Talk:Sustainability/Measuring sustainability/Archive 1

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Sustainability perspectives

Sustainability, in the human impact on the environment, or the integrated effect of economic, environmental and social systems on human well-being can be measured from a household to a national economy, from a wetland to a city or an occupation. The sustainability of human-related systems involves measuring the way in which such systems interact with their surrounding environment.

The work of environmental science describes the environment, interprets the impact of human actions (anthropogenic effects) on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and develops strategies for restoring ecosystems. In addition, environmental scientists help planners develop and construct buildings, transportation corridors, and utilities that protect water resources and reflect efficient and beneficial land use.[1]. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science, teams of professionals commonly work together to conduct environmental research or to produce Environmental Impact Statements.[2] Other professional organizations engender work in environmental science and aid in communication among the diverse sciences. This creates a context of thinking as to ecological footprint, and also an overall broad picture of society in regard to resources.[3]

Human environmental impact

Closely packed urban living. - Chicago

Main article: Sustainable development

The ecological footprint is an aggregate measure of the scale of human demands on the natural environment. To provide the resources, and absorb the wastes, of the average global citizen in 2005 required 2.7 global hectares of biologically productive land and sea - this is 30% higher than the 2.1 global hectares of productive land and sea which represent the total capacity of planet Earth to produce resources and absorb wastes (leaving no ecological capacity to support non-human ecosystems).[4] The resulting ecological deficit must be met from unsustainable sources - use of stored resources including fossil fuels, and "mining" natural resources including forests and fisheries at greater than their rate of regeneration.

The aim of Sustainable Development is to reduce environmental impact while improving quality of life for those currently disadvantaged. By this definition, only Cuba has achieved sustainable development during the period from 1978 to 2003, and this was due in part to an oil embargo imposed upon them[5]. Elsewhere, the trend over time has in almost all cases been increasing human development, at the cost of increasing ecological footprint.

Comparing the per capita demands of humans on the environment can obscure the important role of population growth. Overall pressure on the environment is a function of population as well as of levels of consumption and the efficiency of resource use.[6]

The State of the Environment

Map of Terrestrial biomes classified by vegetation.

At a fundamental level human impact on the Earth is being manifest through changes in the global biogeochemical cycles of chemicals that are critical to life, most notably those of water, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.

A wealth of information generated by national, regional and city-scale State of the Environment reports generally confirms the global picture that human societies are becoming less sustainable over time.[7]

An "unsustainable situation" occurs when natural capital (the sum total of nature's resources) is used up faster than it can be replenished. Sustainability requires that human activity only uses nature's resources at a rate at which they can be replenished naturally. Inherently the concept of sustainable development is intertwined with the concept of carrying capacity. Theoretically, the long-term result of environmental degradation is the inability to sustain human life. Such degradation on a global scale could imply extinction for humanity.

Human impact on the biosphere

Natural habitat - Catalonia

Natural systems (often referred to as ecosystem services) are humanity's life-support system, providing the necessary conditions for humans to flourish. Over the last 50 years the rapidly escalating and potentially critical nature of human global impact on the biodiversity of these ecosystem services has become the source of major biological concern.[8][9]

At a fundamental level, human impact on the Earth is being manifest through changes in the global biogeochemical cycles of chemicals that are critical to life. Most notably the Water cycle, Oxygen cycle, Carbon cycle, Nitrogen cycle and the Phosphorus cycle. There is growing evidence that human activity is having a significant effect on all of these cycles.[10]

Protecting the biosphere

There are two major ways of reducing human impact on the planet. The first is to monitor and respond to direct human impacts on the oceans and freshwater systems, the land and atmosphere (see direct impacts below). This approach is based on information gained from environmental science and conservation biology.[8] However, this is management at the end of a long series of causal factors (known to ecologists as drivers) that are initiated by human consumption, our demand for food, energy, materials and water [11] (see indirect impacts below).

Direct global environmental impacts

Atmosphere

See also: Climate and Climate change
Use of the atmosphere

The most obvious human impact on the atmosphere is the air pollution in our cities. The pollutants include toxic chemicals such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter that produce photochemical smog and acid rain. Anthropogenic particulates such as sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere reduce the direct irradiance of the Earth's surface. Known as global dimming the decrease is estimated at about 4% between 1960 and 1990 although the trend has subsequently reversed. Global dimming may have disturbed the global water cycle by reducing evaporation and rainfall in some areas. It also creates a cooling effect and this may have partially masked the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming.[12] [13] However, it is now human-induced climate change and the carbon cycle that have become a major focus of scientific research because of the potential for catastrophic effects on both biodiversity and human communities (see Energy below).

