Talk:Sustainability/Archive 7

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Archive 6 Archive 7 Archive 8


We have arrived at a tricky bit where we need to work carefully together I think. The history section as it stands can be legitimately criticized for its emphasis on SD. I must confess to being not sure how to handle this. One way would be to tackle “Sustainability and sustainable development” head on (using this as the title of a section – or maybe “History of sustainability and sustainable development”). I think a lot of VBs and other people’s concerns are addressed in the current section “Environmental, social and economic cooperation” and it might be possible to juxtapose the history and philosophy of sustainable development against this “alternative”, more environmental, interpretation of the state of affairs. This would also give people a clear point of difference between this article and the one on sustainable development. I would be happy to try and craft this from what is already in the article and put it up on a scratchpad - but I first need to know if you think it is an appropriate way forward.

Some general house-keeping. Sunray thanks for archiving again - all these words in the discussion and so relatively few in the article! I haven’t forgotten your point about re-working the link between History, Definition and Lead in a logical way – and comfortable with you doing that. VB thanks for all those comments on the Definition. They are all good points and we now have them on record for future reference. It is a major difficulty in the Definition section (as elsewhere) trying to cram so many views and ideas into so few words. We have actually covered quite a broad cross-section of the field in the current version I feel although ideally they all really need expanding on like you have done here. A couple of final points about SD. Firstly, I must confess that although I am naturally suspicious of the economic/social aspect of SD the point that protecting the environment and natural resources can only be achieved through a cooperative effort between the three spheres is a strong one. Secondly, correct me if I’m wrong, but the UN sustainable development program was, at face value, an international attempt to recognize the dilemma of an impoverished and poverty-stricken developing world that wanted something better. It was designed to help undeveloped countries “develop”, but in an environmentally sustainable way (i.e. not necessarily follow the socio-economic model of the West). That might be a rather “rosy” interpretation, but what I am suggesting is that we cannot completely dismiss SD out of hand, it is not necessarily a “business as usual, carve up the land, rampant capitalism” philosophy– I think it has to be a part of our story and an aspect of NPOV. Granitethighs (talk) 23:41, 31 August 2008 (UTC)

Given your comments, above, I would be happy if you took the lead on this and flashed it up on scratchpad. Extricating the section from an SD focus is, indeed, important. However, your point about not throwing out the SD baby is also valid. There is no doubt in my mind that we are better off with sustainable development trends (green building standards are a great example). The challenge is great, and every SD step forward is commendable. Sunray (talk) 08:57, 1 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with you both that SD must be shown to play a role in the history story; after all, that is how the history happened. However, to go as far as "history of sustainability and SD" is going too far. Our effort must be to keep this article about sustainability. If it cannot be done in the history section, that it can legitimately be asked if sustainability is a stand-on-its-own-feet kind of concept.
As for the developing world, last I looked there was very little enthusiasm among those countries for SD. It makes them feel gypped (yet again), after all those decades of developed countries assuring them they are on the way to... "us." V.B. (talk) 14:24, 1 September 2008 (UTC)
Yeah, I missed that point about the title of the section. My take is similar to V.B.'s that we need to focus on the history of sustainability. Sunray (talk) 15:15, 1 September 2008 (UTC)

Moving on again

V.B. comments in red:
GT comments in green
S's comments in blue

OK, would it help if we abandon talk of environmental, social and economic cooperation other than as a brief mention, and that we similarly pare down mention of “pillars” and international programs? well, this is what I had in mind for the Organizing Principles bit. There are the Circles of sustainability (Venn diagram or concentric), the Pyramid of sustainability, the Egg of well-being... Briefly mentioning them and linking to the SD article seems appropriate. I have made an attempt at this but am not sure if it works (see scratchpad below). Before you get stuck into that effort … as usual I have a few points for your thought and comment:

  • In spite of the many “meanings” of sustainability we have, at the end of the definition, given readers a set of points to focus on, a kind of “vision” for “global sustainability”. IMO this “vision” is very important because without it we cannot crawl out of the semantic and philosophical soup of arguing about exactly what it is we are talking about. However, the problem with this approach, as I see it, is that I don't find this "vision" one bit inspiring... if you have somewhere points that focus on sustainability, not SD, and are hopefully more compact, let's consider them At this point, I guess by "sustainability" we are inferring "biological sustainability" - or what you referred to as the "one and only pillar" or words to that effect. My question to you is ... what would be your sustainability "vision"?(dot points would be fine) Argh. My dot points begin: let's stop behaving like utter idiots. I am an idealist, I am afraid. But to be more down to earth and inoffensive, Robert's systems points make sense: "In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing:
  1. concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust
  2. concentrations of substances produced by society
  3. degradation by physical means
  4. people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs" 

This is doable, down to earth stuff, yet challenging enough. Perhaps it could be reframed as positives. Well, given that Robert's system conditions are scientifically based criteria for sustainability (one of the very few out there), I wouldn't tamper with them.

