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The politics of the United Nations aims at sustainable development (i.e., development that can continue with future generations). Andreas Losch has recently proposed to expand our current notion of sustainability to what he calls ‘planetary sustainability’, and he has urged an ethics of planetary sustainability. This comment article discusses these proposals. The proposed conceptual change is assessed, drawing on desiderata suggested by Carnap. To the extent to which the current notion of sustainability has excluded consideration of outer space, we gain in simplicity. To the extent to which it has been unclear about this issue, we gain in exactness. The proposed concept is fruitful because it points to important considerations, in particular if there are extra-terrestrial beings that share moral status with human beings. But to some extent this fruitfulness requires a clear deviation from the anthropocentric outlook of our current notion of sustainability, and costs regarding similarity arise. As far as an ethics of sustainability is concerned, we certainly need to address ethical issues that arise in relation to outer space. However, the notion of planetary sustainability is not likely to figure prominently in related thoughts because the notion of sustainability is not a key concept in known ethical theories.
This perspective article from the co-chairs of the United Nations Environment Programme's Sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) uses the assessment of the literature in the GEO-6 to show how a healthy planet and healthy people are linked together. It argues that the health of the planet is deteriorating and that this deteriorating ecosystem health has major direct and indirect impacts on human health and well-being. Direct impacts include the impacts of polluted air on the lungs of people, while indirect impacts include the impacts of land degradation on food security. Therefore, protecting the environment will also have major benefits for human health and well-being.
Chapter 7 – Governing Transformations – outlines ideas and approaches for governing various kinds of transformations, ranging from the transformational leverage of technology, market incentives, strengthening state actions, civil society initiatives, enhanced public education and efforts to shift mindsets to restructuring the economic world order. We present key concepts in governance of transformation and discuss the various governance implications of aspirations for sudden, rapid and profound changes versus proposals for incremental or niche developments. Such policies and measures range from stand-alone unparalleled efforts, intended to activate a tipping point towards transformation, to a series of incremental efforts to gradually accomplish transformation. Moreover, we suggest an analytical framework for transformation governance processes that focuses on scrutinising goals, governance mechanisms, outcomes, target populations, outputs, leverage mechanisms, interventions and institutional frameworks.
Mining regions are affected by climate change. Supplies of energy and water are required, and operations become hazardous during adverse weather events. Adapting to climate change takes three forms: incrementally improving the resilience of mining operations; transitioning to more inclusive governance through institutional and policy innovations; and more profound transformations that shift the balance of power, including profit-sharing, localized control or cessation of mining entirely. Clarifying adaptation pathways helps to identify priorities and inform policies for a fairer and more sustainable future for mining and the regions where it takes place.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation has resulted in an updated agreement known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). Given the contentious nature of the renegotiation process, we analyze the impacts of the USMCA relative to a “what if” scenario of failed NAFTA renegotiation to examine the economy-wide impacts of USMCA on bilateral trade, production, consumption, prices, and domestic and cross-border labor markets. Our results show that, had NAFTA renegotiation failed, the ensuing economic conditions would have created incentive for more, not fewer, migrant workers to enter the United States. USMCA benefits Mexican and Canadian consumers marginally but harms U.S. consumers slightly.
Although the concept of sustainable development is widely used as a guiding principle, there is much less consensus on its normative foundation and ethical implications. Since the 1880s, when social tensions threatened to tear apart European societies during the Industrial Revolution, Catholic social teaching (CST) has served as a sound basis for dialogue for many political leaders regardless of national or religious affiliation. This article examines how Pope Francis’ present-day CST might foster a cross-cultural debate on the ethics of economic growth, social and ecological justice and civil participation on Planet Earth as well as in outer space.
Digitalization coevolves with and fosters three revolutions in urban transport: sharing, electrification and automatization. This dynamic poses severe risks for social and environmental sustainability. Only strong public policies can steer digitalization towards fostering sustainability in urban transport.
