Earth at a Crossroads: Paths to a Sustainable Future

Front Cover
Cambridge University Press, Jun 25, 1998 - Business & Economics - 338 pages
We are fast becoming a global society. Flagging economies and social problems, environmental pollution and ecological destruction are burdens that fall on the shoulders of our international community. As we stand on the threshold of the twenty-first century, we search for cooperative answers to take us through the next millennium, and are confronted with the task of establishing a future that is both environmentally and socially sustainable. Earth at a Crossroads offers an integrated view for the development of human society within the natural environment on which it depends for support. The book stresses the dynamic and interconnected nature of feedback processes, traces possible future paths of societal development and their impacts, determines their sustainability, and points at necessary changes. Two alternative visions of the future are presented: Path A resulting from continuation of current trends, and a contrasting Path B that would result from adhering to principles of sustainability and protection of the natural system in the interests of future generations. This book will become an important reference in the discussion of global society's path into the next millennium. It will be a valuable read for anyone looking forward to a healthier world, and a well-thumbed resource for environmental scientists and policy-makers. Hartmut Bossel received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of ten books and over 300 papers. His research includes studies of agricultural policy for the German Bundestag.
 

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Contents

Prologue
xi
CONCEPTS AND TOOLS
1
Mapping the future
3
Major concerns
6
Globalization
8
Dynamics
10
Constraints
12
Future paths
14
Competition
168
Sustainability check for Path A
175
Partnership
178
Reality check for Path B
186
Individual development
190
Competition
191
Sustainability check for Path A
196
Partnership
200

Choice
15
Action
16
Riverbeds of the future
17
Rules for defining scenarios and future paths
18
Constraints of societal development
20
Riverbeds of the possible
23
Two visions of the future
26
a first look
32
Understanding dynamics
34
A world of systems
35
System components
42
System structure determines system dynamics
47
Change in a changing environment
58
Patterns of change
61
Points to remember when thinking about the future
67
Assessing progress
70
The search for indicators
72
Orientors of system viability
74
the need for ethics
85
Discounting the future?
94
Constructing a system of indicators for sustainable development
98
A final note
107
TWO VISIONS OF THE FUTURE
111
Infrastructure
115
Competition
116
Sustainability check for Path A
126
Partnership
129
Reality check for Path B
137
Economic system
142
Competition
143
Sustainability check for Path A
152
Partnership
154
Reality Check for Path B
163
Social system
167
Reality check for Path B
205
Government
208
Competition
209
Sustainability check for Path A
216
Partnership
219
Reality check for Path B
226
Environment resources future
231
Competition
232
Sustainability check for Path A
237
Partnership
240
Reality check for Path B
245
FROM VISION TO ACTION
249
World views and principles
251
the paradigm trap
258
Driving processes and principles of the two paths
261
Viability and sustainability of the two paths
263
Obstacles to sustainable development
266
Path diversity and path transition
268
Summary and conclusions
270
Chapter 12 Agenda for change
275
1 Indicators for sustainable development
282
2 Efficient technologies
288
3 Education and information
293
4 Regionalization of economic activities
295
5 Population control
297
6 Equitable distribution of work
299
7 Rights of affected systems
300
8 Participatory democracy
301
Epilogue
304
Further reading
309
References
315
Index
323
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