1. people might think that the points at the end of the definition are an irredeemable distortion of what sustainability is really all about, or that indeed... "manage economic growth to be less resource intensive and less polluting" -- now you know me well enough by now to know that this sentence is as good as trying to choke me with a spoon, right?OK, sorry, yes, I'll remove the spoon and insert a crow bar (alright only joking). How about if we remove the terrible economic growth bit and substitute "manage consumption to be less resource intensive", or somesuch. The point itself is good - much of our environmental impact is simply the resources needed for the goods, services and especially food that we consume. Well, look, the whole section basically shouts "God forbid we should do anything radical! and smells of vague bureaucratic jargon. Just like most stuff put out by the SD crowd. Let's not confuse "politically acceptable" and "sustainable". Hummm, seems like we are getting down to brass tacks. Ultimately, sustainability doesn't mean becoming "less resource intensive and less polluting." It means following Robert's criteria. The phrase we should probably be using is "becoming more sustainable.

2. Much of the thrust of these points has come out of the discussion of sustainable development. My own view is that the points are very good, and I do not think they need to be associated with SD – I am just pointing out that as a matter of fact I think this is where some of them originated. and the section says so in no uncertain terms! V.B. (talk) 15:42, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

On a separate issue. The nearest to a consensus “outline” for the part of the article after the “history” section is the following.
  • History
  • Definition, organizing principles
  • Obstacles to sustainability
  • Sustainable development?
  • Action, achievements (by sector)
  • Measuring sustainability
  • Global consensus
  • Transition to sustainability

I would like to propose an outline that is like the one above but closer to the article as it stands. Let me explain. I agree with VB that a major thrust of sustainability is simply “protection of life on Earth” (often, for better or worse, referred to in the literature as ecosystem services), this is VBs “one pillar”. The question is – how do we actually achieve this protection of human and other living systems? Here is my proposal (for the article). We do this in two major ways: firstly, by managing direct human impact on the environment, in other words, we minimize human impacts on the biophysics of oceans (and water bodies), atmosphere, and land. For this reason I think these headings are both important and basic. For each heading (oceans, atmosphere and land) we can indicate the problems we have inherited and ways of addressing these problems. But then, these direct impacts on land, sea and air are the result of a long chain of human demands – essentially they are the result of the demands of human consumption in its various forms. My own view is that these demands of consumption (which threaten life on Earth) boil down to four basic human demands – for food, energy, water and materials (these are also suggested headings). These are not clear-cut categories and there are many other ways of classifying these demands (it can be done by looking at the environmental impacts of the full range of different “levels” of the consumption chain, starting with economic sectors, leading to specific products, then individual behavior such as lifestyle and purchasing patterns – my concern is that by confining ourselves to economic sectors – agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transport and so on, we are cutting out these other factors I’ve mentioned). The four categories I chose are interrelated, but they are simple categories that everyone can understand and they can include discussion of all levels of the consumption chain mentioned above. Part of the sustainability “vision” is therefore to manage human use of these four items much, much more sustainably at all levels of the chain of consumption. A major additional part of the consumption equation includes the impact of population numbers and technology – I don’t think these critical elements can be left out (and because of the potential for environmental consequences we cannot ignore global security, human migrations, urbanization and more – this, to me, all these other bits and pieces is what makes sustainability complex). I have mentioned all this at great length so that you know where I am coming from and why I did what I did. What do you reckon?

I am a bit uncertain about starting off with “barriers” and would rather be positive as long as possible so would put it nearer the end. Perhaps we can re-visit the outline after we have got over this latest bit but this would be more along my preferred lines, for the reasons given.
Sustainable development
Sustainability science
Definition, organizing principles
??Sustainable development?
  • Managing ? Environmental sustainability
Human impact on the biosphere
Managing human impact
Direct impacts
Indirect impacts
Production, consumption, technology
Measuring sustainability
Global consensus
Obstacles to sustainability
Transition to sustainability

The economic sectors below can be sunk into these headings along with discussion of the other levels of the consumption chain. (Agriculture,Building,Energy,Transport,Waste)

To get on with the business at hand – here is the scratchpad, I’m not sure if it really works – perhaps it can be reorganized better, citations added better, or subheadinggs included. Anyway it is designed to get rid of all those rather controversial early sections. I have run out of time.

