Visions of Sustainable Future

Publication date:
February, 2008

The 20th century was the period of unprecedented economic development in the world, great fall of colo- nialism and totalitarian systems. However, it took place at the expense of depletion of non-renewable sources of fossil fuels, metal ores and destruction of Earth’s natural wealth. It became commonly known at the end of the 20th century that the human being, in his uncontrollable expansion, reached the limits set by the planet where he lives and further development of this type became impossible.

Boundless consumerism typical of developed countries causes useless loss of great amounts of energy and raw materials for the production of goods which are not necessary for existence. Wasteful exploitation of natural resources and wealth in poor countries is just a struggle for survival. Maintaining such a model of development for next decades must lead to an escalation of global social, economic and environmental conflicts on an un- precedented scale. In order to provide all inhabitants of the Earth with decent standard of living, it is necessary to change dramatically the approach towards production, consumption and the environment.

Production processes must be optimised in such a way that it will be possible to produce high-quality, durable and necessary for human being goods with the use of as little energy and raw materials as possible. A series of analyses shows that there are capabilities to use a few times less raw material in the industrial production than it takes place presently. But technological progress alone, however necessary, is not able to protect the humankind against a disaster unless dramatic changes take place

in the model of consumption, especially in the case of developed countries. Currently, this model is being affected by fashion and advertising to a large extent, encouraging people to multiply goods not necessarily indispensable for their living.

Departing from the model of consumerism is also pos- sible through the increase of the importance of non-ma- terial services, such as education, culture, art, healthcare or tourism. Through a lifetime education, passions and talents, which lie dormant in each human being but are effectively stifled in the current system, can be trig- gered. After all, everybody should have an opportunity to learn the beauty of nature, human thought and the beauty of works produced by humans. The one who will be delighted by the surrounding world will live his life in a valuable and happy way regardless his wealth. Wild nature will have a high standing in his hierarchy of values and therefore he will respect and protect it. He will also sympathize with the poorest countries, sparing no generous and effective help. Only such people can help in such development of developing countries which will be sustainable and will take place with respect to natural resources. Only then could the countries have an opportunity to develop for the good of all inhabitants.

Today, at the turn of the 20th century, the whole hu- mankind is at the crossroads. Will it follow the current way, risking serious regional and even global conflicts or will it choose a way of sustainable development? Let us do all the best to make the Earth friendly fatherland for all its inhabitants.

Maciej Nowicki
Minister for the Environment, Poland