Summary of "Global Development and the Environment: Perspectives on Sustainability"

Summary of

Global Development and the Environment: Perspectives on Sustainability

By Joel Darmstadter

Summary written by T.A. O'Lonergan, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Global Development and the Environment: Perspectives on Sustainability, Joel Darmstadter, (ed), (Washington DC: Resources for the Future, 1992), 91 pp.

Global Development and the Environment: Perspectives on Sustainability will be of interest to those who seek an understanding of the need for sustainable economic growth for preservation of the environment. The work is a collection of ten essays by multiple authors, the first of which examines questions on sustainable development. The second essay, by Ronald G. Ridker of the World Bank, examines two possibilities for the state of economic development. The first possibility he addresses is the inability of sustaining the present level of development, with the resultant need to reduce the population and consumption. The second possibility is that human ingenuity will be able to make sufficient technical advances to maintain the current level of consumption, and thus achieve sustainability.

The third essay asserts that the concept of sustainability is contentless. To remedy this situation, the first step toward achieving some sort of sustainability, the author insists that three questions must be answered. The first question is how to make the process of achieving sustainable development equitable. The second question is to determine what resources ought to be sustained. Finally, the question of "... how the scale of human activity affects global carrying capacity" must be answered. The fourth essay addresses the role of natural assets in economic development and asserts that nations must realize that these assets depreciate with use and must have the support of capital for investment in their conservation.

The fifth essay discusses the use of benefit-cost analysis to prioritize environmental problems. Alan J. Krupnick addresses the difficulty of assessing the benefits of agriculture and forestry. The sixth essay addresses sustainable agriculture in which the author asserts that given the present state of technology, consumption and population, agricultural sustainability is not achievable. Kenneth D. Frederick examines the management of water for economic, environmental and human health. The next essay, by the editor, asserts that market forces are necessary to produce innovations in the production of energy, but that many of the costs of these innovations are externalized. The penultimate essay is devoted to the consideration of climate variability and development. The final essay addresses the preservation of biodiversity as a resource in which the author proposes the use of "... contractual rights to encourage species preservation".

Global Development and the Environment: Perspectives on Sustainability is an overview of the sustainability issue which will serve as a foundation for those who wish to pursue the subject in greater depth.