The Brundtland Report

The Brundtland Report

“Sustainable Development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
“Our Common Future” opens by presenting a global challenge: the survival of the environment.
The only possible answer to this challenge, faced by present generations, is by adopting a “sustainable” development model.

As said in the main text, “sustainable development” must fulfil the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to fulfil theirs. Here we present the major points of the Report, a major reference text for this issue.

Sustainable development is not a definite situation of harmony, but rather a process of change. Resources, investments, technological advancements and institutional changes must be coherent with future as with present needs.

Sustainable development implies the fulfilment of our needs and it extends the possibility of achieve ones’ aspirations for a better life. However, there is a too optimistic belief in the potential of technology to bring about a new era of economic growth. The limits of sustainable development are not absolute, but they are rather dictated by the level of technology and of social organisation of economic resources and by the potential of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activity. In the Report we read that technology and social organisation can be managed and improved in such a way to have a new era of economic growth. We will see how this optimistic assumption is not shared by all, especially by the supporters of strong sustainability.

We would also like to underline one particular aspect that brings the concept of sustainable development closer to that of human development: collective participation. The fulfilment of basic needs does not only imply a new era of economic growth for countries where the majority is poor, but also the guarantee that these poor have their fair share in the necessary resources to sustain growth. Such equity should be aided both by political systems assuring an effective participation of citizens to the decision-making process and by an increased level of democracy in international decisions.

The Brundtland Report is divided into three main sections, one for each of mankind’s challenges:

Section 1) Common worries
A threatened future
Towards a sustainable development
The role of international economics

Section 2) Collective challenges
Population and human resources
Food security: supporting the potentials
Species and ecosystems: resources for development
Energy: choices for environment and development
Industry: produce more with less
The urban problem

Section 3) Common efforts
Management of common international goods
Peace, security, development, environment
Towards a common action
The paper concludes with the code for environmental protection and sustainable development.

Guido Bissanti

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