a light on one of the ways in which the Our Common Future vision has not been met 30 years later. It went: “economics and ecology must be completely integrated in decision-making and lawmaking processes not just to protect the environment, but also to protect and promote development.” I think even the most generous of assessments would say that the achievements to date have fallen well short of this lofty ambition.

Towards Sustainable Development

The chapter towards sustainable development is one of my personal favourites, it is packed full of useful information and examples of sustainability and unsustainability in action.

The first is a brilliant example of what a maximum sustainable yield is. It goes as follows below.

In general, renewable resources like forests and fish stocks need not be depleted provided the rate of use is within the limits of regeneration and natural growth. But most renewable resources are part of a complex and interlinked ecosystem, and maximum sustainable yield must be defined after taking into account system-wide effects of exploitation.

There is another great line on economic growth in developing countries shortly after. It goes: “growth must be revived in developing countries because that is where the links between economic growth, the alleviation of poverty, and environmental conditions operate most directly.”

Unfortunately shortly after there is another sign of how the Our Common Future vision has gone unmet 30 years after its publication. With regards to the accounting of economic growth the authors had this to say: “in all countries, rich or poor, economic development must take full account in its measurements of growth of the improvement or deterioration in the stock of natural resources.” This is a vision that feels like a million miles away from becoming a reality.

Later there is a piece on conservation which I really enjoyed. It reads: “the case for the conservation of nature should not rest only with development goals. It is part of our moral obligation to other living beings and future generations.

Lastly there was another sentence that I particularly enjoyed, which was about how you operationalise the bold vision contained within Our Common Future. It is copied below.

The common theme throughout this strategy for sustainable development is the need to integrate economic and ecological considerations in decision making. They are after all, integrated in the workings of the real world. This will require a change in attitudes and objectives and in institutional arrangements at every level.

Achieving sustainable development is a complex and far reaching challenge. The biggest challenge of all, may well not be technical, but may be psychological and relate to changing the way we think about society, the economy and the environment.

The Role of the International Economy

The chapter The Role of the International Economy begins with the blunt assessment that: “the pursuit of sustainability requires major changes in international economic relations.

There is also a pointed criticism of aid projects with the assertion that: “in the past, development assistance has not always contributed to sustainable development and in some cases detracted from it.

There is a further clarion call for more economic growth with the proclamation that: “if large parts of the developing world are to avert economic, social, and environmental catastrophes, it is essential that global economic growth be revitalized.”

This chapter ends with the pointed and highly important belief that: “new dimensions of multilateralism are essential to human progress.”

What you need to know

Our Common Future was a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 at the behest of the UN General Assembly.

This article dealt with the chapters A Threatened Future, Towards Sustainable Development and The Role of the International Economy, which make up the part of the book titled Common Concerns.

Subsequent articles will deal with the parts of the book Common Challenges and Common Endeavours.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think about Our Common Future, how has the book impacted you?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 1

This article is the first in a series of articles which will look into the 1987 report Our Common Future, prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). Our_Common_Future_book_cover

This text is a major point of departure for the modern incarnation of sustainable development. 2017 marks the 30-year anniversary of the report’s publication. The commission was led by Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland the Prime Minister of Norway, whose influence on the report was significant.

Following the publication of Our Common Future, major steps were taken to advance sustainable development. The 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro where the Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and Agenda 21 were signed. These represent major milestones.

It is not an overstatement to say that Our Common Future ushered in a new consciousness in the world. This was one in which social problems, economic problems and environmental problems were seen as having the same standing. It opened up a new space for dialogue between developed countries and developing countries and between businesses and NGO’s.

Let’s look into this remarkable text.

The book begins with the words “A global agenda for change.” This is what the UN General Assembly had asked the WCED to produce.

On the next page in the foreword Gro Harlem Brundtland mentions that: “there was a time of optimism and progress in the 1960s, when there was a greater hope for a braver new world, and for progressive international ideas.

One thing that I found troubling whilst reading the report was that in the following 30 years whilst a lot had changed, much was still the same. As you can see from the following excerpt:

“Scientists bring to our attention urgent but complex problems bearing on our very survival: a warming globe, threats to the earth’s ozone layer, deserts consuming agricultural land. We respond by demanding more details, and by assigning the problems to institutions ill equipped to deal with them.”