Oceans

Saltwater fish

Oceans and their circulation patterns have a critical effect on climate and the food supply for both humans and other organisms. Major environmental impacts occur in the more habitable regions of the oceans – the estuaries, coastline and bays. Because of their vastness oceans act as a dumping ground for human waste. Trends of concern include: ocean warming, reef bleaching and sea level rise, all due to climate change together with the possibility for a sudden alteration of present-day ocean currents which could drastically alter the climate in some regions of the globe; over-fishing (beyond sustainable levels); and ocean acidification due to dissolved carbon dioxide.

Remedial strategies include: more careful waste management, statutory control of overfishing, reduction of fossil fuel emissions, and restoration of coastal and other marine habitat.

Freshwater

River Fluvia, Catalonia

Freshwater habitat is the world’s most vulnerable of the major biological systems due to the human need for potable water for food irrigation, industry and domestic use. Human freshwater withdrawals make up about 10% of global freshwater runoff, and of this 15-35% is considered unsustainable - a proportion that is likely to increase as climate changeworsens, populations increase, and water supplies become polluted and unsanitary.

In the industrial world demand management has slowed absolute usage rates but in the developing world water security, and therefore food security, remain among the most important issues to address. Increasing urbanization pollutes clean water supplies and much of the world still does not have access to clean, safe water.

Land

Land use change is fundamental to the operations of the biosphere. This includes alteration to biogeochemical cycles, effects of agriculture, proportions of forest and woodland, grassland and pasture.

Forests

Historically about 47% of the world’s forests have been lost to human use. Present-day forests occupy about a quarter of the world’s ice-free land with about half occurring in the tropics[14] In temperate and boreal regions forest area is gradually increasing (with the exception of Siberia), but deforestation in the tropics is of major concern.

Beech Forest - Grib Skov, Denmark

Forests can moderate the local climate and the global water cycle through their light reflectance (albedo) and evapotranspiration. They also conserve biodiversity, protect water quality, preserve soil and soil quality, provide fuel and pharmaceuticals, and purify the air. These free ecosystem services have no market value and so forest conservation has little appeal when compared with the economic benefits of logging and clearance which, through soil degradation and organic decomposition returns carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated that about 90% of the carbon stored in land vegetation is locked up in trees and that they sequester about 50% more carbon than is present in the atmosphere. Changes in land use currently contribute about 20% of total global carbon emissions (in heavily logged Indonesia and Brazil it is the greatest source of emissions).[15] Climate change can be mitigated by sequestering carbon in reafforestation schemes, new plantations, and timber products. Wood biomass is a renewable carbon-neutral fuel.

The FAO has concluded that, over the period 2005–2050, effective use of tree planting could absorb about 10–20% of man-made emissions – so clearly we need to monitor the condition of the world's forests very closely (both reafforestation and deforestation) as they must be part of any coordinated emissions mitigation strategy.[16]

Cultivated land
Rice Paddy

Feeding more than six billion human bodies takes a heavy toll on the Earth’s resources. This begins with the human appropriation of about 38% [17] of the Earth’s land surface and about 20% of its net primary productivity[18]. Added to this are the resource-hungry activities of industrial agribusiness – everything from the initial cultivation need for irrigation water, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to the resource costs of food packaging, transport (now a major part of global trade) and retail. The benefits of food production are obvious: without food we cannot survive. But the list of costs is a long one: topsoil depletion, erosion and conversion to desert from tillage for monocultures of annual crops; overgrazing; salinization; sodification; waterlogging; high levels of fossil fuel use; reliance on inorganic fertilisers and synthetic organic pesticides; reductions in genetic diversity by the mass use of monocultures; water resource depletion; pollution of waterbodies by run-off and groundwater contamination; social problems including the decline of family farms and weakening of rural communities.[19]

Extinctions

The extinct Dodo (Raphus cucullatus)

In line with human migration and population growth, species extinctions have progressively increased to a rate unprecedented since the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. Known as the Holocene extinction event this human-induced extinction of species ranks as one of the worlds six mass extinction events. Some scientific estimates indicate that up to half of presently existing species may become extinct by 2100.[20][21]

Loss of biodiversity can be attributed largely to the appropriation of land for agroforestry. Current extinction rate are 100 to 1000 times their prehuman levels with more than 10% birds and mammals threatened, about 8% of plants and 5% of fish and more than 20% of freshwater species.