I have reformatted the outline for easier viewing. Hope that is ok with you. That's great. I am not sure about all the other bits and pieces that I think need a mention, and possibly a heading, like globalization, population, species extinction, feral plants and animals, urbanization and other things yes, and maybe we ought to just cross that bridge when we come to it, we can tweak the outline as we write that were in the current version. All have a major bearing on human (and biological) sustainabilityI agree with all the points you are making in the section on the outline. I would skip the word "managing" in "managing environmental sustainability": the ecosystem knows quite well how to "manage" itself for sustainability whereas we do not, what we need to do more than anything is to back off. I would add Biodiversity.of theseI am curious why you term some of these impacts direct and indirect? Looks good. Good points, I agree with both. We can add biodiversity - I suppose the reason I left it out is that the whole "thing" is addressing biodiversity, but if that has not come across clearly then it does need a separate mention. I've had another look at "managing" the environment. I agree exactly that the environment can manage itself - it is a poor us of words here - but the sections following are about "management" generally. I know. And that is a particular POV that should not be entirely privileged. What about "Managing human impact on the environment"? On the "direct/indirect" thing. If you feel the "direct" and "indirect" intrudes we can get rid of them. The idea is this: IMO people (in general) view environmental impacts in simple terms - loggers cutting down forests, industries polluting waterways and so on. These are direct impacts on nature that cause species extinctions and obvious physical and biological damage and we all believe that this is nothing to do with us. What is easily ignored is that when I eat a steak or buy a T-shirt, this too has an environmental cost. It is a "hidden" or "indirect" cost because we do not see the water, energy and other resources that must be taken from the environment to yield these products. The environmental impact of this simple human consumption is a major factor that we need to come to terms with. We all consume and we all consume nature. The impacts on nature are "indirect" because we do not see them and most people are unaware of them. I think this point is worth drawing out but it needn't be in terms of "direct" and "indirect" if you dont like that. It just seemed a convenient way of expressing this. No, leave it, it makes perfect sense.
I am actually changing my mind re one pillar; since we are really talking about human sustainability here, the humans are the other pillar. As long as the diagram shows humans inside the ecosystem. After all, the ecosystem can sustain itself quite well without humans, but humans cannot sustain themselves without the ecosystem. V.B. (talk) 16:24, 2 September 2008 (UTC) I agree about diagrams - could we, at a later stage, decide on which pics and diagrams are put in, added, and left out, and what their captions should be. The Venn diagram could probably be omitted - I agree with everything you say about it Sounds good. Have you taken a peek yet at my proposal for the Definition section (way up above)? Would appreciate feedback. I have now added comments to your definition notes above which might help Sunray when he bashes away at an edit Where? I am starting to get lost here.


Further information: Environmentalism and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Beginning with the environmental movement of the 1960s, heralded by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962), there has been an increasing awareness that human use of the Earth is approaching a range of environmental and resource limits and that this trend, rather than diminishing, is escalating at an alarming rate.[5][6][4] International concern over global environmental sustainability, strongly linked to health and poverty issues in the developing world, has resulted in the United Nations sustainable development programs. This has not always been supported by the environmental movement.

During the 1970s, while the developed world was considering the effects of the global population explosion, pollution and consumerism, the developing countries, faced with continued poverty and deprivation, regarded development as essential - to meet their need for the necessities of food, clean water and shelter. The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment held in Stockholm was the UN's first major conference on international environmental issues and marked the beginning of global cooperation in developing environmental policies and strategies. In 1980 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature published its influential World Conservation Strategy,[note 1] followed in 1982 by its World Charter for Nature,[7] which drew attention to the decline of the world's ecosystems. Confronted with the differing priorities of the developed and developing world, the United Nation's World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) worked for two years to try and resolve the apparent conflict between the environment and development. The Commission concluded that the approach to development must change: it must become sustainable development. Development, in the Commission's view needed to be directed to meeting the needs of the poor in a way that no longer caused environmental problems, but rather helped to solve them or, in the words of the Commission in 1987:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. [8][9]

In the same year the Commission's influential book report Our Common Future was published. The 1992 UN Environmental Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil produced the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development Earth Summit (1992) with an action agenda, Agenda 21, overseen by the Commission on Sustainable Development[note 2]. At Rio negotiations also began for an international agreement on climate change (which eventually lead to the Kyoto Protocol); agreements on forestry were forged and the Convention on Biological Diversity was initiated. By the time of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit 2002), held in Johannesburg, delegates included representatives from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and thousands of local governments reporting on how they had implemented Local Agenda 21 and the Cities for Climate Protection program.[10] A broad-based consensus had been reached on what was to be done. This Summit, building on the 2000 United Nations Millennium Declaration, produced eight Millennium Development Goals for 2015 (adopted by 189 countries) and established the "WEHAB" targets for water, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity.[11]

The 2005 World Summit on sustainable development in New York declared that, to be effective, action on sustainability must involve cooperation across three sustainability "pillars": environment, society and economy. [note 4] Although it is critical that there is cooperation between the three pillars, in practice this often entails negotiation between competing interests.

