Sustainable Human Environment

Sustainable Human & Social Development – Reloaded !

2014-04-13:  Further to the Post, dated 2013-01-13

There are many essential qualities and features belonging to and representative of a Sustainable Human Environment (including the Social, Built, Virtual and Economic Environments).  As discussed here many times before … Accessibility-for-All is one fundamental attribute, under Social and Legal Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

Another fundamental attribute … Urban Resilience … is now moving centre stage in the world of International Construction Research & Practice.  WHEN, not if … this concept is fully elaborated and understood, it will have a profound impact on All Tasks, Activities and Types of Performance in the Human Environment … under All Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

After working for many years on Climate Change, particularly Adaptation … it was quite natural for me to encounter the concept of Resilience.  But the aim of a newly established Core Task Group within CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is to widen out this concept to also include Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis), Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, (e.g. regional famines, mass human migrations), Extreme Man-Made Events (e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks), and Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident) … to set down Resilience Benchmarks … and to produce Resilience Performance Indicators.  An imposing challenge !

AND … as Urbanization is proceeding at such a rapid pace in the BRICS Countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) and throughout the rest of the Southern Hemisphere … ‘practical’ and ‘easily assimilated’ trans-disciplinary output from this CIB Task Group is urgently required.  In other words, the work of the Task Group must not be permitted to become an exercise in long drawn out pure academic research … the clear focus must be on ‘real’ implementation … As Soon As Is Practicable !!

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A New and Updated Groundwork …

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SUSTAINABLE DESIGN

The ethical design response, in resilient built and/or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

SUSTAINABLE HUMAN & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the human and social rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from the next seven future generations.

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and augmented by UN OHCHR Letter, dated 6 June 2013, on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

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The CITY (as Region)

A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

(a)              An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;

(b)              A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;

(c)              A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;

together functioning as …

(i)                 a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;     and

(ii)               a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare, and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

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SOCIAL WELLBEING

A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

INDIVIDUAL WELFARE

A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

HUMAN HEALTH

A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.     [World Health Organization]

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SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

The social environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of the built and virtual environments.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc … including the virtual environment.

VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT

A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

The virtual and built environments continue to merge into a new augmented reality.

ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT

The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the social environment.

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And So To Work !!

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‘Sustainability’ – New Part 11 in India’s National Building Code !

2013-03-17:  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day !!

Submissions on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Incorporation of a New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ had to arrive at the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), in Dilli … by e-mail … no later than Friday last, 15 March 2013 …

Indian National Building Code Proposed New Part 11: 'Approach to Sustainability' - Cover Memo

Click to enlarge.

Indian NBC, Proposed Part 11 on ‘Sustainability’ – December 2012 Consultation

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Extract From Foreword (Page 7):

‘ Developed nations’ approach to sustainability generally concentrates on energy conservation through high technology innovations, and use of products, materials and designs with lower embodied energy.  Their green ratings are based on intent, which implies expert inputs and simulation.  The Indian construction industry will do better using our traditional wisdom and practices, building in harmony with nature through regional common knowledge, consuming as little as necessary, applying low cost technology innovations, using recycled materials, and recognizing performance (not intent) through easily measurable parameters wherever feasible.’

How Right They Are About Prioritizing ‘Real’ Performance !!

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And Just Before That Extract Above:

‘ The authentic (my insert !) Indian way of life is aparigraha (minimum possessions), conservation (minimum consumption), and recycling (minimum waste).  These three attributes are the guiding principles for sustainable buildings as well.  With these attributes and its rich heritage, India can make a substantial contribution in this field and eventually lead the world on the path of sustainability.’

An Overly Ambitious Target ?   Perhaps Not.

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SDI Supporting India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy …

We very much welcome this opportunity to make a Submission on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Inclusion of a New Part 11 ‘Approach to Sustainability’.

This IS an important development for India … and it DOES mark a substantial contribution to this field, at international level.  We wish that other countries would follow your example … particularly China, the other mushrooming economies in South-East Asia, and the Arab Gulf States.

You may not be aware that Sustainable Design International (SDI) has been specializing in the theory and implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, and economic) since the mid-1990’s.

And, for example … in September 2007, we were invited to make a series of Keynote Presentations to 20 Senior National Decision-Makers, from both the public and private sectors, at a 2-Day Workshop which was organized for us in Lisboa, Portugal.  If invited, we would be delighted to repeat this valuable exercise in Dilli, Bengaluru, and other suitable venues in India.