Biological invasions

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) infesting trees in Atlanta, Georgia

Increasingly efficient global transport has facilitated the spread of organisms across the planet. The most stark examples are human diseases like HIV AIDS, mad cow disease and bird flu but invasive plants and animals are now, after climate change and land clearing, the greatest threat to native biodiversity.[22] Non-indigenous organisms often quickly occupy disturbed land but can also devastate natural areas where, in the absence of their natural predators, they are able to thrive.

Indirect global environmental impacts

Numbers and consumption patterns of people relate directly to environmental impacts

Addressing sustainability now focuses much of its attention on managing levels of consumption and resource impact by seeking, for example, to modify individual lifestyles, and to apply ideas like ethical consumerism, dematerialisation and decarbonisation, while at the same time exploring more environmentally friendly technology and methods through ecodesign and industrial ecology.

At present individual and household use of resources like energy and water is monitored through domestic water and energy bills and car fuel use – but much greater quantities of these resources are embodied in the goods and services we use. In the same way society as a whole tends to consider environmental management in terms of direct impacts rather than their driver - human consumption. Patterns of consumption must reflect the cleverer use of resources: e.g. using renewable energy rather than fossil fuels and fewer embodied resources in goods and services.[23][24]

Production, consumption, technology

Shopping

There is debate about the relationship between natural and human capital - whether we must live off the interest of our natural capital (strong sustainability).[25]) or if it is possible to thrive indefinitely while taking more natural resources, provided total capital remains constant (weak sustainability).[26] Consumerism focuses on the end-product. It tends to stay away from the focus on the production and transportation stage of the goods.

In coming to terms with human consumption sustainability science focuses on four interconected and basic human resource needs - for: water (agriculture, industry, domestic use), energy (industry, transport, tools and appliances), materials (manufacturing, construction) and food (horticulture, agriculture and agribusiness)[11]. Each of these resources are discussed below.

Energy
See also: Energy and Renewable energy

Since the industrial revolution the concentrated energy of the Sun stored in fossilised plants as fossil fuels have been a major driver of technology and the source of both economic and political power.

Flow of CO2 in the global ecosystem

In 2007, after prolonged skepticism about the human contribution to climate change, climate scientists of the IPCC concluded that there was at least a 90% probability that this atmospheric increase in CO2 was human-induced - essentially due to fossil fuel emissions and, to a lesser extent, the CO2 released from changes in land use.

Projections for the coming century indicate that a minimum of 500 ppm can be expected and possibly as much as 1000 ppm. Stabilising the world’s climate will require high income countries to reduce their emissions by 60-90% over 2006 levels by 2050. This should stabilise atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at 450-650 ppm from current levels of about 380 ppm. Above this level and temperatures would probably rise by more than 2 °C (36 °F) to produce “catastrophic” climate change.[27][28] Reduction of current CO2 levels must be achieved against a background of global population increase and developing countries aspiring to energy-intensive high consumption Western lifestyles.[29]

Projecting climate into the future and forecasting regional impacts depends on our understanding of the exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere, oceans and land ecosystems. NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), is charged to provide the atmospheric measurements and analyses required to track the fate of carbon dioxide emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels and biomass, and to reduce uncertainties in how the exchange of carbon responds to the variations and trends of climate and land use.[30]

Water
A freshwater lake in daylight.

Water covers 71% of the Earth's surface. The oceans contain 97.2% of the Earth's water. The Antarctic ice sheet contains 90% of all fresh water on Earth. Condensed atmospheric water, as clouds, contributes to the Earth's albedo.

Awareness of the global importance of preserving water for ecosystem services has only just begun as, during the 20th century, more than half the world’s wetlands have been lost along with their valuable environmental services. Biodiversity-rich freshwater ecosystems are currently declining faster than marine or land ecosystems.[31]

In the decade 1951-60 human water withdrawals were four times greater than the previous decade. This rapid increase resulted from scientific and technological developments impacting through the economy - especially the increase in irrigated land, growth in industrial and power sectors, and intensive dam construction on all continents. This altered the water cycle of rivers and lakes, affected their water quality and therefore potential as a human resource, and altered the global water cycle.[32] Currently towards 35% of human water use is unsustainable, drawing on diminishing aquifers and reducing flows of major rivers.