The path of international sustainable development has never been smooth; it has many detractors. It treads the difficult path between opulent western consumer societies and the abject poverty of the undeveloped world; between economic demands for local and global growth and environmental demands for biological and resource conservation; closely linked to these concerns are social factors that impact on environmental sustainability, such as global security, international migration, population control and a whole range of environmental legislation from the Convention of Biodiversity to the agreements on forestry, climate change, desertification, etc. and much more.

Environmentalist disenchantment with some aspects of the global sustainability agenda can be attributed to the view that the environmental, social, and economic pillars (where this distinction is accepted) cannot strictly be treated as equal. The notion of sustainable development is sometimes resisted because many regard it as an oxymoron - that development is inevitably carried out at the expense of the environment.[15] Environmentalists emphasize the global environment as the ecological and material basis of human existence that is being progressively degraded. If we were to live in acknowledgement of this fact then economies should address the goals of the societies they serve, and these societies, in turn, should recognise their dependence on natural resources.[16] However, this ranking is often observed in reverse order. By placing such strong emphasis on economic growth as a core human value, and investing such little effort in protecting the biosphere, we are setting ourselves on a trajectory of self destruction.[17] One consequence of this discussion is that for many people sustainability means simply environmental sustainability - the reduction of human impact on the Earth's resources and environmental services to a sustainable level - without full consideration of the social and economic dimensions needed to achieve this.

The discipline of sustainability science has relatively recently emerged as the academic study that examines and underpins the “broad, inclusive, and contradictory currents that humankind will need to navigate toward a just and sustainable future”[18]; sustainability governance[19] [20] as the process of implementation of sustainability strategies; and sustainability accounting,[21] [22] as the evidence-based quantitative information used to guide governance by providing benchmarks and measuring progress. Very nice!, just some tweaks added. Sunray.

  • We can probably remove the "Main article: sustainable development" heading from the definition. Yes please, can't wait. Good by me.
  • The references have gone all funny.

Granitethighs (talk) 01:16, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

I am starting to sound like a barrel organ... :-( Can we have more sustainability in this history? The paragraph beginning with "Environmentalist disenchantment" should perhaps go to the section on "Sustainable development?", which is meant for critique. Leaving out Limits to Growth? How about mentioning sustainable European forestry which goes back 200-300 years? I could write the very early history, just a paragraph, if you want. That would work well, I think. Should it not include what people have been doing, organic ag for example really took off in the 80s... and other initiatives that had nothing to do with agencies and built on the efforts of regular folks trying to live differently. I would be a bit careful here. Organic ag, despite great leaps forward was still a very small percentage of the total food supply in North America. That is beginning to change now with corporations jumping on the organic food bandwagon. One wonders, though, just how sustainable it is.
You know what is starting to bother me as I plow thru the literature? There is much genuflecting about helping the poor folks thru SD, but haven't people noticed that in many cases it's development that got them destitute? Which leads to the whole difference between poverty and simple sustainable living which used to be the rule around the world ... prior to so called development. (We should also mention Schumacher and appropriate tech and why it failed. A useful lesson.) V.B.

Biting the bullet again

The bottom line guys is the "History" scratchpad and what we are all prepared to accept. As it stands there hasn't been a single "scratch" made. I'm not sure if that is good or bad? Perhaps I can ask some specific questions.

  • The latest offering was intended to encompass all the current section up to the bit on the environment - i.e. it subsumed the former three pillars, the international movement, sustainable development and so on all under the heading "History".
  • Do you want subheadings?
  • Do you want to re-order it, alter etc. - i.e. should the environmental disenchantment be put somewhere else and if so where?
  • I like the idea of sustainable European forestry but not the space it will take. It does raise the question of "sustainable societies, communities and activities" and whether they should be dealt with and in what detail - sustainable nomadic hunter-gatherers, Australian tribal Aboriginals, the permaculture movement, and as you have said, eco-villages and the like. IMO we direct people to articles elsewhere on all these things. I am still smarting from the article being called "bloated" and the fact that we havent even put "population" in our list of headings for the article ... it is so difficult sieving out what is a critical item and reducing it to a sentence or two.

So ... should I put it up now? If not, what precise changes do you want to make? Next week I will be on holiday and mostly away from computers. That will be for a full 5-6 weeks. I will only be able to have minimal input so you guys can do whatever you like! Obviously from my point of view the more we can get through between now and next monday lunchtime (Aussie time) the better.

Granitethighs (talk) 06:36, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

Well harumph, just because I didn't scratch it up much...
As I said, above, I like it. Headings might be nice. I don't think it needs re-ordering or drastic altering. My blue scratchings are basically just tweaks. Otherwise, I wouldn't alter it. Sunray (talk) 06:55, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
I have put up History but it took ages as I had to replace all the references etc. It needs wikifying and - also needs re-reading by everyone as the transfer did not go smoothly. You may still have comments to make and incorporate. I will work on the wiki bit soon. Once this is settled we can go a bit at a time.

