Sustainability

 

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Sustainability

"Each generation has to solve its own tasks and not burden them onto the next generation - that is the basic concept of sustainable development. This explicitly includes the global perspective."

[Gerhard Schröder, Preface to the 2004 Progress Report from the German Federal Government: "Perspektiven für Deutschland. Unsere Strategie für eine nachhaltige Entwicklung" (Perspectives for Germany. Our Strategy for Sustainable Development)]

"It became increasingly small with increasing distance. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble - the most beautiful marble you could imagine". This is the manner in which James Irwin, Apollo 15 Mission astronaut, described the view of our planet.

This view from space of "spaceship earth" has not just decisively conveyed knowledge of its beauty, but, above all, the awareness of its limitedness and homogeneity. Both aspects - the limitedness of the earth and its resources and the homogeneity within the global system, the reciprocal dependence of all system components - are decisive for the subject of sustainability.


On the Term Sustainability


The term sustainability originally stems from the forestry industry and stands for a form of woodland care in which the production power of the wood and the respective wood harvest are so harmonious that the largest possible yield of wood is achieved in the long-term, at the same time as not being detrimental to the earth and the location. Thus, for example, only as much wood is cut down as can regrow through replanting. A maxim can be formed here: Live from the yield, and not the substance! (see Basic Course 1)


Definition of the Bruntland Commission


This ecological principle can be extended to the widest variety of resources and ecosystems, right up to and including the earth's atmosphere. Using resources in a manner fit for the future always forms the centre of focus. Extremely generally and with effect until today, the fundamental principle of sustainability was defined by the UN commission headed by the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland: "To live up to the needs of today's generation, without endangering the opportunities of future generations to fulfil their own needs."

All the efforts in international environmental policy subsequent to this such as the processes put into effect at the Rio conference in 1992 and the Rio conferences following, and finally the process continued in Johannesburg in 2002 are based on this definition (see History).


Expanding the Term


However, as a part of this process, the understanding of sustainability went through an expansion towards a "magical triangle", that, besides the ecological balance, comprises "economic security" and "social justice". Social and economic aims stepped in in addition to environmental protection from the local to the global variable levels. The clarity of the term had suffered extremely under this, which led the present Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and former German Environment Minister Klaus Töpfer to make the following demand: "If nothing else if occurs, one talks of sustainable development."


UN Decade "Education for Sustainable Development"


Not least in order to confront the problem so as to make the abstract term "sustainable development" palpable and translate it into actual measures for education, the United Nations has called the "Education for Sustainable Development" into life from 2005 to 2014. This online textbook on sustainability is to be understood as a measure within the this and as support for the World Decade.

It attempts to push the core aspect of sustainability - the topic of the environment - towards centre-stage, taking this as a starting point so as to thematise the areas identified in their manifold relationships to ecology and economy and social areas. It has to be taken into account here of course that alone the topic of the environment is so rich in diversity that it can only be sketched out in strokes within the bounds of just one online textbook. An approach using examples is indispensable against this background.


Link to other topics on D@dalos


Several other aspects of an "Education for Sustainable Development" form the focal point of other online text books on D@dalos. The following are examples of topics in their own right...

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... Human Rights and Models

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... Democracy

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... Peace Education

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... Globalisation

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... United Nations


The Principle Guidelines of Unesco


As was formulated by UNESCO as the lead agency in the formulation of the decade the sum of online textbooks is just to the thematic breadth to a certain extent. In this manner the German UNESCO Commission has suggested the following ten topics as annual topics for the Decade:

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Consumer behaviour and sustainable management

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Cultural pluralism

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Health and quality of life

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Water and energy supply

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Biosphere reserves as places of learning

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World cultural treasures as places of learning

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Sustainability learning in the knowledge society

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Public participation and good governance

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Fighting poverty with sustainability projects

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Justice between the nations Human rights and ethical orientation

[Source: Hamburg Declaration from the German UNESCO Commission on the United Nations Decade "Education for Sustainable Development" of 11th July 2003; http://www.unesco.de/c_bibliothek/erkl_hv63.htm]
 


"If our world is to run in a more sustainable way, all people are affected and challenged in the way they manage and model their lives. In order to participate in such processes - because this means sustainability in concrete terms - a high measure of self-reflective social and political competence is required from each individual and the readiness and capability to cooperate beyond the personal sphere."

[Martin K., Adult Educator;; in: umwelt & bildung" (environment & education) 3/2004, p. 5]
 

The Structure of the Sustainability as a Topic

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Basic Course 1 deals with the question of "What Does Sustainability Mean?". What is clear is that a very challenging concept is being dealt with here, since it requires fundamental changes in the areas of politics, society and commerce... [... more]
 

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Basic Course 2 demonstrates what each and everyone of use can contribute to this so that a transformation towards sustainability is introduced. Examples amongst others include fairer trade, sustainable consumerism and tourism. The main question is: "How do I act sustainably?"... [... more]
 

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Basic Course 3 presents the most successful model for the implementation of the concept of sustainability, Agenda 21 or Local Agenda 21: "How Does a Local Agenda 21 Function 21?"... [... more]
 

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Basic Course 4 deals with one of the most serious global problems in the form of examples, the climate change: What is the greenhouse effect, what causes it, what greenhouse gases are there, what consequences does the earth warming up have etc. - The main question is: "How can we protect the climate?"... [... more]
 

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Basic Course 5 is dedicated to several central problems on the road to sustainable development. What is required is a wide-ranging transformation in values. Further keywords include globalisation, development and justice... [... more]
 

For orientation purposes, as in all other D@dalos Online Textbooks, we have provided a Table of Contents and a Graphical Overview.

[Author: Ragnar Müller]

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SubjectsHuman Rights  I  Examples  I  Democracy  I  Parties  I  Europe  I  Globalisation  I  United Nations  I  Sustainability

Methods:    Teaching Politics    II    Peace Education    II    Methods

     


This online service on the subject of political education was developed by agora-wissen, the Stuttgart-based Gesellschaft für Wissensvermittlung über neue Medien und politische Bildung (GbR) (Partnership for the Exchange of Information Using New Media and Political Education). Please contact us with your questions or comments. Translation from German into English by twigg's Übersetzung deutsch-englisch