Over the period 1961 to 2001 there was a doubling of demand and over the same period agricultural use increased by 75%, industrial use by more than 200%, and domestic use more than 400%. Humans currently use 40-50% of the globally available freshwater in the approximate proportion of 70% for agriculture, 22% for industry, and 8% for domestic purposes and the total amount is progressively increasing being about five times that at the beginning of the 20th century.[32]

The path forward appears to lie in improving water use efficiency through: demand management; maximising water resource productivity of agriculture; minimising the water intensity (embodied water) of goods and services; addressing shortages in the non-industrialised world; moving production from areas of low productivity to those with high productivity; and planning for climate change.[31]

Materials

Materials used by humans are still increasing in volume, number, diversity and toxicity. Synthetic chemical production is escalating and global transport systems accelerate distribution across the globe.[33] Much of the sustainability effort is directed at converting the linear path of materials from one of extraction to production and disposal as waste, to a cyclical one that reuses materials indefinitely, much like the waste cycle in nature.

Waste
Household waste

As more materials are transported round the world material flow analysis is becoming widely accepted as an important part of sustainability accounting at the national level. The linear path of products (extraction, manufacture, disposal in rubbish tip) is being converted to a more circular material flow (like that in nature) as the world comes to grips with dematerialization, decarbonisation and zero waste.[33] Industry, business and government are adopting the ideas of industrial metabolism, industrial ecology, ecodesign [34], ecolabelling, product stewardship, and extended producer responsibility. In addition to the well-established “reduce, reuse and recycle” shoppers are using their purchasing power for ethical consumerism.[35]

Food

The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a "sustainable food system"[36][37] as "one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities."[38]

Concerns about the environmental impacts of agribusiness and the stark contrast between the obesity problems of the Western world and the poverty and food insecurity of the developing world have generated a strong movement towards healthy, sustainable eating as a major component of overall ethical consumerism.[39]

The environmental effects of different dietary patterns depend on various factors, including the proportion of animal and plant foods consumed and the method of food production.[40][41][42][43] The World Health Organisation has published a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health which was endorsed by the May 2004 World Health Assembly. It recommends the Mediterranean diet which is associated with health and longevity and is low in meat, rich in fruits and vegetables, low in added sugar and limited salt, and low in saturated fatty acids; the traditional source of fat in the Mediterranean is olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fat. The healthy rice-based Japanese diet is also high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Both diets are low in meat and saturated fats and high in legumes and other vegetables; they are associated with a low incidence of ailments and low environmental impact.

At the local level there are various movements working towards more sustainable use of wastelands, peripheral urban land and domestic gardens. This includes permaculture[44], urban horticulture, local food, slow food, and organic gardening.

