“The Age of Sustainable Development” – Part 1

Sustainable Development

This post is the first of a series that examines the concept of Sustainable Development in its most zoomed out (broadest) sense. This series of essays is intended to provide context, from which smaller manufacturers can individually zoom in to take actions appropriate to their business and its circumstances. The series title, “The Age of Sustainable Development”, is borrowed from the title of a book and on-line course by professor Jeffery Sachs. Dr. Sach’s book and course will provide much of the material for the posts that follow this one.

It is not accidental that this series of posts corresponds in time (December 2015) with U.N. sponsored meetings on Climate Change being held in Paris. Those meetings represent the latest zoomed out efforts at defining “Sustainable Development” in an operative sense.

Before we get to Dr. Sach’s book and the outcomes from the meetings in Paris, this post reprises and slightly updates an earlier post to this blog. Sustainable Development: An Oxymoron? offers a good starting point.

Sustainable Development: An Oxymoron?  (from 31 August 2011)

The publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in the 1960’s struck a nerve in Kennedy – era America. A national sense of outrage at abuse of the natural environment resonated with the protest climate of the time – the time of the Vietnam War protests and Civil Rights marches, among others. Greenpeace, perhaps the highest profile environmental activist group, has its roots in those times.

Patrick Moore was a founding member and later President of Greenpeace. In his book Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout (terrible title), Dr. Moore recalls attending a global conference of environmental activists in Nairobi in 1982. Of course, all of the delegates at the conference championed immediate and dramatic action in defense of the environment. However, he noticed a difference in outlook between delegates from developed countries and those from developing countries. Those from developed countries wanted action, regardless of economic consequences. Delegates from developing countries, on the other hand, wanted a clean and safe world, along with economic development. There are around 7.2 billion people on this planet today. About half of those live on the equivalent of $2.00 a day or less. Yes, they want economic development.

Dr. Moore maintains that Sustainable Development – the idea that a safe, clean environment and economic development are not mutually exclusive – was born from that conference of environmentalists. Not long thereafter, it was recognized that humanity is part of nature; therefore improvement of the environment entails improvement in the condition of humanity. Dr. Moore emphasizes that connection when he credibly demonstrates that poverty is the worst single cause of environmental degradation.

For a manufacturer, Sustainable Development is a strategic approach, where economic development is pursued simultaneously with reduction in impact on natural systems and without exploitation of humanity. As development proceeds, “reduction in impact” and “without exploitation” both grow into positive improvements. In this sense, Sustainable Development is a course of action, while Sustainability is a state to be achieved.

So, Sustainable Development is definitely not an oxymoron. Serendipitously, it has become increasingly clear that the three elements of Sustainable Development – economic growth, environmental impact and humanity – can be mutually reinforcing when pursued systematically. A clear win-win-win.

The “Jera” in our name, Jera Sustainable Development, is that of a rune, part of a northern European system of writing from about the third century. Jera refers to the harvest, hence to beneficial outcomes earned through systematic actions sustained over time. Thus, our name evokes our mission: to be useful to manufacturers who choose to embrace Sustainable Development through systematic actions, sustained over time.

Chuck - Blue SweaterThoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated.


…  Chuck Harrington (Chuck@JeraSustainableDevelopment.com)


P.S: Contact me when your organization is serious about pursuing Sustainability … CH

This blog and associated website (www.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com) are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome. New blog posts are published weekly.