This was perhaps the sentence that struck me most. It brought up images of those who are still sceptical about environmental problems, despite mountains of evidence and of the under resourced UN agencies that are dispatched to deal with the biggest problems this planet has ever faced.

Shortly afterwards there was a great line about Gro Harlem Brundtland’s position on economic growth. She asserted that: “What is needed now is a new era of economic growth – growth that is forceful and at the same time socially and environmentally responsible.” Who could possibly disagree with that?

Towards the end of the brilliant foreword Gro Harlem Brundtland makes it clear the need to turn this bold vision into bold actions. She states that: “Unless we are able to translate our words into a language that can reach the minds and hearts of young and old, we shall not be able to undertake the extensive social changes needed to correct the course of development.

The overview which follows foreword begins with the interesting point that: “In the middle of the 20th century, we saw our planet from space for the first time. Historians may eventually find that this vision had a greater impact on thought than did the Copernican revolution.

Following this, on the very next page there is one of the best lines of the entire report. It reads: “We do not offer a detailed blueprint for action, but instead a pathway by which the peoples of the world may enlarge their spheres of co-operation.” The report is full of great lines like this and is stunningly well written despite being the work of multiple authors for whom English was not a first language.

There is also a section on sustainable development, where they cover the line for which the report has become infamous. It goes: “humanity has 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.” This is a great sentence and a powerful sentence.

This was followed up shortly after with the blunt realisation that: “We do not pretend that the process is easy or straightforward. Painful choices have to be made. Thus, in the final analysis, sustainable development must rest on political will.” This line is classic of the pragmatism that runs throughout the report.

What you need to know

Our Common Future was a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 at the behest of the UN General Assembly.

What we dealt with in this article is the foreword and the overview. Subsequent articles will look into parts 1, 2 & 3.

Both of the sections that we have covered set the scene nicely. They are detailed and explanatory and are useful to experts and non-experts alike. The language is powerful and inspirational whilst also being approachable.

There is probably no single book in the history of the environmental movement that has led to more change than Our Common Future. We will have to see if the farsighted vision of a more sustainable form of development comes to fruition as the 21st century unfolds.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think about Our Common Future, how has the book impacted you?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

3 REASONS WHY AMSTERDAM IS ONE OF THE BEST CITIES IN THE WORLD FOR CYCLISTS

This article looks into 3 reasons why Amsterdam is one of the best cities in the world for cyclists.

Amsterdam is a European and world cultural capital. It is famous for being a party hotspot and for being exceedingly liberal where other world cities choose not to be. It is also a phenomenal city for cyclists. Let’s now turn to why this is the case.

1.     Infrastructure

The cycling infrastructure in Amsterdam is first rate. Where most cities in the world are crying out for an integrated network of separated bike lanes. Amsterdam has these in abundance. This network is worth far more than the sum of its parts. You can get from almost any location to any other location by bike in an extremely safe and segregated manner.

bike path 1

Where separated bike lanes are not available, you can make use of quiet backstreets and parks which are well integrated into the system of bike lanes.

This network of safe segregated bike lanes is such that you see many people aged 8-80 and quite possibly beyond that range cycling across the city. You see almost no wearing of helmets or Hi-Vis jackets whatsoever, such is peoples feeling of safety and confidence. It is not uncommon to see pregnant ladies and parents and grandparents cycling with children in child seats. This is an extremely safe system to cycle on.

Overall, it cannot be overstated just how high quality the cycling infrastructure is in Amsterdam.

2.     Effort

The sad truth is that cities around the world have largely oriented themselves around the private car and have made cycling an afterthought. In Amsterdam this is not the case. Time and again the city authorities go to unbelievable levels of effort to make cycling easier and safer.

Whereas in a lot of areas cyclists are seen as a problem to be managed, in Amsterdam they are seen as a solution to be encouraged.  We will now look into a few examples of these extraordinary efforts.

The cycling and walking tunnel under Amsterdam Central Station is my personal favourite. It looks really nice and makes a great cut through for the two most sustainable forms of urban transit.

