Tag: environmental policy

Podcast 59: A sustainable common future? The Brundtland Report in historical perspective

Gro Harlem Brundtland

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway, addressing the UN General Assembly on Environment and Development, 19 October 1987. Source: UN Photo

The term sustainability and phrase sustainable development were popularised with the publication of Our Common Future, a report released by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. Also known as the Brundlandt report, it introduced the widely quoted definition of sustainable development: “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The report argued that economic development and social equity were necessary in order to protect the environmental and that the goals of economic well-being, equity and environmental protection could be reconciled if social and environmental considerations were systematically integrated into all decisions affecting the economy. Since the publication of the Brundtland report sustainable development has been widely accepted as a guiding principle, and yet the concept remains elusive and implementation has proven difficult. This is caused by the fact that economic development, social equity, and environmental protection are contradictory areas that are difficult to be reconciled. As a result the report is seen by many as a landmark in environmental politics and diplomacy while others decry it as a missed opportunity.

In a newly published book entitled Defining Sustainable Development for Our Common Future. A History of the World Commission on Environment and Development Iris Borowy critically examines the history and impact of the Brundtland Commission. The book explores how the work of the Commission brought together contradictory expectations and world views in the concept of sustainable development as a way to reconcile these profound differences.

This episode of Exploring Environmental History examines these contradictions as well as the historical context of sustainability with the author of Defining Sustainable Development, Iris Borowy. She is a researcher at the Institute of History, Theory and Ethics in Medicine of RWTH Aachen University, in Germany.

Sites and literature mentioned
Defining Sustainable Development for Our Common Future. A History of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Routledge, 2013.

Original report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, from un-documents.net

Christian Pfister, “The “1950s Syndrome” and the Transition from a Slow-Going to a Rapid Loss of Global Sustainability”, In: Frank Uekoetter (ed.), The Turning Points of Environmental History (Pittsburgh, 2010), pp. 90-118. Download paper.

Music credits
Where You Are Now” by Zapac, available from ccMixter
Piano 8 by AT” by Martijn de Boer (NiGiD), available from ccMixter
Life Isn’t Everything” by Hans Atom, available from ccMixter

Podcast 52: Scientific and environmental diplomacy and the Antarctic

Antarctica

A view from space of Antarctica. Source: NASA

Antarctica is a unique continent because is mostly covered in ice and, importantly, it is the only continent that has never been settled by humans until scientific bases were established in the 20th C. This makes it an international space which has implications for the environmental regulatory regimes that have developed over time as well as the way we view the continent. Without a popular tradition of natural history, or amateur ornithology, or locals dependent on wild resources from which a conservation ethic might emerge, it was trained, international biologists who led the development of nature protection and conservation in Antarctica.

The guest on this podcast episode is Alessandro Antonello, a PhD candidate in the School of History at the Australian National University’s Research School of Social Sciences, in Canberra, Australia. In this podcast he explores the scientific, environmental and diplomatic aspects of Antarctic history, in particular from the inception of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959. He also examines changing conceptions of the Antarctic in the second half of the 20th century and places this in a wider historical context.

Further reading
Marcus Haward and Tom Griffiths (eds.), Australia and the Antarctic Treaty system: 50 years of influence, UNSW Press, 2011.

Acronyms used
AMCAFF: Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora
SCAR: Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
CCAMLR: Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
CSIRO: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
CCAS: Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals
IGY: International Geophysical Year (1957)

Music credits
Where You Are Now” by Zapac, available from ccMixter
2012Piano” by snowflake, available from ccMixter

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