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Predicting future trends involves analyzing past trends and present structures.

Among the most difficult to predict are technological change and geopolitical shifts.




carrying capacity: the maximum number of users that can be sustained, over the long-term, by a given set of natural resources.

Is this term meaningful at the national or local scale?

sustainable development: a vision of development that seeks a balance among economic growth, environmental impacts and social equity.

What changes in society need to occur in order to achieve sustainable development?



How can a city achieve balance among economic growth, environmental impacts and social equity?

In order to become sustainable, cities must change their metabolism from a flow through linear metabolism to a circular metabolism that recycles outputs to become inputs.

For example - paper -

- linear metabolism - harvests trees as the raw materials and discards it after use in a landfill.
- circular metabolism - takes used paper and uses it again as a raw material recycling outputs to become inputs.





Obstacles to economic development, environmental protection, and social equity:

Debt of developing countries.

OPEC crisis of 1974 lead to an oversupply of capital in banks of the core.

Banks suddenly found developing countries to be an acceptable credit risk.


 $16.9 Billion  Profits made by Exxon in 2000
 Total debt burden of Benin, Burundi, Chad, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome, Togo, Rwanda, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Mali, Somalia, and Niger.
 $110 Annual income per person in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
 $236 Amount each resident of the Democratic Republic of Congo would have to raise to pay off the country's debt.
  $15  Billion Amount the UN estimates is need annually  to curb the African AIDS epidemic through education, prevention and care.
  $13.5 Billion Amount African nations pay to service their debts each year (amount paid just in interest)
 $422 Billion  Amount owed by the poorest and most indebted nations.
 Amount of money spent by Western industrialized nations on weapons and soldiers every 12 months.
$13.5 Billion  According to UNICEF, the cost of three Aircraft carriers ($4.5 Billion each) could provide food and medicine for a year to EVERY SINGLE child in the world. Children who are dying at a rate of 36,000 a day.

Sources: World Watch Magazine July/August 2001 Vol. 14 no.4 p. 39
www.j2000usa.org/action5.htm and www.dropthedebt.org



Globalization is transforming the significance of borders and the location of cores and peripheries.

Example:

NAFTA - maquiladoras along the border.

China - export processing zones along the coast.



How can a society achieve balance among economic growth, environmental impacts and social equity?
Two possible solutions are passing laws and educating the consumer.

However, the power of governments to legislate and regulate economic transactions and the flow of information is diminishing. For example, supra-national organizations like the WTO are making it difficult for countries and communities to pass laws that protect the environment.

Principles of modern environmental protection:

1. Bans on harmful products. "For example, the U.S. has banned lead from gasoline and DDT from farming because the U.S. concluded in the 1970s that there was no safe way to "manage" such substances after they were created."

2. The precautionary principle. "The precautionary principle moves the burden of proof of safety onto the proponents of a new project, a new technology or a new chemical. The public does not have to "line up the dead bodies." Instead the polluters have to convince the public and the government that the number of dead bodies in future will be acceptably small. In simplest terms, the precautionary principle says, "Better safe than sorry," the complete opposite of risk-based regulations."

3. Right to know through labeling. "Labels on cans of tuna fish now say "dolphin-safe." Many products in the grocery store now say "organically grown." Paper says "recycled." Labels that say "Made in Burma" signal that this product may have been made with slave labor. Such labels represent a market-based approach --empowering people with information so they can vote with their dollars to protect the things they value. In essence, eco-labeling says people have a right to know the effects of their purchases on the natural environment, on their health, and on society. "

"However, an informed citizenry can threaten corporate dominance. Thus all 3 of these modern principles are unsatisfactory from the viewpoint of large corporations because they shift the advantage to the public in protecting health and environment. They impose societal values on the economy. "


The World Trade Organization (WTO) is challenging all of these principles.

Decision Making: "In principle, WTO rules are established by consensus of all 134 members, but in practice the so-called QUAD countries (U.S., Japan, Canada and the European Union) can meet behind closed doors and influence the rules. . . The WTO allows countries to challenge each other's laws and regulations as violations of WTO rules. Cases are heard and decided by a tribunal of three trade bureaucrats, usually corporate lawyers. There are no rules on conflict of interest, nor is there any requirement that the three judges have any appreciation of the domestic laws of the countries involved. The judges meet in secret at locations and times that are not disclosed. Documents, hearings, and briefs are confidential. Only national governments are allowed to participate, even if a state law is being challenged. There are no appeals to anyone outside the WTO."

No precautions or bans allowed: "Restrictions on goods must be the least-trade-restrictive possible and the restrictions must be "necessary." To prove that a regulation is "necessary," a country must prove that there is a world-wide scientific consensus on the danger . . . Furthermore, any regulation must be the "least trade restrictive" regulation possible. Thus the WTO has shifted the burden of proof back onto the public. . . The effect of these rules is that a product cannot be banned. It can be regulated using risk assessment but it cannot be banned."

No labeling allowed: "WTO rules say that the method of production cannot be used as a basis for discriminating against a product. . . Labeling -- even voluntary labeling -- is on the way out. The European Union has now passed a law requiring food containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such. The Clinton/Gore administration has said formally that this is an illegal restraint of trade because there is no difference between normal food and genetically modified food. . . The Clinton/Gore administration officially argues that even "country of origin" labels are WTO-illegal because they allow consumers to discriminate against certain countries (like Burma with its propensity for slave labor)."

Citation: Rachel's Environmental Weekly -The WTO Turns Back the Clock: 1, 2, 3, 4,