The Implementation of Sustainable Development
In November 1992, more than half of all living Nobel Prize winners signed a document called "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity" that began with this stark statement:
Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future we wish for human society. … No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished. (Union of Concerned Scientists)
Earlier that year, in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders endorsed a detailed agenda for saving the environment while tackling poverty. Since then, however, very little progress has been made and many environmental problems have become significantly worse. Biodiversity, for example, is increasingly under threat from pollution and development, which destroys or degrades natural habitats. More than 50,000 species vanish annually (Suzuki, 1999). Waste production continues to increase world-wide in both absolute and per capita terms (Bell, 1997). Deforestation has cost the world an average of 12 million hectares of natural forest per year since 1980 (Bell, 1997). Current forms of energy production and use - which are based primarily on fossil fuels - contaminate air, water, and soil and contribute to global warming. The global ecosystems on which our future depends thus continue to deteriorate, alarmingly. Furthermore, despite expanding corporate and individual wealth, social inequality within and between nations continues to widen. Over two billion people remain subject to abject poverty and are the first to suffer from social upheaval and accelerated environmental change (Salim, 1997). These observations indicate the seriousness of the challenges facing humanity. Yet it is not too late to reverse this alarming tide. The upcoming United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD, or Earth Summit 2002) in Johannesburg provides a critical second chance for leaders from around the world to deliver on truly sustainable development.
Earth Summit 2002, also known as Rio +10, will review progress since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. That event, also know as the Earth Summit, or Rio, is where, for the first time, an overwhelming majority of world leaders recognised the urgent need for action to stem global environmental degradation and the human poverty that is all too often associated with it. The most prominent output of the 1992 Summit was Agenda 21, a global action plan to promote sustainable development, one definition of which is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." (United Nations Educational,...