Learning Module #1: Introduction to World Sustainability | V. 1.0

Schedule |Learning Objectives: #1 | #2 | #3 | assignment #1
This page defines the implementation of the first goal of the course, culminating with an essay and graphic organizer, displayed in a separate page.

Learning Goal #1 ^

Learning Module #1 begins with the explanation of World Sustainability and ends with your first assignment on October 2. Do not fall behind.

Learning Goal #1: As displayed in the Syllabus, the first goal of ENST209 is to demonstrate your thorough understanding of the concept of sustainability.

You will indicate this in the first assignment, a graphic organizer and a short essay, defined in a separate memo. Please contemplate that assignment in advance so that it might guide your work. This essay is due October 2.

Three Learning Outcomes will be pursued here:

  1. You should understand the origins and significance of sustainable development.
  2. Enlarge the scope of sustainable development with world sustainability and the injection of a critical perspective.
  3. Understand the key concept of Limits to Growth and the related concept of Ecological Footprint Analysis.

Under construction is a wiki site for Part I of the course. The wiki provides a collaborative tool that promotes feedback: join the conversation! (Learn about wikis with a YouTube tutorial).

September 11-18: Objective #1: Introducing Sustainable Development ^

Objective #1 is to understand where, how, and when the concept of sustainable development was initiated. You should grasp its scope, overall tone, and substance.

The set up for the need for World Sustainability will be through the film and discussion, Banking on Disaster. We will use the film for a scripting a role-playing game based on the film.

We begin at, well, the beginning: The seminal Brundtland Report, aka Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future: From One Earth to One World, 1987. The Chair of the World Commission was Gro Harlem Brundtland, then Prime Minister of Norway. Follow the Brundtland report:

  1. Browse the Brundtland Report and sample its findings and logic. This is a seminal historical document.
  2. Read the important Overview, noting the way that sustainable development was framed and the language used to define sustainable development, quoted below. Read the Brundtland section on sustainable development carefully.
  3. An important innovation of Brundtland is explained in the wiki: the extension of scope and time horizon.
  4. Examine the lecture on sustainability prepared as a PowerPoint presentation by Professor Michael Edelstein.
  5. Read the discussion supporting the Brundtland concept of sustainable development at the Wiki sustainability home page and the notes on the Brundtland Commission and the generational challenge that Brundtland poses.
  6. Examine the wiki on the triple bottom line, essential to the formulation of sustainable development by Brundtland.
  7. Peruse the scope of issues in the action part of the follow up Earth Summit report, Agenda 21, which defines concrete steps to achieve world sustainability that can be tailored to local, regional, and national circumstances. Read samples to get a sense of how extensive was the early definition of sustainability.

Ponder in particular the implications of the specific language from Brundtland that defined sustainable development:

"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. The concept of sustainable development does imply limits - not absolute limits but limitations imposed by the present state of technology and social organization on environmental resources and by the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities. But technology and social organization can be both managed and improved to make way for a new era of economic growth. The Commission believes that widespread poverty is no longer inevitable. Poverty is not only an evil in itself, but sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations for a better life. A world in which poverty is endemic will always be prone to ecological and other catastrophes." -- italics added

Finally, please join a class conversation about what you are learning and how you are doing toward attaining an understanding of sustainability by clicking to our wiki discussion page.

September 25: Objective #2: From Sustainable Development to World Sustainability ^

Objective #2 is to discover how the original meaning of sustainable development changed. You should be able to explain what happened to the grand vision of sustainable development after the Brundtland Report. Understand the move from sustainable development to world sustainability.

The Brundtland Report was followed in 1992 by the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, popularly known as The Earth Summit, whose basic principles you should read. Examine an overview of the chronology of sustainable development. Familiarize yourself, browse, and read selectively. Aim at getting the big picture about sustainable development.

Then came the controversies, distortions, and compromises that marked the Johannesburg Conference in 2002, reported by Trent Schroyer, recently retired Ramapo College professor, and Tom Golodik, then a senior at Ramapo College. Examine some of the documents collected by The Heinrich Böll Foundation about the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg in 2002. Please read this short statement Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development.

Professor Schroyer has wisely observed that the critical shift in understanding is away from sustainable development towards world sustainability. After all, what needs sustaining may not be development but rather the inhabitation of our home planet.

The chapter in Schroyer and Golodik, Creating a Sustainable World: Past Experiences, Future Struggles, by Peter Montague provides a short and readable overview of sustainability based on the seminal work in ecological economics: Beyond Growth, by Herman Daly. This article provides a solid grounding for sustainability. Read it carefully. Read the following in Schroyer and Golodik:

  1. Schroyer and Golodik, Preface: Why "World" Sustainability, pp. vii-ix;
  2. Schroyer, Introduction: The Inclusive Democracy Promise of the Earth Summit, pp. 3-5;
  3. Montague: Sustainable Development in Six Parts, pp. 59-86
  4. Bazan: From Sustainability to Subsistence, pp. 311-324

Please join a discussion on the move to World Sustainability at our World Sustainability Discussion wiki.

September 25: Objective #3: Limits to Growth ^

Objective #3: Demonstrate a comprehension of the meaning and implications of the Limits to Growth paradigm, which grounds World Sustainability. Understand Limits to Growth as a paradigm competing with other paradigms. Familiarize yourself with the related concept of Ecological Footprint Analysis.

We will cover the Limits to Growth paradigm, which came to public attention in the early 1970s but has not gone away. While Limits to Growth preceded the articulation of the sustainable development paradigm, the questioning of unceasing and unbridled economic growth remains central to the discussion of world sustainability. Please see the wiki discussion of Limits to Growth.

View two short PowerPoint presentations about limits to growth and sustainability by Professor Michael Edelstein. See the short wiki page on paradigms and Professor Edelstein's two PowerPoint presentations on paradigms and sustainability.

Please view a recent lecture about overshooting the limits of the Earth's carrying capacity by Mathis Wackernagel, an expert on Ecological Footprint Analysis, in an hour-long lecture on YouTube lecture at Google. Please also visit a very cool Ecological Footprint site and calculate your own Ecological Footprint.

Please join a discussion of Limits to Growth at our Limits to Growth Discussion wiki.

October 2: Assessment: Assignment for Learning Module #1 ^

The assessment assignment for Learning Module #1, an essay and a graphic organizer, is defined here. Both these documents are due on October 2. Send them to our class e-mail account, enst209@gmail.com. Please save your documents as MS Word 2003 documents. We do not use MS Vista, so may not be able to open documents saved in .docx format. We cannot open documents saved in other formats, so strictly avoid them. If you are stuck, use RTF (Rich Text Format).

© Michael Edelstiein, Ph.D., and Wayne Hayes, Ph.D. | Initialized: 5/21/2008 | Last Update: 7/25/2008