Granitethighs (talk) 12:53, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

I am ok with this for the time being; I have not really had the resources to do any History additions. I will present a paragraph re early history when I get the materials. Just something "in a nutshell." I agree with Sunray that some of the stuff may be just too iffy to include. But the movement for deep ecology should I think be mentioned. Anyways, we can keep working on it as we go. Good for now. Heh, sorry about the "bloat." I still think the article needs to be tighter. I don't know if it's possible. We'll see. V.B. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:01, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

Sustainable development?

I have conceived of this section not as a detailed criticism of the SD concept. I think that is properly the task of the SD article. What I am aiming for here is give people a sense of the basic underlying contradictions, and the attempt to resolve them. Please hack away, this is just a simple beginning.

The conceptionProponents of sustainable development have been trying to reconcile the urgent needs of effective environmental protection and conservation of resources with economic development. While the concept has been politically very successful at bringing sustainability into the mainstream, both in developed and developing countries, it remains profoundly controversial.[citation needed]
The skeptics have pointed out that infinite economic growth is impossible on a finite planet, and that Earth’s limits also define the limits of all material-based activities. Some contend that the term itself is an self-contradictory oxymoron, creating the impression that humans can "have their cake and eat it too."[citation needed] In reality, sustainable development has meanttended to mean nothing more than ecologically more sensitive growth—a slightly reformed status quo. Rebuttals involve, on one hand, the claims of expanding carrying capacity through human ingenuity, and on the other hand, a different conception of development.[citation needed]
(redone, V.B.) Some of the supporters advocates of sustainable development have presented the argumentargued that sustainable development can beit is best understood as qualitative increaseimprovement. In that case, development means “better” rather than “more” and an emphasis on quality of life, rather than material living standards. They call for better, not faster, lives and for multiplication of a focus on values, not things. These advocates of a new paradigm urge a movement away from the dogma that the only wealth is material wealth, with the resulting development being recognized formally by an improvement in the quality of life indicators.[citation needed]

You changed the voice rather nicely. Did you find any cites? Sunray (talk) 00:45, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

I did find cites. I will put it up, see what you think. V.B. (talk) 20:31, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
VB I like what you have done but have taken the liberty of trying to reduce down what you have said - simply because of space issues. The following too is an offering to bash at, as an abbreviation of your work (hack away as you might think it has not done justice to what you were saying).
I am not convinced that we need a separate heading for sustainable development - my preference would be to include this material in the previous sustainable development subheading.

I would prefer for the History section to focus on history. The section is already longish, and will grow as we improve it over time.

Granitethighs (talk) 23:45, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
Sustainable development attempts to reconcile the competing interests of economic development, resource conservation, and environmental protection. This has proved politically successful by bringing sustainability into the mainstream, both in developed and developing countries. However, it remains controversial, being viewed by some as promoting a slightly more environmentally sensitive status quo.[23] However, some advocates of sustainable development emphasize improvement of quality of life, rather than material living standards. [26] Granitethighs (talk) 23:59, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Unfortunately, this obscures the message I am trying to convey. There is a real problem with SD as conventionally formulated; a problem deep within the concept. I want to make it very clear while being fair to the concept itself. V.B.

Fair enough - and I take your point about history too. But I must make the point that if we have a separate section on sustainable development then IMO it needs to be a kind of extremely brief "overview". There is all the stuff about the three (or more) pillars and much, much more in a "descriptive" sense. I am not sure that an adversarial i.e. "for" and "against" entry helps coming immediately under this heading. Dont get me wrong, I really am with you in spirit - I realize there is plenty of descriptive stuff in the SD article itself and I am not suggesting that what you have written should not be included - but it probably needs to be "broken in" in some way. To use an analogy similar to an earlier analogy you made, it is a bit like starting off an article on Christianity by pointing out the benefits and arguments for atheism. There is a place for these arguments - but I think that like this there is a danger that the desire to "win over the audience" can end up diminishing the article as an encyclopaedia account. That having been said - it does need to fit in somehow.

Granitethighs (talk) 03:46, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

I don't think we need an overview of SD. SD is ebedded in and has so far taken over the History section, anyone curious has plenty of links. But since SD has come to live in this article (much more than I would have preferred) I think it's fair to briefly point out the deep and basic contradictions in it. Your analogy does not hold. It's more like writing an article on Christianity, and giving the Gnostics a voice, briefly. They played a large role then in Christianity, but viewed things radically differently from the mainstream. I know that the Catholic Encyclopedia would prefer to keep them silenced, but then, this is Wikipedia. :-) Thank goodness. Wikipedia is a place for all (more or less prominent) voices to be heard. How is the entry adversarial? It presents two ways of looking at SD, neither rejecting it or ridiculing it. If you feel you can improve the conventional SD paragraph to make a better case for it, I am all ears. -- I am not trying to win over the audience. I am trying to prevent this article from becoming an uncritical grandstand for SD!

