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?
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.
Development as discourse
China - export processing zones along the coast.
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 - Should we merely harvest raw materials to run through our economic system and dump into landfills, or can we close the loop and recycle used paper making it a raw material for more paper products?
- 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.
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,