Tag: sustainability

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 12: History and Sustainability

This edition of the podcast reports on a conference entitled History and Sustainability which was held at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences on 6 and 7 September 2007. This conference explored how history can make contributions to the debate about sustainability and the education of sustainability. This was an exercise in thinking about the theoretical and methodological challenges that the discipline faces as well as the question of the place of environmental history in the academic spectrum and curriculum.

Paul Warde, co-organiser of the conference, explains on this podcast the rationale of the meeting, which is that sustainability, as a concept can only be understood historically because it is about survival over time. Sverker Sorlin, explains why we need to infuse the environment as a concept into historical thinking and that environmental historians play a crucial role in this process. Kate Showers, Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, talks about the importance of disciplinary synthesis for environmental history. Finally, Libby Robin of the National Australian Museum explores the the long now and the big here.

Websites mentioned in this podcast:

 

THIS WEBSITE USES SOME COOKIES.

Please confirm, if you accept our tracking cookies. You can also decline the tracking, so you can continue to visit our website without any data sent to third party services. Read our Privacy Policy for more information about the cookies used.