As for where to put it... I am not sure yet myself. Will remark more on the fit later. V.B. (talk) 18:09, 5 September 2008 (UTC)
Supporters have presented the argument that development can be understood as qualitative increase. In that case, development means “better” rather than “more.” The quality of life, not material living standard, should be our goal. We ought to live better, not faster, and multiply values, not things. If we are able to move away from the dogma that the only wealth is material wealth, then we can speak of development if we see an improvement in the indicators of quality of life. V.B. (talk) 15:14, 3 September 2008 (UTC) The first two paragraphs are good. However, the last one sounds like an essay, exhorting us to "pick up the sustainability spear." It needs to be written in more encyclopedic language. It also needs citations. Sunray (talk) 18:55, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
I like the changes. Sunray, can you point me to a resource that explains "encyclopedic language"? You've mentioned it before, and I am floundering, not sure what is the crux of the difference. Thanks. V.B. (talk) 21:45, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
Interesting question. Consider the following formulations:
  • "... should be out goal.
  • "We ought to live better...
  • "If we are able to move away...
These are normative statements. They are written in essay style — as though the writer is exhorting people to follow this path to sustainability. The statements are qualified by the word "supporters," at the beginning of the paragraph, but the reader soon forgets that this is the argument of the supporters. It sounds like Wikipedia is making this case.
Best way to deal with this, I've found, is to look for sources to verify each of the statements. If the source says it you can quote or summarize it. Policy guidance is found in WP's three core content policies: WP:VER, WP:NOR and WP:NPOV. As WP:VER states: "Jointly, these policies determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Wikipedia articles." Sunray (talk) 22:45, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
Thank you for the clarity. Will redo the last paragraph. V.B. (talk) 23:21, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
Done, see above. (talk) 00:09, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Impacts subsection

Looking at the Impacts subsection of the current article, I am wondering if we have the right conceptualization here. The intro to the section says that it will look at the ways to manage various impacts, but it does not. For example, if you look at Freshwater, it's all (100%) about the damage that is being caused, and there is zero information how all these various problems may perhaps be managed. As I had said, I don't agree with the managerial POV as the sole approach, but even if it were, this still would not work.

It seems to me that the problems of Freshwater should be subsumed under that article, or perhaps under Water Crisis, and this article ought to focus on sustainable approaches to the freshwater problems. After all, many sources have lists of what is wrong. The key to sustainability is, how do we do it right? -- What do you think? V.B. (talk) 23:31, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

VB I think you are absolutely right. And there will be other sections like this as well. I like the headings but the content under each will probably need tweaking as you suggest - but without blowing it all out. Just a few sentences at most. I will think about the freshwater and try to come up with something better. I definitely agree that emphasis should be on "what we can do" but maybe a little on the problem. I am still amazed, but there are a still people who need convincing that there is any problem at all and, if there is no problem, then there is no need to fix it. But definitely emphasis on what is to be done.

Granitethighs (talk) 00:37, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Umm... do you both think that the Sustainability article's job is to convince people there is a problem? V.B. (talk) 02:22, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
My point is that if there is no perceived/stated/understood problem then "fixing" it doesn't make sense. But I agree entirely that any statement of problems should be minimal.

Granitethighs (talk) 02:35, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

No I don't. We cannot advocate a particular point of view (the essay thing, right). Our job is to illuminate the subject. I'm here because I think it is a subject that needs illuminating (as I think is true of you both, as well). The need to convince people of a problem is one POV. The idea that there is no problem, technology (etc.) will save us, is another. The idea that we are already past the tipping point and are done for is another. In between there are various other positions - some strongly held. We need to portray them all with appropriate weight to the major points of view. [Sorry, someone put that soapbox there and next I knew, I was on it]. Sunray (talk) 02:39, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Wish list

Thanks for the work with the references and the wikifying – looks a lot better for it, it is really taking shape. I have made a few very minor tweaks; altered 2-3 words (without altering the sense); and made slight formatting changes which you can change back if you like. I think we are now on the home stretch. My input is probably needed less now and, as I have pointed out, it will depend on my access to computers over the next 5-6 weeks (after next Monday). At this stage I will just bequeath a combined “wish list” and “suggestions” list for you and thank you for the many challenging and exciting hours we've spent bashing away together on such an important issue - I still have a few days to help:

