The Environmental Sustainabilitye
By sustainable development we mean “satisfying the needs of the actual generation without jeopardizing the ability of future ones to meet theirs”. “Sustainable development, far from being a definitive condition of harmony, is rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional changes are made in such a way as to be coherent with future needs as well as with present ones.”
To be able to understand the events that have characterized the politics of the European community in recent times, and to enter into the context of the new Community Support Framework, it is opportune to understand the historical moment in which we find ourselves. In fact, the whole socioeconomic system is affected by deep transformations that involve every aspect of the whole planet.
The tendency towards a world which is increasingly affected by such issues, conducts every aspect of the political future towards models and logics which are substantially new and which have never before been faced, at least not with such complexity, from the origins of politics until today.
To give an example, it can already be seen how world politics are evolving towards the greatest systems, towards models of maximum integration between social and environmental components.
In practice we are going towards a globalization of every socioeconomic context, towards a system of greater fluidity between cause and effect.
At the same time the unbalances caused by the old consumer and post-enlightenment models, in transit towards new forms, have produced the issues that are at the base of environmental emergencies in the world, which in turn impose and mature in man the concept of Sustainable Development.
Globalization and Sustainable Development, which are found in the theories of various economic visions, at times in opposition, in others, connected, are nothing but two faces of the same coin.
Together they are giving life to a process of “neurization” of the whole socioeconomic system.
This last neologism wants to shape the central matter of the new model of development.
But let’s go in order and try to give a meaning to the two concepts in question – Globalization and Sustainable Development.
To enter into the semantics of these two terms means to give greater light and clarity to the fields in which the newborn socioeconomic structures will have to proceed.
The term globalization, which today is often used in a too empirical way, has been used in the last decades, but especially in the last years, with increasing frequency. Many meanings are attributed to it. It is often used to mean those economies that tend to assume western characteristics, like the westernization of the East, having as a point of reference American socioeconomic systems and structures, from which they take their origin, as if globalization were the importation of a “model” which automatically tends to affirm itself on the globe, i.e. globalisation.
For others it represents an issue where, in a system which is increasingly interconnected both by computers and communications, the whole planet tends to assume the dimensions of a global village.
But the term globalization cannot be represented by some aspect or some phenomenon; because of scientific discoveries and technological innovations it increasingly takes the form of socioeconomic systems which are more and more interconnected, and of spatiotemporal dimensions which are increasingly reduced (but never eliminable); characteristics which are similar to natural systems. It tends to increasingly assume the semblances of a unique body, drawing socioeconomic models considerably closer to ones found in biology and in the ecosystem.
Globalization contains, therefore, characteristics which are not tied to the affirmation of a socioeconomic model based on consumer and post-enlightenment ideals, but on principals that tend to destroy the present sphere of social and economic balances in favour of another with different but more efficient systems.
In general, globalization is not a recent phenomenon but it has been in action since the appearance of man on the planet. Its effects, however, are perceived today in a more evident way, in a way as would happen to an astronaut that drew close to the speed of light; he would start to feel the relativistic effects of this new context but these, even if in an irrelevant way, are in act all the same.
2. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The concept of development, in a more modern reading, includes in the process of growth a series of categories which are not strictly economic, such as the social aspects, abandoning a vision based on economic aspects, which originally measured development only through the values of the GDP pro capita and which placed its interest solely on man’s well-being.
The terminus of the process, not only nominalistic, is sustainable development. The expression “sustainable development” became very popular towards the end of the 80s. In fact, in 1987, the Brundtland Report was published. This was elaborated within the structures of the United Nations, and in it for the first time is found a definition of sustainable development: “Development is sustainable if it satisfies the needs of the present generations without jeopardizing the possibilities for future generations to satisfy their own needs.”
The affirmation of this principle, over ten years later, has been completely disregarded, so much so that environmental crisis have ended up being spoken of as economic crisis.
This means that it is necessary to widen the notion of well-being and economic development until we understand its environmental value.
To understand the whole problem better it is necessary to comprehend the concept of externality. It can be positive if the economic activity brought into being by an individual brings benefit to other individuals or to the collective in general; if the opposite is true, then it is negative. A chimney that pollutes, even if it produces income inside its structure, creates a negative externality because of the smoke it produces.
To understand such a concept well it is necessary to compare the private benefits and the social costs. In order to decrease the negative externality it is opportune to insert a tax that compensates the social costs due to pollution. The environmental repercussions of this type of economy result from the lack of an authority that develops instruments to check or reduce the negative externality.
It should however be understand that human activities always involve negative externality (it is a thermodynamic principle based on the concept that unitary output and therefore perpetual motion does not exist).
