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Sustainability – Solutions in search of problems

In the last post of this series – A brief background on Sustainability Issues, I tried to outline the various streams of thought flowing about the issue of Sustainability, specifically through the notion of Sustainable Development . I also touched upon a few metrics/indices surrounding sustainable development and linked to a number of reports from a select group of multinational firms as well.

However, it occurs to me that sustainable development is a response to some problem – what, in very broad strokes, problem (or problems)? Much of the discussion around sustainable development starts off without a statement of the problem and with the ready assumption that there is a problem to be solved, and therefore a series of policy visions, suitable solutions and metrics/indices are proposed. Take the following pithy summary (I’m using the summary only to broadly outline the purpose of sustainability) from the Brundtland report:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

which is a great idea until one realizes that we don’t know what the needs of the future generations are – not in any specific sense anyway. Perhaps, we can hazard a guess about some vital ingredients of life no matter what form, where and when. Suppose we were to cut down drastically on the use of crude oil so that future generations have access to it – What use will crude oil be to a future generation that have technologies that do not even use crude oil in any form to generate power or harness mobility needs? The crucial (unstated) assumption in the above summary is technological stasis which is an idea that shouldn’t be sustained. In fact, it points to a deeper issue with the very language of sustainable development – that most proponents of sustainability miss out on the fundamental nature of technology (and its abstraction which is human creativity).

Imagine the following scenario about 150 years in the past – A B

Category: Personal Observations, Supply Chain Management

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One Response

  1. Great job. informative and nice post

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