  • To me the length now seems about right. Perhaps we could add bit(s) if we are desperate.
You may be right. We will know when we get to the bottom of it.
  • I am easy with any general formatting that fits in best with Wikipedia procedure and conventions
  • I am happy for you to go through each heading and make additions and deletions as necessary in relation to “where we are”, and “what we can do” for each. The temptation will be to add more and more (I feel this must be largely resisted - I think better to direct people to other articles).
  • I like the biogeochemical cycles stuff because it actually summarizes much of the story of the biosphere and humans – my vote would be to leave it in. I like them too. Can we add phosphorus? It's been in the news lately.
  • Sunray there was the issue of making sure the lead, history and definition all integrate well.
I've started to do this. Not altogether happy with it yet. Though I do think that definition generally seems better right after the lead.I am ok with that now.
  • In the History section I put in the headings “Sustainable development”, “Sustainability” and “Sustainability science”. Each of these separate headings is both dear to, and important for, a large number of people so I think they do warrant individual mention. I completely disagree. The headings, if any, ought to be relevant to history, not advertise POVs. In addition, the article on SD is not the Main article for the History of sustainability. However, I had a note in the original “rewrite” to the effect that the distinction between them was not (and probably cannot be) clear. While that is accurate, it can hardly be denied that there are vested interests for whom the continued fuzziness is desired, and who prefer not to have to deal with the simple and radical concept of meaningful sustainability. I hardly think it appropriate that we should support that take here. It would be nice to have that, or words like it, put back in an appropriate place.
I agree.
Maybe. Where? The distinction is not clear in the mainstream at the moment. You go too far saying it cannot be clear, or that all are unclear.
  • The section on Sustainability in the History section probably stands OK but IMO it could perhaps be a tad stronger on what it is “for” and a tad weaker on what it is “against” – but only a well-chosen sentence or two. VB perhaps here is where, in the interests of NPOV a strong clear sentence on the sustainability “vision” would be good to contrast to the uninspiring sustainable development-like “vision” that you perceive in the dot points given in the Definition section.
I will take a look at this.
  • My own view is that the economic and social influences on sustainability need a mention but so far they have been mostly left out of our outline. Perhaps what is currently there could go under different headings like “Economics and sustainability”, “Society and sustainability” or something like that. We can forget the “pillars” idea altogether but what is mentioned currently in the article seems to me to be integral to sustainability.
Yes, good point.Why not a section of Society and Economics? Would keep it compact. On the other hand... looking over the outline, it seems that any of those "impacts" and their solutions cannot be discussed without reference to social/economic issues. Maybe we ought to keep it integrated.
  • Please edit out the long rows of links at the top of the sections (the link farms). However, my intention was to lead people to wikipedia’s great resources on each topic and I think that intention was a good one. We just need to find another way (embedded links, “See also” and “template” I guess).
Perhaps we should conceive of it as a hierarchical structure. As someone goes deeper, they get new links - the rewards of continuous learning!
  • I see a lively discussion has started on the discussion page of the “sustainability template” at the bottom of the page – over whether it is too big, too small, or should be subdivided. My own view is that it is fine even up to half as big again provided that it is collapsed when generally viewed. But of course consensus and general wiki-procedure will decide this.
  • The “See also” section has the potential to blow out hugely. I think it needs to be clear what kind of links go into “See also” and what goes into the “Sustainability template”. Perhaps the “See also” section could be broken up into topics. Anyway – it all needs rationalizing and I’ll leave that in your capable hands.
You'll be back someday, right?
  • The “additional reading” section is what developed with the old article over time. I think it needs heavy culling so that it only includes “major” contributions to the subject, easily accessible popular books and the like. Anyway, again, I leave that up to you and there may be WP conventions about what to do anyway.
I think you might be better qualified to do this than me.
  • Keep, add and subtract illustrations and their captions as you see fit. I am not very keen on captions that make suggestions or homely observations to readers – its not very encyclopaedia-like. Up to you though.
  • I dont know what to do about the external links section but it probably needs improvement.

Granitethighs (talk) 00:25, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

We will miss your energy. I suspect there will always be more for you to do, though. :-) Sunray (talk) 00:59, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Scratchpad 1

The introduction to our remaining outline list of basic topics is a bit tricky conceptually. I have tried to make what is coming up clearer so have changed the words a bit. See what you think. I have also altered the headings to fit better. Please put in citation notes where you are happy with the English but think a reference is needed.

Human impact on the biosphere

I am not seeing this in the outline. Where is this supposed to go?

Main articles: biodiversity, ecosystem services, conservation biology, environmental sustainability, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and Living Planet Report 2006 , Convention on Biological Diversity, World Conservation Monitoring Centre, lists of environmental topics, conservation biology, list of global sustainability statistics, list of environmental agreements.