Sixty years of space activities have led to ongoing scientific and technological progress. Space 4.0 reflects the rapid changes of the space community. Growing interest in space activities leads to increasing participation of numerous new actors in this field. Governments, private actors and international organizations are eager to fill existing gaps in securing global society's needs. The European Space Agency's Space 4.0 concept is designed to host a new era of space activities, aiming to resolve global challenges and to serve society. Space 4.0 developments are highly important, but are taking place in an extremely complex net of legal, regulatory and political considerations. This paper focuses on the legal challenges raised by the new era of Space 4.0 in a sustainability context.
We present a view on global marine fisheries that emphasizes mitigating the conflict between sustainability and the scale of industrial exploitation driven by the demand of continuous economic growth. We then summarize the current state of global fisheries. Finally, we advocate strongly for scaling back industrial fisheries, most of which are non-sustainable. This can be achieved through eliminating the harmful, capacity-enhancing subsidies that prop up industrial fisheries to continue operating despite declining fish stocks. Instead, we propose to support well-managed, locally owned and operated small-scale fisheries, which generally contribute more to local employment and food security. We stress that contrary to deep-seated opinion in the fishing industry and among politicians, reducing overfishing by eliminating overcapacity in fishing fleets will actually lead to greater, not reduced catches. This would address part of the increased global seafood demand over the coming decades, which is driven by population and wealth growth. This seems counterintuitive, but is supported by fisheries science, data and experiences. Thankfully, we are beginning to see that some of these changes are being pursued by a growing number of countries and international institutions.
In this chapter, we discuss the evolution of the field of ‘ethics of nuclear energy’, regarding its past, present and future. We will first review the history of this field in the previous four decades, focusing on new and emerging challenges of nuclear energy production and waste disposal, in light of several important developments. Four of the most pressing ethical challenges will be further reviewed in the chapter. First, what is a morally ‘acceptable’ nuclear energy production method, if we consider the existing and possible new technologies? Second, provided a new tendency to consider nuclear waste disposal with several countries, what would be the new ethical and governance challenges of these multinational collaborations? Third, how should we deal with the (safety) challenges of the new geographic distribution of nuclear energy, tilting towards emerging economies with less experience with nuclear technology? Fourth, nuclear energy projects engender highly emotional controversies. Neither ignoring the emotions of the public nor taking them as a reason to prohibit or restrict a technology – we call them technocratic populist pitfalls respectively – seem to be able to guide responsible policy making.
Danish energy policy has reached a phase where the effects of the paradigmatic change from stored fossil fuels to very large shares of fluctuating renewable energy requires fundamentally new technical, political and economic solutions. Two archetypal technical scenarios are the locally and regionally integrated Smart Energy System scenario and a centralized export/import transmission line scenario. In analyzing the competition between these scenarios we applied a social anthropological method of GOING CLOSE to the situation of the actors and the ecological, technological and institutional context. We concluded that a smart energy scenario that can integrate large amounts of fluctuating wind power is optimal, but that the transmission line scenario has the politically strongest supporters and consequently, an advantage for being implemented. With respect to institutional factors, our conclusion is that if a country should be able to change its path against the will of politically strong actors, it is a must to have innovative democracy where the parliament, educational institutions and other institutions are independent of these political actors. In the present phase of the transition to 100% renewable energy we recommend concrete and specific institutional changes both at the EU and national levels.
We argue that the ways in which we as humans derive well-being from nature – for example by harvesting firewood, selling fish or enjoying natural beauty – feed back into how we behave towards the environment. This feedback is mediated by institutions (rules, regulations) and by individual capacities to act. Understanding these relationships can guide better interventions for sustainably improving well-being and alleviating poverty. However, more attention needs to be paid to how experience-related benefits from nature influence attitudes and actions towards the environment, and how these relationships can be reflected in more environmentally sustainable development projects.
One of the Sustainable Development Goals, number 10, is about reducing inequality within and between countries. This paper argues that the existing structure of the (international) financial system is, for various reasons, one of the determinants of (growing) inequality. This should receive more attention.
