Has the sustainable development spaceship landed on earth?

Sustainability, as a concept, has existed for at least half a century now. Although the notion has gained popularity, no major positive differences have occurred. In fact, humans have graduallybeen contributing to further deteriorating the earth. Why is that?

Many academics and scientists have raised the issues of climate change, environmental pollution, resource depletion, and so on. Kenneth E. Boulding, published an article in 1966 entitled “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth” (mind the title – it’s a little out of this world)!

Even then, Boulding illustrated the importance of “a cyclical ecological system which is capable of continuous reproduction of material form”. He calls this ‘a spaceman economy’ – that our planet does not have infinite reservoirs of resources. As an economist, he challenged the notion of unnecessary consumption and production while discussing the idea of measuring total ‘throughput’ by other means than GNP (Gross National Product). He offered some insights, such as “tax penalties for social damages” and “special legislation to cover extraordinary cases” – that in many cases are still not actioned today.

Why has the spaceship failed to land?

Boulding hypothesized about human psychology that the reason why humans have not been called to action yet was because: “Why worry about this (depletion of earth’s resources) when we are still a good way off?”

Lastly, Boulding also hypothesized that “conservationist policies almost have to be sold under some other excuse which seems more urgent.”

So I ask you dear reader…Do you agree that humans will wait until this matter becomes most urgent? And what will be the major motivators for change?

Watch this interesting video about what the Elder Inuit in Northern Canada feel about Climate Change.

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One comment on “Has the sustainable development spaceship landed on earth?
  1. kstokely2014 says:

    I agree with the position taken by Boulding and find it sad although not all together surprising that minimal actions have been taken in the 40 + years since this article came out. Bouldings work, much like the Limits to Growth (#LTG), identified concerning trends toward consumption, pollution and population growth and yet neither was well received.

    I think the issue is one of communication; rather than trying to get people/businesses to make changes out of fear, I think there likely would have been more convergence towards sustainability if it had been positioned in terms of the social, environmental and economic benefits of being more sustainable. Businesses are usually rationale entities; if a strong enough business case can be built for sustainability along with the necessary support from governments/organizations to support the financing/knowledge transfer in order to become more sustainable, I believe that more businesses would convert.

    Now maybe I am being to idealistic but we know that the ‘doom & gloom’ approach isn’t working, so I believe that we should at least try another approach!

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