Tunnel1

Next is the giant multi-storey bike park adjacent to Amsterdam Central Station. I have never really understood how people manage to find their bikes in there after they park them, but it is a remarkable piece of infrastructure nonetheless.

Parking multistory

Lastly, the effort that goes into junctions and roundabouts is absolutely outstanding. Having a network of segregated paths is great, but how that system fits together is also vitally important. With cycling infrastructure you are only as strong as your weakest point. At junctions there are buttons and traffic lights specifically designed for cyclists. You feel incredibly safe cycling at junctions in Amsterdam.

traffic lights 1

3.     Culture

The culture of cycling in Amsterdam makes it a truly special place for cyclists.

Cycling infrastructure can only do so much. In many places drivers take it upon themselves to intimidate cyclists in the most egregious manner. In Amsterdam this does not happen. Because almost all car drivers will also be cyclists, there is an entente cordiale between cyclists and drivers the likes of which I have never seen anywhere else. This means that where drivers and cyclists come close to one another such as on back streets, that cars are incredibly civil. It also means that drivers are far more likely to check their wing mirrors before opening a car door, as they would not wish for it to happen to them. You only get behaviour like this once you fully embed a cycling culture within a city.

Further advantages of having a cycling culture within a city is the factor of safety in numbers.

Cycling 1

Safety in numbers helps a lot on journeys across the city, but it is also useful when parking. In a lot of places it would be incredibly unusual to just lock your wheels, but in Amsterdam this is commonplace. With so many bikes parked in so many places, the chance of your bike becoming a victim of theft is small.

In other cities where there are only a small number of highly professional bike commuters it is necessary to lock your bike against a fixed object.

Overall, Amsterdam has a phenomenal cycling culture and is a special place for cyclists.

cycling 2

What you need to know

This article looked into 3 reasons why Amsterdam is one of the best cities in the world for cyclists.

  1. The infrastructure in Amsterdam is extensive of high quality and extremely safe to use.
  2. The effort the city authorities go to to roll out the red carpet for cyclists is stunning when compared to cities around the world.
  3. The culture of cycling in Amsterdam is deeply ingrained into the psyche of the city. This makes it special.

Overall, cycling in Amsterdam is not like cycling in any other city in the world.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think is the best city in the world for cycling in?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

 

A BIGGER VISION FOR SUSTAINABILITY

This article looks into whether we need to create a bigger vision for sustainability. Is the current vision for sustainability big enough, is it sustainable?

Permaculture

The statement below is from David Holmgren’s book Permaculture: principles and pathways beyond sustainability. It caught my eye in the last 7 days and made me think about the vision or rather lack of a vision for what a sustainable future would look like.

permaculture1

So what I thought I would do is unpack the statement from David Holmgren to see what we can learn from it.

Beginning with the first sentence, I am really attracted to the idea of self-reliance and autonomy that play such a big part in permaculture. I think these are somewhat lacking within sustainability, which has a preference for system level changes. The problem with this is, is that it leads to a very low level of ownership of problems. The power of permaculture is that it teaches people to take ownership of problems and to take care of themselves and their community in a sustainable manner. Issues are only as macro as you make them out to be. We can all play a role in building a better world if we take steps to change the way we think, act and behave in society.

The second sentence is particularly interesting as it refers to three things of great importance. The first part is the reference to balance, this is key to permaculture and it is important to make sure that people understand that a balanced approach is what is called for to solve these problems. The second part is the notion human imperatives. There are some hardliners who denounce human activity as a plague on the planet. This is an interesting perspective but it is well wide of the mark. Both permaculture and sustainability need to position themselves front and centre as solutions for how we survive and thrive in the 21st century. The third part is the notion which is central to permaculture of a declining energy base. Before too long, the huge prize of oil and natural gas will have largely been squandered. Permaculture offers a range of solutions for what life after this is gone could look like.

The third sentence is interesting as it shows how permaculture offers a holistic set of solutions for the garden, the home and for people’s lifestyles. It is about creating a permanent and sustainable culture. Sustainability could learn a lot from this. But the really important part comes later in the sentence, which is about self-regulation and feedback. They are key elements in natural systems, they are critical to permaculture, but thus far I would not say these ideas are preeminent within sustainability. We must begin to learn from processes that work and build on from there.