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IF India is to lead the world on this particular track, i.e. Sustainable Buildings, a coherent philosophy must be outlined in the Proposed New Part 11 of the National Building Code, and a clear direction must also be given there to decision-makers, e.g. clients/client organizations, and designers.

Certain essential content must be included in Part 11.  With regard to an improved layout of Part 11, please review the attached  SDI Document: ‘SEED Building Life Cycle’ (PDF File, 55 Kb) .

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Because you have prioritized ‘real’ building performance over pre-construction design ‘intent’, it is appropriate to begin our comments here …

1.   Sustainability Performance Indicators

In order to prioritize ‘real’ performance, the monitoring of actual sustainability performance in completed and occupied buildings must be comprehensive, accurate and reliable.  Indicators of sustainability performance must, therefore, be included in all sections of the Proposed New Part 11.

Sustainability Performance Indicators provide important signposts for decision-making and design in many ways.  They can translate physical and social science knowledge into manageable units of information which facilitate the decision-making and design processes.  They can help to measure and calibrate progress towards sustainable development goals, and sectoral sustainability targets.  They can provide an early warning to prevent economic, social and environmental damage and harm.  They are also important tools to communicate ideas, thoughts and values because, as statisticians say: “We measure what we value, and value what we measure”.

Performance Indicators may be both quantitative and qualitative … but must cover all stages of the building process, i.e. project feasibility and performance specification, spatial planning, design, construction, management, operation, maintenance and servicing, de-construction, disposal, final site clean-up and sustainable repair.

While many, though not all, types of building performance can be successfully monitored using lightweight portable equipment … a certain number of monitoring devices must also be permanently installed in the building during construction.  A facility to reliably feed the output from these devices back to data collection points, on site and remote, must also be incorporated in the Building’s Intelligent Management System.

Management and collation of sustainability performance data must be reliable.  Uncertainty is always present.  Therefore, Statements of Uncertainty should always be attached to ‘reliable’ data.

Safety Factors should always be included when targeting critical ‘health and safety’ related types of performance.

Sustainability Performance Indicators must be directly comparable across different Global Regions … within Asia, across different countries … and within India, across different States.  A Balanced, Harmonized Core Set of Indian Performance Indicators should be quickly developed.  A Balanced ‘Local’ Set of Performance Indicators will always be necessary.

People tasked with monitoring sustainable building performance must be competent … and independent, i.e. be unconnected to client, design and construction organizations.

Specifically in relation to Energy Performance, the targets to be achieved in new buildings must be far more ambitious.  Please review the attached  SDI Document: ‘SEED Positive Energy Buildings’ (PDF File, 29 Kb) .

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2.   Properly Defining ‘Sustainable Development’

As currently drafted … Definition 2.26 Sustainable Development, on Page 13 of the Proposed New Part 11, is not only ambiguous, it is inadequate for India’s needs … and it is barely the first half of the full, correct definition …

Sustainable Development  is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given ;  and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

[ Please refer to the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment & Development (WCED): ‘Our Common Future’ – Chapter 2, Paragraph 1.]

This original definition in the 1987 WCED Report IS appropriate for India … and it must become the core definition at the heart of India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy !

A careful reading of the full definition makes it clear that there are Many Aspects to this intricate, open, dynamic and still evolving concept … the most important of which are:  Social, Economic, Environmental, Institutional, Political, and Legal.

It is a Fundamental Principle of Sustainability, and one of its Primary Values … that Implementation must be Synchronous, Balanced and Equitable across All Aspects of Sustainability.

The ‘Green Agenda’ merely considers Environmental Aspects of Sustainability … in isolation from all of the other Aspects !   This is a fatal flaw which must be avoided in the Proposed New Part 11 !!

[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]

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3.   Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) for India !

Rather than Environmental Impact Assessment … surely the Proposed New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ must now use, explain and discuss Sustainability Impact Assessment instead !?!

Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA)

A continual evaluation and optimization assessment – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, economic, environmental, institutional, political and legal impacts on the synchronous, balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

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4.   A Robust Legal Foundation for ‘Sustainable Human & Social Development’

Paragraph 4 (Chapter 2, 1987 WCED Report) states …

‘ The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is the major objective of development.  The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries – for food, clothing, shelter, jobs – are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life.  A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises.  Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.’

