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February, 2012:

Towards RIO+20

Another provocative perspective on Sustainable development is proposed by Herman Daly in the Viewpoints on Rio+20 published by Natural resources Forum. You can find the other contributions here .

“The conclusion of the 1972 Limits to Growth study by the Club of Rome still stands 40 years later. Even though economies are still growing, and still put growth in first place, it is no longer economic growth, at least in wealthy countries, but has become uneconomic growth. In other words, the environmental and social costs of increased production are growing faster than the benefits, increasing “illth” faster than wealth, thereby making us poorer, not richer. We hide the uneconomic nature of growth from ourselves by faulty national accounting because growth is our panacea, indeed our idol, and we are very afraid of the idea of a steady-state economy. The increasing illth is evident in exploding financial debt, in biodiversity loss, and in destruction of natural services, most notably climate regulation. The major job of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is to help us overcome this denial and shift the path of progress from quantitative growth to qualitative development, from bigger to better. Specifically this will mean working toward a steady-state economy at a sustainable (smaller than present) scale relative to the containing ecosystem that is finite and already overstressed. Since growth now makes us poorer, not richer, poverty reduction will require sharing in the present, not the empty promise of growth in the future.”

Herman Daly is Emeritus Professor University of Maryland, USA

Bikes from the garbage

A bike made with recycled PET bottles and nylon. It is cheap and does not require painting or soldering.  This is the new creation of Juan Muzzi, a Uruguayan-Brazilian artist, who spent   almost 10 years looking for sponsors in Brazil. Banks investors usually replied that the project would success maybe in Germany or Holland but not in Brasil. Finally Muzzi received financial support form his homeland, Uruguay. Muzzicycles can be bought online at

Sustainable development: critique of the standard model


Waiting for the Earth Conference Rio+20, Leonardo Boff provides an interesting and provocative critique to the notion of Sustainable Development

Official documents of the UN and the Earth conference Rio +20 devote much space to the concept of sustainable development: it must be economically viable, socially fair and environmentally friendly. It is the famous so-called Triple Bottom Line (the line of the three pillars), created in 1990 by John Elkington, founder of the NGO “SustainAbility”. But this model does not withstand serious criticism.

Economically viable development: In the political language of business, development is equivalent to the gross domestic product (GDP). Woe to the company and the country that have no positive annual growth rates! They would be in crisis or recession with a resulting decrease in consumption and generation of unemployment; it is all about making money with the minimum possible investment, the highest possible return, the strongest competition in the shortest time.

When we talk about development here, we only refer to the industrialist/capitalist/consumerist growth. This is anthropocentric, contradictory and wrong. Let me explain why.

It is anthropocentric because it focuses only on human beings, as if there were no community of life (flora and fauna and other living organisms 
), which also needs the biosphere and also requires sustainability.

It is contradictory because development and sustainability obey opposed logics. Industrial development is linear, it increases exploitation of nature and promotes private accumulation. It is based exclusively on a capitalist approach of the economy. The sustainability concept, on the contrary, comes from the life sciences and ecology, whose logic is circular and inclusive. It implies the cycle of the dynamic equilibrium of ecosystems, interdependence and cooperation of all to all. Thus, those two concepts are logical antagonistic; one privileges the individual, the other the group. One promotes competition, the other cooperation; one evolution of the fittest, the other the evolution of an interconnected whole.

It is wrong, because it claims that poverty causes environmental degradation. Therefore, the less poverty, the more sustainable the world would be, which is a naïve mistake. Looking, however, critically the real causes of poverty and degradation of nature, we see that they are mainly caused by this kind of development. This model produces environmental degradation, low wages and thus generates poverty.

Sustainable development is a trap of the existing system: it adopts the terms of ecology (sustainability) in a meaningless manner. It assumes the terms of the economy (growth) masking the poverty that itself produces.

Socially fair: if there is one thing that the current industrial/capitalist development cannot say about itself is that it is socially fair. If it were fair, there wouldn’t be 1, 4 billion hungry people and most nations in poverty. Let us consider only the case of Brazil. The Brazilian Social Atlas, 2010 (IPEA), reports that 5000 families control 46% of GDP. The government spends annually 125,000 million reais to pay interests on debt and only 40,000 billion reais for social programs that benefit the poor majority. This condemns the false rhetoric of just development, impossible within the current economic paradigm.

Environmentally friendly: the current type of development is pursuing an unstoppable war against Gaia, exploiting whatever has a monetary value and especially depriving the minorities who control the last natural resources. According to the Living Planet Index of the UN (2010) in less than 40 years global biodiversity suffered a fall of 30%. From 1998 there has been an increase of 35% in emissions of greenhouse gases. Instead of talking about the limits to growth, we had better talk about the limits of the aggression to Earth.

In conclusion, the standard model of sustainable development we want is rhetorical. It will allow progress in the production of low carbon technology, the use of alternative energy and the creation of better waste management techniques. But, be aware: this will be done only if the profits won’t be jeopardized or competition reduced. The use of the term “sustainable development” has major political significance: a change in the present economic paradigm is needed if we want real sustainability. Within the present model of sustainable development, sustainability is either localized or non-existent.

Leonardo Boff is a theologian, philosopher and writer, known for his active support for the rights of the poor and excluded. He currently serves as Professor Emeritus of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Ecology at the Rio de Janeiro State University.


Translation: Mario Pansera

India invests in a new Science and technology plan for inclusive innovation

Indian Prime Minister

India will press science and technology into serving a national policy of more inclusive, sustainable and rapid growth for its people.

Addressing the 99th Indian Science Congress, the country’s largest annual gathering of scientists, this week, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, said the occasion demanded looking anew at the role of science in a country “grappling with the challenges of poverty and development”.

Singh emphasised that “the overriding objective of a comprehensive and well-considered policy for science, technology and innovation should be to support the national objective of faster, sustainable and inclusive development”.

read the original article here:

Surui Amazon Tribe uses google to protect their forest

chief Almir of the surui amazon tribe

chief Almir of the surui amazon tribe

FOR A man whose way of life has been threatened by modernity, activist and tribal leader Chief Almir of the Surui people of the Brazilian Amazon has looked to a surprising source to help his tribe maintain its traditional way of life: Google. In 1969, shortly before Almir was born, the tribe had its first contact with outsiders, who brought disease, violence, and death with them. Then loggers arrived, laying waste to the Surui’s homeland. Chief Almir decided survival depended on outreach. His partnership with Google, which began in 2007, has enabled the tribe to create an online “cultural map” of the Surui with stories from the tribe’s elders that are uploaded onto YouTube, as well as a geographical map of their territory created with GPS — equipped smartphones from Google. In 2009, Google employees taught the Surui to use cell phones to record illegal logging on their land. Tribal members can now take photos and videos that are geo-tagged and immediately upload the images to Google Earth. Law-enforcement officials can no longer claim ignorance of the problem when evidence of the deforestation is publicly available online.


TED talks – Anil Gupta: India’s hidden hotbeds of invention

Anil Gupta is on the hunt for the developing world’s unsung inventors — indigenous entrepreneurs whose ingenuity, hidden by poverty, could change many people’s lives. He shows how the Honey Bee Network helps them build the connections they need — and gain the recognition they deserve.

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