G. C. Bryner
Natural Resources Law Center, Boulder CO
ABSTRACT: The Idea of Sustainability and its Implications for Energy Law and Policy
The idea of sustainable development has firmly taken root in global, national, and local political discourse in a remarkably short length of time. Government agencies at all levels, transnational corporations, multilateral institutions, community-based collaborative groups, and many others have embraced the idea of sustainability. What exactly do people mean by the term? What expectations does it create? What guidance can it provide to policy makers, planners, consumers and producers? This paper explores one way to answer these and other questions surrounding the idea of sustainability. It argues that while there is no formula or recipe for sustainability, there are several elements that generally need to be considered as members of a community design their plan for moving towards the goal of sustainability. Those elements include the preservation of ecosystem services and natural capital, true cost prices and more ecologically sensitive economic indicators, consumption and technology, and democratic politics and natural resource governance. This paper is part of a broader project that explores these elements of sustainability in detail, examines the extent to which they have been addressed in policies pursued by federal natural resource agencies, and considers how they can be used in making public policies move towards the idea of sustainability.
The impreciseness of sustainability makes it an attractive idea around which diverse expectations can congregate. But that impreciseness makes its use as a criterion for assessing environmentalism problematic. The contested nature of the idea of sustainable development is rooted in two primary dimensions: the depth of sustainability and the level of change required, and the breadth of sustainability and the range of practices and behaviors it reaches. After a brief overview of sustainability and its evolution, the paper examines these two core dimensions of sustainability and their implications for decision making. The conclusion considers the implications for assessing and designing natural resource policies
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90906©2001 AAPG Annual Convention, Denver, Colorado