Trying to list the essential needs of people / the basic needs of all is a very difficult task … but it is work which has been on-going, at international level, since just after the Second World War.

The essential needs of people / the basic needs of all … are specified as being Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and are already fully described within the extensive framework of International Legal Rights Instruments.

Which is why, many years ago, SDI developed this definition for Sustainable Human & Social Development … in order:

  • to give this concept a robust legal foundation ;   and
  • (because of widespread confusion in media, political and academic circles) … to clearly establish that we are talking about sustainable human and social development, and not sustainable economic development, or any other type of development !

Sustainable Human & Social Development

Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations … especially our children, and their children … and the next five generations of children.

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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5.   Climate Change Adaptation & Resilient Buildings in India ?

Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Climate Change are mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11.  The important implications of these phenomena for Sustainable Building Design in India are not explained … at all.  Why not ?

To properly respond to these phenomena, both must be integrated into India’s National Sustainability Strategies & Policies.

At the very least … we strongly recommend that Design Guidance on Climate Resilient Buildings be immediately drafted.  This guidance must be appropriate for implementation in each of the different climatic regions of India.

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6.   A Sustainable Indian Built Environment which is Accessible for All !

Barrier Free is mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11.  This is to be warmly welcomed and congratulated.  Under Social Aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development … this is an essential attribute of a Sustainable Built Environment !   However, no guidance on this subject is given to decision-makers or designers.  Why not ?

However, you should be aware that India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) on 1 October 2007.  For your convenience, I have attached copies of the Convention in English, Hindi and Tamil.

You should also be aware that, in December 2011, the International Standards Organization (ISO) published ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’.  In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is directly linked to the U.N. Convention … almost like an umbilical cord.  The scope of this Standard currently covers public buildings.  As the Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … much standardization work remains to be finished at international level.

The correct term … Accessibility for All … has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.

A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance from another person should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.

In order to fulfil India’s legal obligations as a State Party to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … adequate Design Guidance on Accessibility must be included in the Proposed New Part 11, supported by ISO 21542.

In addition, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) should immediately adopt ISO 21542 as the Indian National Standard on Accessibility for All … IS / ISO 21542.

[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]

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7.   Fire Safety & Protection for All in Sustainable Indian Buildings ?

Yes … there is 1 mention of ‘fire safety’ and 40 other references to ‘fire’ in the Proposed New Part 11 … but no design guidance.  Why not ?

You should be aware that there is a fundamental conflict between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the current state-of-the-art in Fire Engineering Design.  As a good example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of air movement in that building.  On the other hand, fire engineers in private practice, and fire prevention officers in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.

In everyday practice, there is a vast chasm in understanding and communication between these two very different design disciplines.  As a result, serious compromises are being enforced on Sustainability Building Performance.  If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a Sustainable Building … it is the fire safety and protection which is being seriously compromised.

A range of critical fire safety issues (fatal, in the case of firefighters) are also arising with the Innovative Building Products and Systems being installed in Sustainable Buildings.

Because the emphasis is on pre-construction design ‘intent’ rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed and occupied building … all of these problems are being conveniently ignored, and they remain hidden from everybody’s view.

This must be addressed in the Proposed New Part 11.

[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]

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C. J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.

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Driving Harder & Deeper Into Sustainable Development !?!

2013-01-13:   The 13th … a lucky day !

As we drive harder and deeper (at least some of us anyway ?) towards a future of Sustainable Human & Social Developmentor are forcefully driven by the anthropogenic (man-made) pressures of Resource Shortages (e.g. water – food – energy) and Climate Change, in the case of millions of people living in poverty throughout the world … or are dragged screaming, which I fear will have to be the solution with the privileged classes in every society who are addicted to lavish and wasteful lifestyles and who show absolutely no interest in either Climate Change or Resource Shortages until they rear up and bite them in the ass (!!) … there is a desperate need for a more complex and precise language of Sustainability, which will give shape to the innovative trans-sectoral concepts and trans-disciplinary policy and decision-making support tools required for Tangible/’Real’ Sustainability & Climate Resilience Implementation.

At the time of writing, the Principal Challenge before us is …

Transforming Social Organization … the Ultimate Goal being to arrive quickly at a dynamic and harmonious balance between a Sustainable Human Environment and a flourishing, not just a surviving, Natural Environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving Social Wellbeing for All.