Notes

  1. ^ Environmental Scientists and Hydrologists
  2. ^ The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended, 42 USC Sections 4321-4347 (enacted 1970-01-01) from Council on Envrionmental Quality NEPAnet
  3. ^ http://www.footprintstandards.org [1]
  4. ^ "Living Planet Report 2008". 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-19.  Unknown parameter |name= ignored (help)
  5. ^ Daniele Fanelli (2007). "World failing on sustainable development - except Cuba". Retrieved 2008-11-27.  Unknown parameter |name= ignored (help)
  6. ^ Ehrlich, P.R. & Holden, J.P. 1974. Human Population and the global environment. American Scientist 62(3): 282-292.
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ a b [3] Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, see Conceptual Framework
  9. ^ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Board. 2003. Ecosystems and human well-being: a framework for assessment. Island Press, London
  10. ^ Smil, V 2000. Cycles of Life. Scientific American Library, New York.
  11. ^ a b Cross, R. & Spencer, R.D. 2009. Sustainable Gardens. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood. ISBN 978-0-643-09422-2.
  12. ^ [4] Hegerl, G.C. et al. 2007. Climate Change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  13. ^ [5] IPCC. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  14. ^ World Resources Institute 1998. World resources 1998-1999. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  15. ^ United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 2006 Global forest resources assessment 2005: progress towards sustainable forest management. Forestry paper 147. FAO, Rome.
  16. ^ IPCC, 2006. IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse inventories, vol.4, agriculture, forestry, and other land uses. Institute for global environment strategies, Japan.
  17. ^ [6] Food and Agriculture Association
  18. ^ Imhoff, M.L. et al. (2004). Global patterns in human consumption of net primary production. ‘’Nature’’ 429: 870-873.
  19. ^ Tudge, C. 2004. So Shall We Reap. Penguin Books, London.
  20. ^ Wilson, E.O. 2002. The future of life. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45078-5
  21. ^ Leakey, R. & Lewin, R. 1995. The sixth extinction: patterns of life and the future of humankind. Bantam Dell Publishing Group. ISBN 0-385-46809-1
  22. ^ Randall, R.P. 2002. A global compendium of weeds. R.G. & F.J. Richardson, Meredith, Victoria.
  23. ^ Clark, D. 2006. A Rough Guide to Ethical Living. Penguin, London
  24. ^ Brower, M. & Leon, W. 1999. The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices. Three Rivers Press, New York.
  25. ^ Daly H. 1996. Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-4709-0.
  26. ^ Hartwick, John M. 1977. Intergenerational Equity and the Investment of Rents from Exhaustible Resources. American Economic Review 67: 972-74.
  27. ^ [7] IPCC 2007. Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Summary for policymakers
  28. ^ [8] United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
  29. ^ Goodall, C. 2007. How to Live a Low-carbon Life. Earthscan, London.
  30. ^ http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/research/themes/carbon/
  31. ^ a b [9] Hoekstra, A.Y. 2006. The Global Dimension of Water Governance: Nine Reasons for Global Arrangements in Order to Cope with Local Problems. Value of Water Research Report Series No. 20 UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.
  32. ^ a b [10] Shiklamov, I. 1998. World water resources. A new appraisal and assessment for the 21st century. A summary of the monograph World Water Resources prepared in the framework of the International Hydrological Programme.
  33. ^ a b [11] Bournay, E. et al. 2006. Vital waste graphics 2. The Basel Convention, UNEP, GRID-Arendal. ISBN 82 7701 042 7
  34. ^ F­-Luke, A. 2006. The Eco-design Handbook. Thames & Hudson, London. ISBN 978-0-500-28521-3
  35. ^ Brower, M. & Leon, W. 1999. The consumer's guide to effective environmental choices: practical advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Three Rivers Press, New York. ISBN 0 609 80281 X
  36. ^ Feenstra, Gail (2002). "Creating Space for Sustainable Food Systems: Lessons from the Field". Agriculture and Human Values 19 (2): 99–106. doi:10.1023/A:1016095421310. 
  37. ^ Harmon AH, Gerald BL (June 2007). "Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food and Nutrition Professionals Can Implement Practices to Conserve Natural Resources and Support Ecological Sustainabiility" (PDF). J Am Diet Assoc 107 (6): 1033–43. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2007.05.138. PMID 17571455. 
  38. ^ "Toward a Healthy, Sustainable Food System (Policy Number: 200712)". American Public Health Association. 2007-06-11. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  39. ^ Mason, J. & Singer, P. 2006. The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. Random House, London
  40. ^ McMichael AJ, Powles JW, Butler CD, Uauy R (2007 Sep 12). "Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health" (PDF). Lancet 370: 1253. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61256-2. PMID 17868818. 
  41. ^ Baroni L, Cenci L, Tettamanti M, Berati M. (2007 Feb). "Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems" (PDF). Eur J Clin Nutr. 61 (2): 279–86. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602522. PMID 17035955. 
  42. ^ H. Steinfeld, P. Gerber, T. Wassenaar, V. Castel, M. Rosales, C. de Haan, "Livestock's long shadow - Environmental issues and options", 2006, 390 pp.
  43. ^ Heitschmidt RK, Vermeire LT, Grings EE. (2004). "Is rangeland agriculture sustainable?". J Anim Sci. 82 (E-Suppl): E138–146. PMID 15471792. 
  44. ^ [12] Newman, L. 2002, Permaculture: Designing For A Sustainable Future, sustainability case study, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Perth, viewed 15 August 2002


