Sustainable Resource Management, Reality or Illusion?

Article excerpt

Sustainable Resource Management, Reality or Illusion? Edited by Peter N. Nemetz (2007) Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 445 pp. ISBN: 9781845425944

This volume about sustainable development is organized in four parts and 16 chapters, and poses a fundamental question: Is humanity managing our natural resources in a sustainable manner?

Part one introduces the concept of "sustainable development," and assesses its challenges. Sustainable development is defined as "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs . . ." (p. 3). It suggests that "system theory" is the dominant school of thought in this area, implying that sustainable development encompasses three subsystems: economic, ecological, and social.

Part two presents three case studies. The first case (chapter 1) is a description of development and application of permits for reducing sulfur dioxide (S02) emissions within the utility industry in the US, an experience qualified as "successful." The second case (chapter 2) analyzes OECD's fiscal policies to protect the environment. These policies are found to be "environmentally effective and economically efficient . . ." (p. 80). The third case (chapter 3) describes the experience of a successful company (the world's largest producer of commercial carpeting) committed to sustainable development. The CEO of this company qualifies his enterprise as "... strongly service-oriented, resource-efficient, wasting nothing, solar-driven, cyclical ... [and] strongly connected to . . . communities . . . , customers, and . . . suppliers . . ." (p. 19). It is emphasized that these achievements are the results of good management; that is, effective teamwork, design of products in a resource efficient fashion, operations that avoid polluting air and water, efficient use of energy and cars that run on solar energy, and members' sensitivity to the environment. A list of work still needed (about new technologies, new manufacturing methods, and tax reforms) concludes this chapter.

Part three analyzes opportunities and challenges of sustainable development within specific sectors. Chapter 4 studies the issue of global energy supply and demand, and discusses an acceptable level of energy utilization given the earth's increasing population and environmental degradation. The author of chapter 4 recommends energy conservation and efficiency, emission control, re-forestation, R&D to develop new sources of energy and better energy technologies, and the cautious development of nuclear power. The need to transfer sufficient resources and knowledge to the third world countries is also emphasized. Chapter 5 discusses world's resource consumption through an epidemiologist perspective, and assesses the challenges to human health in a dynamic global environment. Its central message is that prosperous societies consume too much of the world's resources and should cut back. The author of this chapter argues these cutbacks would be possible without serious impact on health in the more prosperous societies. Chapter 6 analyzes the sustainable management of coastal ecosystems. It describes the nature, magnitude, and history of the fisheries industrialization, and identifies the sources of problems for these ecosystems. Its authors recommend further scientific inquiry, a clear definition of the property rights in fisheries, and the formulation of a proactive governance model in this area. Chapter 7 analyses the "ecological tragedy of modern agriculture," which is summarized in the following quote: "Evidence indicates . . . that excessive reliance on monoculture farming and agro-industrial inputs such as capitalintensive technology, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, has negatively impacted the environment and rural society . . . Unfortunately, a number of 'ecological diseases' have been associated with the intensification of food production... …