Thursday, November 21, 2002

Straight Thinking 101, part 6

Wise Decisions and Sustainable Development

It is clear from the case study in Acts 27, that the decision made to sail from Fair Havens, driven as it was by desire for comfort and progress, was unsustainable. For, very rapidly, it led to a destructive crisis, one which could so easily have been avoided had prudence prevailed over wishful thinking and agenda games. By contrast, wise decisions would have led to a more sustainable outcome, as could be illustrated by many modern Caribbean examples.

From such , we can easily deduce the key valid insight on sustainable development, as was provided through the Bruntland Commission in 1987:

Meeting the needs of this current generation (with fairness) while not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (This is in fact an application of Jesus’ Golden Rule – to do to others (including the poor, powerless and voiceless of this and future generations) as you would have them treat you. [Matt 7:12])

A clarification of the operational implications of the key "SD" principle is helpful:

(1) "SD" initiatives in a community seek to create an ever-growing capacity to meet human needs across time, while not destroying the integrity of the biophysical environment. These efforts must also preserve or even enhance critical community-building democratic values, in particular: equity, liberty and justice.

(2) So, if development initiatives are to achieve sustainability, they must be constrained in light of the resulting tradeoffs/balances of significant beneficial and harmful impacts on the current and future generations, as well as those on the biophysical environment.

(3) The striking of such tradeoffs and balances - e.g. between rates of economic development and growing capacity to mitigate or remedy biophysical and human environmental damage - is best achieved through bringing to the table a truly representative cross-section of the stakeholders in the community, in a policy development context that understands and respects the critical importance of markets for economic development.

(4) These factors and constraints require the implementation of a transparent (i.e. open, fair, truthful, accountable and trustworthy), highly democratic participative process for identifying, developing, implementing, monitoring, managing and evaluating such projects and programmes.

In terms of straight thinking, these points immediately suggest that specifically Christian ethical principles, applied in light of sound insights on how nations are developed and how to balance development with sustainability considerations can help show us a way forward.

To that, we will next turn.

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