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Climate Change did not directly cause Hurricane Sandy, a severe weather event which hit the Caribbean and the East Coast of the USA during October 2012 … but it was a significant contributing factor.  Scenes like those in the photograph below will be experienced far more frequently in the future.

This is not Manhattan, in New York City … so, is the development shown below to be removed altogether … or renewed with the necessary and very costly construction of a massive system of flood protection measures ?   Not an easy choice.  Which choice would be more sustainable ?

However … WHEN, not IF … Average Global Temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius, many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will suffer a similar fate … permanently …

North-Eastern USA After Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)

Colour photograph showing a flooded/inundated coastal community, in north-eastern USA, after Hurricane Sandy. Click to enlarge.

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The Type of Lightweight Development in the foreground of the photograph below … damaged beyond repair or re-construction during Hurricane Sandy, is not Resilient … which is a different concept to Robust, or Robustness.

Notice the building in the background, on the left, which appears to have survived fully intact … why ??

North-Eastern USA After Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)

Colour photograph showing the destruction of beachfront buildings, in north-eastern USA, caused by Hurricane Sandy. It will be ridiculous, and the height of stupidity, to repair/replace buildings and infrastructure using similar methods of construction. Will Insurance Companies and Federal/State Authorities understand this ?? Click to enlarge.

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In complete contrast … the Type of Development, below, is more Resilient.  Furthermore, however, as a normal human reaction to decades of aggressive, but ultimately unsuccessful, political bullying and economic assault by the USA, the Social Fabric of Cuba is very strong … making this a Resilient Human Environment

Santiago de Cuba After Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)

Colour photograph showing the damage caused to a local community in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, by Hurricane Sandy. Click to enlarge.

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So … what is a Resilient Human Environment … particularly in the context of Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation ?

What do we mean by Transforming Social Organization ??

And … as we drive forward, harder and deeper … why is it critical that we practice a balanced, synchronous approach … across ALL Aspects of Sustainability … to Tangible Sustainability & Climate Resilience Implementation ???

Let us confront some more interesting new words and thought-provoking concepts …

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European Sustainable Development Network

2012 – ESDN Quarterly Report Number 26 – Umberto Pisano, Author

ESDN Quarterly Report Number 26, 2012

ESDN – ‘Resilience and Sustainable Development: Theory of Resilience, Systems Thinking & Adaptive Governance’

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (2.17 Mb)

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Abridged Executive Summary

The term resilience originated in the 1970’s in the field of ecology from the research of C.S.Holling, who defined resilience as ‘a measure of the persistence of systems and of their ability to absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations or state variables’.  In short, resilience is defined as ‘the ability of a system to absorb disturbances and still retain its basic function and structure’, and as ‘the capacity to change in order to maintain the same identity’.

Resilience can best be described by three crucial characteristics: (1) the amount of disturbance a system can absorb and still remain within the same state or domain of attraction; (2) the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization; and (3) the ability to build and increase the capacity for learning and adaptation.

In the need for persistence, we can find a first connection with sustainable development.  Sustainable development has the objective of creating and maintaining prosperous social, economic, and ecological systems.  Humanity has a need for persistence.  And since humanity depends on services of ecosystems for its wealth and security, humanity and ecosystems are deeply linked.  As a result, humanity has the imperative of striving for resilient socio-ecological systems in light of sustainable development.

Resilience thinking is inevitably systems thinking at least as much as sustainable development is.  In fact, ‘when considering systems of humans and nature (socio-ecological systems) it is important to consider the system as a whole.  The human domain and the biophysical domain are interdependent’.  In this framework where resilience is aligned with systems thinking, three concepts are crucial to grasp: (1) humans live and operate in social systems that are inextricably linked with the ecological systems in which they are embedded; (2) socio-ecological systems are complex adaptive systems that do not change in a predictable, linear, incremental fashion; and (3) resilience thinking provides a framework for viewing a socio-ecological system as one system operating over many linked scales of time and space.  Its focus is on how the system changes and copes with disturbance.

To fully understand resilience theory, the report focuses therefore on the explanation of a number of crucial concepts: thresholds, the adaptive cycle, panarchy, resilience, adaptability, and transformability.

As shown, humanity and ecosystems are deeply linked.  This is also the fundamental reason why to adopt the resilience-thinking framework is a necessity for governance.  The resilience perspective shifts policies from those that aspire to control change in systems assumed to be stable, to managing the capacity of socio–ecological systems to cope with, adapt to, and shape change.  It is argued that managing for resilience enhances the likelihood of sustaining desirable pathways for development, particularly in changing environments where the future is unpredictable and surprise is likely.