Land for nature - Catalonia
Land for humans - Chicago

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment provides the most comprehensive current synthesis of the state of the Earth’s ecosystems. Natural systems (often referred to as ecosystem services) are humanity's biological life-support system, providing the necessary conditions for humans to flourish. of the planet and 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. [1] [2]

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 and nitrogen. There is now clear scientific evidence that human activity is having a significant effect on all of these cycles.[3]

==Safeguarding the biosphere====Managing human impacts on the biosphere== ===Direct global environmental impacts=== There are two major ways of managingalleviating human impact on the planet. The first is to monitor and manage what does "manage" actually mean here? direct human impacts on the oceans and freshwater systems, the land and atmosphere (see direct impacts below). This kind of management ditto is based on information gained from environmental science and conservation biology.[1] However, it 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 gave rise to the impacts based more on effects (results) rather than causes (drivers). The main driver of direct impacts on land, sea and air is the human demand for food, energy, materials and water [4] (see indirect impacts below). It is management of consumer demand for these basic resources that is now a major study area for sustainability science which monitors resource use through the chain of human consumption starting with the effects of lifestyle choices and individual and collective spending patterns, through to the resources used in producing specific goods and services, the demands of economic sectors - and even national economies. This is pre-emptive "start-of-pipe" management of causes (demand), rather than reactive "end-of-pipe" management of the effects of this demand. Sustainability governance can be implemented at all levels of human and biological organization, from local to global.

Is there an analogy that fits living systems? It seems jarring to refer to the biosphere as a pipe. Maybe, hey, if we did not think of it as a pipe, we'd have quit digging ourselves deeper long time ago? ;-)

Direct global environmental impacts

....this goes on directly to the atmosphere.....

Unused links: biodiversity, environmental sustainability, Convention on Biological Diversity, lists of environmental topics, list of global sustainability statistics, list of environmental agreements,World Conservation Monitoring Centre

Granitethighs (talk) 05:41, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Not bad. I don't believe in management anymore. Humans seem to do well when there is some sort of crisis or great challenge. Talk of managing human impact doesn't cut it for me (that's just my POV, though). So um, well, yes, it needs to be said and you have said it well. Note that links that are contained in the text are not duplicated at the top of the seciton (e.g., Millennium Ecosystem Assessment). That only leaves Living Planet Report. which could also be worked into the text. or dropped). Reason I would suggest that is because it is not a "main article." Sunray (talk) 06:10, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
I'm a management cynic too. However, I suppose doing anything in response to something else could almost be called management nowadays. I just dont know what to call a considered human response to the plight of the planet other than management. If you can find a way round it we'll have a drink on it.
Yes, lets drop the Living Planet (so to speak)

Granitethighs (talk) 07:11, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

I consulted my trusty thesaurus. I think it is a bad idea to encourage the thinking that we can manage (control, command, be in charge) the biosphere. That kind of thinking is what got us in trouble in the first place. Here are a number of near-synonyms: support, look after, champion, safeguard, stewardship, care-taking, protect. Stewardship is pretty well accepted out there; safeguarding would work well too. Some of the other terms may come in handy as well for variety's sake. V.B.

Scratchpad 2

I have moved second para to the top, tweaked the English, and am still working on "management" in line with our intention to focus more on what must be done and less on the problems. I'm not sure what to do with unused links but for the time being am accumulating them at the bottom of the sections.


Main topics: Earth’s atmosphere, climate change, acid rain, ozone depletion, air pollution, indoor air pollution, decarbonisation.

Use of the atmosphere
Top of the atmosphere

The Earth's atmosphere not only provides the medium that we breathe but also plays a vital role in climate and weather control, cloud formation and major weather events. Damage to the Earth's protective stratospheric ozone layer through the use of chlorofluorocarbons appears to now be under control as ozone depletion has been controlled through successful international environmental governance.[citation]

The most obvious human impact on the atmosphere is the air pollution of the air 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.[5] [6] 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). Damage to the Earth's protective stratospheric ozone layer through the use of chlorofluorocarbons appears to now be under control as ozone depletion has been controlled through successful international environmental governance.[citation]

Unused links: Earth’s atmosphere, indoor air pollution, decarbonisation. Granitethighs (talk) 10:14, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

The first sentence seems a bit off topic to me. The second seems better at the end of the second para - ending on a positive note. The first unused link doesn't seem to add much. The other two could be "Further information." Sunray (talk) 07:47, 5 September 2008 (UTC)
I keep wondering about these sections... it seems so ho-hum right now. It should show another path ahead, should it not? Here is an idea I am playing with... how about describing it as a cycle? Atmosphere gives us goodies that keep us alive and safe (eg, from cosmic radiation and debris). We in turn give it a lot of baddies -- how many of these baddies are connected with basic human needs, and now many are not?-- humans are using it as a dump (and end up poisoning themselves with each breath they take). What is the current understanding of how it sustains and heals itself? What can we do to introduce some negative feedbacks so that the runaway train of degradation can return to equilibrium, more or less? V.B. (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added at 19:05, 5 September 2008 (UTC)
    • ^ a b [1] Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, see Conceptual Framework
    • ^
    • ^ Smil, V 2000. Cycles of Life. Scientific American Library, New York.
    • ^ Cross, R. & Spencer, R.D. 2009. Sustainable Gardens. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood. ISBN 978-0-643-09422-2.
    • ^ [2] 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
    • ^ [3] IPCC. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.