Nature and culture are intricately linked and the rapid loss of both biological and cultural diversity around the globe has led to increasing concerns about its effects on sustainability. Important efforts to understand biocultural relations and bolster sustainable practices have been made by scientists, local communities, civil society organizations and policy makers. In spite of their efforts, a stronger articulation between sectors and biocultural discourses is needed for a broader transformative impact. Here, we analyse the connections between prominent biocultural discourses and discuss how the biocultural paradigm can contribute to both local and global sustainability.
Manhattan, Berlin and New Delhi all need to take action to adapt to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While case studies on these cities provide valuable insights, comparability and scalability remain sidelined. It is therefore timely to review the state-of-the-art in data infrastructures, including earth observations, social media data, and how they could be better integrated to advance climate change science in cities and urban areas. We present three routes for expanding knowledge on global urban areas: mainstreaming data collections, amplifying the use of big data and taking further advantage of computational methods to analyse qualitative data to gain new insights. These data-based approaches have the potential to upscale urban climate solutions and effect change at the global scale.
Modern agriculture is associated with numerous environmental predicaments, such as land degradation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emission. Socio-economically, it is characterized by a treadmill of technological change, increased mechanization, and economic consolidation, while depressing economic returns to farmers. A root cause is the dominance of annual plants cultivated in monocultures. Annual crops require the yearly clearing of vegetation resulting in soil erosion and other forms of ecosystem degradation. Monocultures are susceptible to agricultural pests and weeds. By contrast, perennial polycultures informed by natural ecosystems, promise more sustainable agroecosystems with the potential to also revitalize the economic foundation of farming and hence rural societies.
Herbivores are found in a variety of ecosystems all over the world. Permanent pastures and meadows cover about 25% of global land. We currently count one domesticated herbivore for two people in the world and the number is growing. Production systems and products are highly diverse. This high diversity is the result of thousands of years of natural selection and human-controlled breeding, as well as migration and trade. Because of the high diversity of domestic herbivore genetic resources, herders have been able to live in regions where no alternative for income generation exists. Meat and milk from domestic herbivores provide 16% and 8% of the global protein and kilocalorie consumption, respectively. They also provide a variety of essential micronutrients but can contribute to overweight and obesity when consumed in excess. Domestic herbivores also make significant contribution to food security through the production of manure, draught power and transport and the generation of income at household and national level. They have a key role to play in women’s empowerment and gender equality, both in rural and urban areas.
Demand for meat and milk is increasing because of population growth, rising incomes and urbanisation. This trend is expected to continue, especially in Latin America, South Asia and China. The sustainable development of domestic herbivore production needs to address the feed/food and the efficiency of herbivores in turning forages into protein. It also needs to address the contribution of herbivores to greenhouse gas emissions, especially of ruminants through enteric fermentation, and their mitigation potential, including through carbon sequestration. Animal genetic resources have a key role to play in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The role of ruminants in the circular bioeconomy needs to be enhanced, promoting the use of by-products and waste as livestock feed and the recycling of manure for energy and nutrients. Finally, the role of domestic herbivores in providing secure livelihoods and economic opportunities for millions of smallholder farmers and pastoralists needs to be enhanced. The sustainable development of the sector therefore requires adequate policies, and there are already a variety of mechanisms available, including regulations, cross-compliance systems, payments for environmental services and research and development. Priority areas for policy makers should be aligned with the global framework of the Sustainable Development Goals and include: (i) food security and nutrition, (ii) economic development and livelihoods, (iii) animal and human health and finally, (iv) environment, climate and natural resources.
In the post-Paris political landscape, the relationship between science and politics is changing. We discuss what this means for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), using recent controversies over negative emissions technologies (NETs) as a window into the fraught politics of producing policy-relevant pathways and scenarios. We suggest that pathways and scenarios have a ‘world-making’ power, potentially shaping the world in their own image and creating new political realities. Assessment bodies like the IPCC need to reflect on this power, and the implications of changing political contexts, in new ways.