The lack of such an authority, despite the fact that from 1950 to today over 200 treaties related to the environment have been stipulated, has not resolved the issue of a sole authority. In any case, in order to be able to understand if a country pursues sustainable development or not, it is necessary to bring some changes to the evaluation of the results of the economic policy of a country.
Traditionally among the indicators of the quality of a country’s economic policy is the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP): with this term is meant the income produced by a nation on the whole, that is to say, the sum of the incomes of all the companies, including public ones. This indicator is often mistaken to be an indicator of “well-being” without revealing anything on how this is produced or the means used to produce it.
The analyses of the socioeconomic models of the so-called western world point out that these operate with low outputs, with elevated negative externality, operating in practice with non sustainable models and with non renewable resources.
The environmental question must now be framed in the sense that the environment, as a future model founded on renewable resources, is the structure on which the policies of sustainable development will have to be based, policies such as those that will use models with “engines of renewable energy”, that is to say, with greater efficiency or energetic output.
In this new dimension, notable importance is assumed not only the human ability to implement technologies that emulate the thermodynamic-energetic systems of the ecosystem, but also by the ability of Politics to understand the importance of the planning and the management of the Territory as a place of resources for this new energy-managing model.
At this point it is evident that the judgment on the quality of a country’s policy will obviously also depend on the use that it makes of its “natural capital”, that is to say, of that patrimony which is the “fuel” of the renewable energy engine.
In such context it becomes evident that in the calculation of the efficiencies of the economic policy there have to be introduced some algorithms that correct the equations of the GDP, either through the method that uses indicators or through that of national environmental accounting, giving in this way its true dimension, or at least an evaluation that is closer to reality. If this is done, the impoverishment of the environmental capital will be valued in monetary terms, and such values can be subtracted from the national income to calculate the growth of this new aggregate: the Ecological Gross Domestic Product.
This correction will have, in the moment in which it will be methodologically defined, the undoubted value of conducting Politics towards a notably different conceptual horizon (more global) in comparison to the cold and flat systems of the consumer model.
Therefore, from the United Nation’s Brundtland Report of 1987 to the conference of Rio de Janeiro in 1992, sustainable development has become a declared objective of the economic and environmental politics of various Countries and of the international treaties which have environmental topics as their theme.
Now, to implement models of development which are “synchronous” with those thermodynamic ones found in the ecosystem, it is necessary to emulate socioeconomic systems that are in line with them.
The answer lies, as usual, in technological progress, which can allow a reduction in the coefficients of exploitation (or better, of use) of the environment for each unit of production or service, and especially in the ideological ability to understand that only through a new model of socioeconomic development can we overcome this critical aspect. Given that such a process is neither spontaneous nor automatic it is opportune to remodel the culture and the ideological principles that are at the base of local, national and international politics.
In Europe the recent applicative difficulties of the normative structures of the new CSF, in the national and regional political-administrative systems have their origin in some basic truths.
Let’s see these in synthesis:
1. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty, besides enacting the principal policies on monetary unity, has given, among other things, a role of predominance of the BEI on the political direction of the E.U.; this principle has its schemes in a capitalistic and consumer socioeconomic model and is greatly at odds with those of sustainable development. In fact, capitalism has its roots in man’s capacity to produce income, sustainable development sees man as a creature that is able to penetrate, and also to sustain, the principles of life. Between these two schools of thought there is an abyss which history will fill.
2. Agenda 2000 is a policy which aims at integrated development but does so, inevitably, with financial criterions and criterions of accounting and efficiency which are not yet based on the principles of social, economic and environmental balance.
3. Even though it has its origin in a logic which tends to structure the socioeconomic development of the member states in the directions individuated at the various international conferences, it finds notable administrative and ideological obstacles in the peripheral structures.
4. Being a tool of a programmed and negotiated policy, it has been polluted, as expected, as it passed down towards activation at a peripheral level; this pollution is the logical consequence, as we go towards a new socioeconomic model, of the different level of understanding which there is between the summit (which is very close in space and time to the conferences and to the international treaties) and the periphery, which is not yet integrated in this new model, which before being a socioeconomic one has become an ideological one.
Must we therefore criticize the recent policies of the European Union? There exists only one certain and plausible answer.
With the level of knowledge, of the understanding of the new horizons of globalization and sustainable development, it could not go further; it has obtained what the output of this cultural, ideological and political-administrative “motor” has and will allow it.
Must we think that it has already failed?
If we evaluate as the immediate result and the structural and economic repercussions, we are led to say, with great approximation, that it will obtain an output which is very low in scale; if we shift the analysis to the issues and problems which it is raising, then the great contribution that it is giving to sociological, ideological and political reformulation and stimulus are already evident. This affects not only the new managing classes, but slowly and gradually the thought patterns of us all.