Discussion

This section is look fairly good, we just need to keep it tight and summarise, give the reader a quick glance at how we can measure sustainability and point them in the right direction for more information. Nick carson (talk) 12:16, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Good editing GT. The third section isn't done yet, and might not be for another week or so...
Here are Sunray's comments on an earlier draft--Travelplanner (talk) 09:29, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
In "Responses which improve sustainability" I was taken with your turn of phrase: "providing tools for the management of causes." It would be good to provide an example or two. The ones I find particularly useful are The Natural Step's system conditions of sustainability for larger-scale sustainability initiatives, such as the eco-municipality movement and life cycle assessment for initiatives such as green building. Sunray (talk) 09:12, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
I'm not 100% happy with the references to sustainability accounting. Why can't we reference the indexes, indicators, metrics, etc. It's alot simpler and easier to understand that lumping everything into one "sustainability accounting" umbrealla that I must admit I'd never heard of before (a better name for such an umbrella term would be something like "Sustainability Measurement"). We're all familiar with measurement tools such as "scological footprint", "carbon footprint" the varius EPA standards and measurements, indexes, metrics, indicators, etc. Nick carson (talk) 02:04, 11 December 2008 (UTC)
Nick, OK perhaps best we drop "Sustainability Accounting" for Sustainability Measurement. I'll alter it in Wikipedia too. We could then give this section this title and refer to the major page. I'm not sure what you mean by the rest of your question. One key point that has perhaps not been made clearly is that sustainability can be measured in an almost infinite number of ways. I am at present working on Garden Sustainability by trying to develop a methodology for a universal garden sustainability audit. There are a lot of references in the Sustainability Accounting article and, as you will see there, it is only addressing sustainability metrics at a global level. Is that what you meant? The Ecological Footprint in my experience is a fabulous educational tool but our ecologists are very disparaging about its value otherwise. It is just one of hundreds of methods of measuring human consumption and not a very good one they say. I think it is fine for our purposes but people need alerting to the fact that it is just one of many metrics.Granitethighs (talk) 03:16, 11 December 2008 (UTC)
Lets just be clear on the difference between something like "Measuring Sustainability" and something like "Garden Sustainability". As I've said before, the concept of sustainable gardening should really be part of the "Gardening" article, included as a progression of our understanding of gardening rather than something separate from regular gardening. Nick carson (talk) 11:31, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
If I make some calculation that measures whether my household is sustainable, or another calculation that assesses whether my personal use of water is sustainable within the Melbourne catchment - are you saying that this is not appropriate, in principle, for discussion in this article? In other words do you think everything we discuss should relate to "sustainability of humanity on this planet", in which case the calculations I might do (above) still assist in helping me reach towards the goals of the greater enterprise dont they? If there was some slick way of calculating the sustainability of a city do you think that might, in principle, be appropriate to discuss (even if only in principle and in general terms?) I'm still not quite sure what you mean: do you mean that sustainable garden, sustainable city and sustainable fishing are diferent in principle from sustainable planet (or is it sustainable economy, society, and environment, or sustainable development). Do you see this article on Sustainability as differing from the article on sustainable development - and if so, how - I'm trying to tidy these things up in my own mind? Granitethighs (talk) 04:12, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
This is already in the article, The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment provides the most comprehensive current synthesis of the state of the Earth’s ecosystems. The report refers to natural systems as humanity's life-support system, providing the necessary services for humans to flourish. in the top section. The article is not entitled sustainability and the U.N. thank you. Also an article self created... like Sustainability accounting or measurement which is currently under review as non notable possible neologism... is a basis jumping off point? This is biased non neutral and pov editing toward newly made material of questionable merit... currently. No... I don't think so. Replaced that with Sustainable development which is mainstream and known... and does not lead to an individual editors idea of something. Also trying to inject Sustainability governance... etc... articles of questionable merit which are being examined as possible neologism titles of non notable information, is not appropriate.
Can not see a link citation ref area... here.. so it is pointless to edit this without that. Link/ref citations area should be added immediately to make quality improvements to that area... and to see what leads where. skip sievert (talk) 17:07, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
Sorry GT, I have no problem with 'measuring sustainability', I was just commenting on how aspects of human systems and life in general inevitably must be fundamentally sustainable and that terms such as 'sustainable gardening' really should be made obsolete in favour of making actual gardening sustainable, rather than thinking about sustainable gardening as totally separate subject matter. Nick carson (talk) 05:36, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

The major area of article

It looks like this is going to be the major area of the article. There is some new stuff here and a lot of the old stuff which I have brought over and attempted to integrate... but not all of the old stuff from the other area in the current article. We can pick through it now and chop out dead wood. There is a lot of important info here, so now it is time to scrutinize it... and hopefully not add a lot, except more good citation/notes and break down the current information to as small an amount from where it is as possible while retaining as much of this good information from the present article also.

I would encourage all to make an effort to locate good ref/notes now to add to this area that can be clicked on to navigate to other information, that may be a good way to break the size of the article section down... by referring to something with a ref. citation instead of spelling it out to a large degree. Old ref/notes can be updated/replaced to better information presentation of connected information of sources.