I thought that the last sentence was particularly inspirational. I like the way that permaculture is positivistic and it encourages its followers to take action to build a better world. This is enormously empowering. I also particularly like the last part of the sentence which is about continuing to support life and humanity. We should never forget the importance of the work that goes on within permaculture and sustainability. This is necessary work and it is important work.

What you need to know

This article looked into whether we need to create a bigger vision for sustainability. We looked into a paragraph from a David Holmgren book about permaculture to see what we could learn.

I think what is clear, is that permaculture’s vison is more substantial than the vision offered by sustainability.

I think that more needs to be done to push responsibility for sustainability down to the level of the individual.

I also think there needs to be more of a focus within sustainability for changing the culture. This is a big task but is the only way to embed solutions.

To answer the title question, yes I believe we need a bigger vision for sustainability and I believe sustainability could learn a lot from permaculture.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. If you liked this format, comment at the bottom or you can also find me on social media.

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

PERMACULTURE & SUSTAINABILITY

This article looks into permaculture and sustainability. It examines what permaculture is and asks, how permaculture can inform the current sustainability debate.

permaculture

Permaculture was developed and codified in the mid-1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. The publication of Permaculture One in 1978 is a major point of departure for the modern incarnation of permaculture.

A commonly held definition of what permaculture is would be the following statement

Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.

For more information, please visit the link to the video below, which packs lots of information about permaculture into 51 seconds.

What is permaculture?

It is about creating a permanent and sustainable culture.

It is positivistic; it is about what we want to do and can do, rather than being an opposition movement.

Permaculture has a number of traits which I find interesting.

  • It gives priority to using existing wealth to rebuild natural capital
  • It emphasises bottom-up redesign processes
  • It is predicated on the likelihood of some degree of collapse
  • It looks for clues in pre-industrial societies

I am also attracted to permaculture because it makes use of design principles and systems thinking, two areas where much leverage can be gained for sustainability.

Permaculture is also a giant network of likeminded individuals working to build a better world. In the UK it is represented by the Permaculture Association and you can find out more about them by visiting the link below.

The Permaculture Association

How can permaculture inform the current sustainability debate

Permaculture is extremely integrative. I believe this to be its greatest strength and the biggest contribution it can make to modern sustainability challenges.

It integrates ecology, landscape geography animal husbandry, forestry, agriculture, biology and architecture.

Too often modern sustainability problems go unsolved because of excessive silo thinking and a “not my problem” mentality. Permaculture provides a radical critique of these negative aspects of modern societies.

Permaculture also shines a light on the need to build a sustainable future on the solid foundations of a sustainable culture. Changing lightbulbs and electric cars are wonderful things, but if people are not engaged and if the culture still celebrates or tolerates excessive use of non-renewable resources and excessive consumption then nothing will really have changed.

It also offers a radical critique of a weak sustainability approach. Sustainability is meant to be about meeting people’s needs now and in the future. But too often we seem hesitant to ask how much of what is consumed in the present is really necessary and how much is mindless self-indulgence. Permaculture would suggest we could meet our needs far more prudently than we currently do.

Permaculture also offers a more radical critique of weak sustainability, in that it is built on an ecological framework, more akin to ecological economics as opposed to environmental economics, which is based on economic frameworks. This allows permaculture and I would argue ecological economists to see value where environmental economists cannot. You can find out more about environmental economics and ecological economics by visiting the link below.

ENVIRONMENTAL ECONOMICS Vs ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS

They way permaculture focuses on non-material well-being is also enlightening. This is similar to cultural ecosystem services and is a radical step change in thinking from anything that weak sustainability can provide. Things such as exercise and the beauty of nature provide enormous value and well-being but are so often unaccounted for.

What you need to know

This article looked into permaculture and sustainability. It examined what permaculture is and asked, how permaculture can inform the current sustainability debate.

We looked into the origins of permaculture in the 1970s and looked at a common definition of what it is.

We looked into the traits that permaculture exhibits and its ability to work as a network.

We also looked into several examples of how permaculture can offer a radical critique of the modern sustainability debate.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What are your thoughts or experiences of permaculture?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby