Sustainable Development at Risk: Ignoring the Past

Sustainable Development at Risk: Ignoring the Past

Sustainable Development at Risk: Ignoring the Past

Sustainable Development at Risk: Ignoring the Past

Excerpt

This book is about (i) 'sustainable development', a popular term often used to imply ethical, conservative and prudent utilisation of all resources and a compassionate disposition to all humanity and biodiversity; and (ii) individual and organisational failure to learn from past experience.

The words 'sustainable' and 'development' are discussed from an etymological and semasiological perspective since they are so often written about with no precise definition of what is meant or intended. Consequently the literature is replete with conflicting and confused concepts of what constitutes sustainable development. Comprehension of sustainable development demands first a systematic assessment and analysis of the many factors, influences and resources that impinge upon and interact in various and diverse developmental circumstances. There is no simple, single path to, or formula for, sustainable development. Each development must be considered in light of the prevailing social, economic, physical and, sometimes, political environment.

Few organisations, governmental and non-governmental appear to maintain a lively, up-to-date institutional or corporate memory: a critical, analytical record of past experience from which to define and formulate productive courses of action for the future, activities that avoid repeating errors of the past. As many wise philosophers have observed, failure to learn from history and past experience results in mistakes being repeated.

Equally, the text lays emphasis on the need for language that is precise, using words and sentences that convey an unambiguous meaning to all to whom they are addressed. In his 1946 essay on Politics and the English Language, George Orwell sensibly states that slovenly language leads to foolish thought and foolish action. The vast literature about sustainable development is replete with slovenly language: writers and development agencies speaking of sustainable development without ever defining what they mean.

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