In effect this area of the article above^ could replace the areas in the article presently, replacing including, the section Sustainability and development... downwards and stopping at Sustainability and economics section, which is an altogether different area. skip sievert (talk) 23:52, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

Firstly, I don't think this section will be all that big at all, there are dedicated 'sustainability accounting' articles and such, or we could create a dedicated 'measuring sustainability' article, but the section here just needs to be a summary and synthesis of the various ways in which sustainability, or lack there of, is or can be measured across all aspects of life and human systems.
Secondly, The title of this section really needs to remain as simple and concise as "Measuring Sustainability" to avoid the ambiguity and confusion that arrises from other terms such as; "sustainability accounting" or the bewildering "perspectives on sustainability". This is measuring sustainability, can't get any simpler than that, no need to complicate it :]
We should revert back to the previous version of this section as it seemed to be progressing well. Nick carson (talk) 05:48, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
Nick, I agree with all that you have said here (pause... rare event, I know). I agree that "Measuring sustainability" should be the section heading. It should be tightly focused, IMO and have links to more extensive articles on the subject. I agree that what we had before was a good start. Let's go back to that. Sunray (talk) 07:39, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
Reverting would be counterproductive to including all the good info from the previous article page and also integrating that into what was started here. Why? because there is lots of info to include from the article now that is good. This current edit can be sliced and diced as much as wanted or needed. This would be a good place now to determine what is kept and what is tossed from the main present article from a large section of it... The economics and sustainability and other lower sections being different issues probably to context right now. Given all that it might make sense to rename Sustainability/Measuring sustainability to something like Describing and measuring sustainability. skip sievert (talk) 17:00, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
I wouldn't suggest reverting, rather taking what we want to work with and continuing on. One of Nick's points is that we need to focus on the topic of this section: measuring sustainability. The current version drifts considerably from this theme. Sunray (talk) 19:13, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
One reason I suggested calling the section Describing and measuring sustainability to get away from single focus and include all the good information in the current article... in a way to collate that into the proceedings... which probably is a good idea... reorient the criteria a little. Keep in mind that when the other information was added... the previous information as to links and ideas was included, so nothing was lost from the previous edit, though it may have been edited for focus or clarity.
With a lot of the article information here to look at..including a lot of the better pictures and charts, we can now whittle and add better or more connected ref/notes also. Maybe just calling this area Sustainability perspectives would do the job of description. skip sievert (talk) 19:33, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
I see what you are saying. As far as including "all the good information in the current article," we definitely do want to achieve that. However, not all of this information belongs in the "Measuring sustainability" section. Also, in some cases you changed the direction of the section by changing a heading, or deleting a word or phrase. We have agreed to write a section on measuring sustainability. It is an extremely important aspect of sustainability - in fact, without measurement there is no proof that a given measure is more or less sustainable. We have the expertise amongst the editors here to write a fairly comprehensive overview of this subject. Sunray (talk) 07:41, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
By mischaracterizing things here in things like an edit summary you do no one any favors and repeat previous behavior to no good effect in an edit summary like this. (Removed suggestion by Sunray and apparently retaliatory personal attack by Skipsievert) http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Sustainability/Measuring_sustainability&diff=next&oldid=263261125 If you do not feel able to civilly edit maybe you could take a break and work on other articles for a while (my opinion). I did not make a personal attack... and accusing people of such is considered a personal attack. Please do not remove discussion information from the talk page, or change the appearance or flow of commentary, because you are trying to make a negative commentary on another editor. skip sievert (talk) 17:02, 11 January 2009 (UTC)
I regard statements such as the following, as a personal attack:
  • "Please drop the attitude..."
  • "... spare me the lecture"
  • "... according to your opinion... which is only that.. an opinion."
I removed your post as vexatious. In fact, I had some difficulty seeing what it was you objected to so strongly. The only thing I could see in my post was the statement "I suggest that you let those editors get on with it." I would be happy to restore the full text of your remarks if there is consensus to do so. I believe that disruption of editing through argument and critical personal comments is counter-productive. I try very hard to keep my edits civil. If I have failed, I will accept the consensus of other editors and withdraw from editing here. Sunray (talk) 18:22, 11 January 2009 (UTC)
Suggestion, do not infer personal attacks being made if they are not being made, and do not present things out of context... in order to make a point. skip sievert (talk) 18:41, 11 January 2009 (UTC)
May I reiterate my initial suggestion, as agreed with by a second editor, that we revert back to the previous version, leave the section title as "Measuring Sustainability" and stay focussed on the section. There'll be plenty of time for describing sustainability and the various ways in which it can be applied, in later sections in the article :] Nick carson (talk) 10:46, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
I've restored an earlier version below. Is this the one you meant, Nick? Sunray (talk) 20:13, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Yep, thats the one! Let's get to work. Nick carson (talk) 04:09, 13 January 2009 (UTC)

Earlier version

Measuring Sustainability

- include concepts such as Ecological Footprint and other methods of measuring sustainability

Sustainability (either as total human impact on the environment, or the integrated effect of economic, environmental and social systems on human well-being) can be measured at any level of biological or human organisation, from a garden to the biosphere, from a household to a national economy, from a wetland to a city. an occupation. Measuring the sustainability of human-related systems involves measuring the way in which such systems interact with their surrounding environment. This is usually expressed as:

  • The pressure imposed through human use of natural resources and production of waste
  • The current and past states of the environment
  • The scale and effectiveness of human responses intended to increase sustainability.