This exposes the strong need for Sustainable Development Governance to embrace resilience thinking.  It is not only about being trans-disciplinary and avoiding partial and one-viewpoint solutions; what is needed to solve today’s problems – and especially those linked to sustainable development – is a new approach that considers humans as a part of Earth’s ecosystems, and one in which policies can more effectively cope with, adapt to, and shape change.

In this scenario, the concept and key characteristics of so-called adaptive governance seem to be a practical means for societies to deal with the complex issues that socio-ecological systems are confronted with.  Therefore, adaptive governance is best understood as an approach that unites those environmental and natural resource management approaches that share some or all of the following principles: polycentric and multi-layered institutions, participation and collaboration, self-organization and networks, and learning and innovation.  Additionally, four interactive crucial aspects for adaptive governance are suggested: (1) to build knowledge and understanding of resource and ecosystem dynamics; (2) to feed ecological knowledge into adaptive management practices; (3) to support flexible institutions and multilevel governance systems; and,(4) to deal with external disturbances, uncertainty, and surprise.  Therefore, nine values toward a resilient world are also suggested: diversity, ecological variability, modularity, acknowledging slow variables, tight feedbacks, social capital, innovation, overlap in governance, and ecosystem services.

Finally, three examples analyse practical instances in terms of resilience: (1) the approach taken by the so-called climate change adaptation discourse; (2) the Kristianstad Water Vattenrike, a wetland in southern Sweden that showed problems with loss of wet meadows, decline of water quality, and a disappearing wildlife habitat; and 3) the Goulburn-Broken Catchment from the State of Victoria (Australia).  Some lessons can be drawn from these three cases.  From the first case, governance structures have direct implications for the level of flexibility in responding to future change as well as variation in local contexts.  Sensitivity to feedbacks relates both to the timing as well as where these feedbacks occur.  Therefore, learning is more likely if feedbacks occur soon relative to action, and if those most affected by feedbacks are those responsible for the action.  Additionally, the way in which a problem is conceptually framed determines the way in which responses are identified and evaluated and therefore influences the range of response characteristics.  Second, the example from Sweden revealed that (a) the imposition of a set of rules to protect an ecosystem from the outside will not ensure the natural qualities of a region will be preserved over time.  One size never fits all, and an understanding of local history and culture needs to be integrated into the management if local values are to be looked after; (b) for an organization to meaningfully deal with complexity at many scales, it needs to include representatives from each of these levels in the social network; (c) several organizations need to be prepared to contribute to a shared vision and build consensus and leadership – crucial components in adaptability and transformability.  Third, the Goulburn-Broken story demonstrates the critical importance of understanding the underlying variables that drive a socio-ecological system, knowing where thresholds lie along these variables, and knowing how much disturbance it will take to push the system across these thresholds.

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Sustainable Development – International Law & Personal Ethics

At the level of the Individual … ‘sustainability’ urgently requires a revolution in professional and personal ethics.

However, at levels above or beyond the Individual … reference must be made to a common understanding of Sustainable Human & Social Development which has a foundation in a robust Framework of International Law.  It is this approach which continues to facilitate, at Sustainable Design International, our development of the theory of ‘sustainability’ … and its more effective application to frontline design practice.

Sustainable Human and Social Development:  Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human and Social Rights1, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations, especially our children … their children … and the next five generations of children.

[1]  As defined, in International Law, by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR).

Inspired by the Culture of the North American Indigenous Peoples … this definition also incorporates the concept of ‘7 Generation Thinking’.

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Sustainable Design2:  The ethical design response, in built or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

[2]  Includes Spatial Planning, Architectural/Engineering/Interior/Industrial Design and e-Design, etc.

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Sustainable Design Solutions must be appropriate to local geography, climate and future climate change, economy, culture, social need and language(s)/dialect(s), etc.

Our Ultimate Goal, however, must be to achieve a dynamic and harmonious balance between a Sustainable Human Environment (including the social, built, virtual and economic environments …) and a flourishing, not just a surviving, Natural Environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving Social Wellbeing for All.

Please see previous Posts on this Technical Blog … www.cjwalsh.ie … for supporting definitions to the above text.

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