Measures of Human pressure on the biosphere environment

Per capita demands on the environment, as measured by the Ecological Footprint generally increase with increasing affluence, but many countries achieve high levels of human development with relatively low resource use.
Main article: sustainability accounting

The ecological footprint is an aggregate measure of the scale of human demands on the natural environment. To provide the resources, and absorb the wastes, of the average global citizen in 2005 required 2.7 global hectares of biologically productive land and sea - this is 30% higher than the 2.1 global hectares of productive land and sea which represent the total capacity of planet Earth to produce resources and absorb wastes (leaving no ecological capacity to support non-human ecosystems).[1] The resulting ecological deficit must be met from unsustainable sources - use of stored resources including fossil fuels, and "mining" natural resources including forests and fisheries at greater than their rate of regeneration.

Yet most of the world's population has an ecological footprint equal to or less than 2.1 global hectares, and nations in this category span a wide range in terms of quality of life.


The aim of Sustainable Develoment is to reduce environmental impact while improving quality of life for those currently disadvantaged. By this definition, only Cuba has achieved sustainable development during the period from 1978 to 2003, and this was due in part to an oil embargo imposed upon them[2]. Elsewhere, the trend over time has in almost all cases been increasing human development, at the cost of increasing ecological footprint.

Comparing the per capita demands of humans on the environment can obscure the important role of population growth. Overall pressure on the environment is a function of population as well as of levels of consumption and the efficiency of resource use.[3]

The State of the Environment

Land for nature - Catalonia
Land for humans - Chicago
Main article: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment provides the most comprehensive current synthesis of the state of the Earth’s ecosystems. The report refers to natural systems as humanity's life-support system, providing the necessary services for humans to flourish.

At a fundamental level human impact on the Earth is being manifest through changes in the global biogeochemical cycles of chemicals that are critical to life, most notably those of water, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.

Human activity is also having a rapidly escalating and potentially critical impact on the biodiversity of ecosystems, reducing their resilience and their capacity to support humans and life in general.[4] [5]

A wealth of information generated by national, regional and city-scale State of the Environment reports generally confirms the global picture that human societies are becoming less sustainable over time.[6]

Increasing Improving sustainability

Sustainability measurement
Supermarket check out.JPG


To date, measures of pressure on the environment show increasing resource use per capita and in total[7], and measures of the state of the environment show accelerating environmental degradation. It follows that current actions to improve sustainability are not yet sufficiently effective, and not applied on a sufficient scale. Nonetheless there are many small-scale examples of positive action towards sustainability. Information on the effectiveness of responses can be valuable, long before positive impacts on the environment as a whole, or reductions in per capita resource use, become apparent.

Monitoring the direct human impacts on the state of the environment and of oceans and freshwater systems, the land and atmosphere represents management at the end of a long series of causal factors (known to ecologists as drivers) that are initiated by human consumption, our demand for food, energy, materials and water [8] (see indirect impacts below).

Many organisations and individuals, and some cities and countries, are achieving measurable progress towards managing

  • Population - include reference to countries with stable and declining populations
  • Food - measurable improvements to the efficiency with which food is produced (could get political!)
  • Water - cities with declining water use per capita
  • Waste - the zero waste movement, cities with growing recycling and declinig disposal rates
  • Energy - reductions in energy intensity and efforts to be carbon neutral
  • Materials - efficiency gains in use of materials

Notes

  1. ^ "Living Planet Report 2008". 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-19.  Unknown parameter |name= ignored (help)
  2. ^ Daniele Fanelli (2007). "World failing on sustainable development - except Cuba". Retrieved 2008-11-27.  Unknown parameter |name= ignored (help)
  3. ^ Ehrlich, P.R. & Holden, J.P. 1974. Human Population and the global environment. American Scientist 62(3): 282-292.
  4. ^ [13] Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, see Conceptual Framework
  5. ^
  6. ^ [14]
  7. ^ "Humanity's footprint 1961-2003". 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  Unknown parameter |name= ignored (help)
  8. ^ Cross, R. & Spencer, R.D. 2009. Sustainable Gardens. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood. ISBN 978-0-643-09422-2.