It is an appropriately historic moment to ask the question 'what happens next?' in relation to sustainable development and learning. The United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development has happened. In its aftermath, as we also note in Chapter 14 of the companion reader, conspicuous evidence of any widespread belief that learning is in some way central to the achievement of sustainable development is hard to find. Yet, it is hard to see how the ambitious goals which have been set can be achieved without a great deal of learning across all sectors.
Perhaps the key outcome of the summit has been the linking of sustainable development to poverty eradication. This has the effect, in terms of international institutional agendas at least, of re-instating 'sustainable development' over 'sustainability' as the term of choice. There are dangers in this, of course, as 'sustainable development' too easily becomes re-interpreted and tacitly re-understood as 'sustainable economic growth'. On the other hand, 'sustainability' too easily becomes a justification not only for denying the poor the right to choose anything other than a 'traditional' lifestyle, but, it would seem, sometimes also an excuse for denying everyone the most basic rights, particularly the right of free exchange (Fien and Trainer, 1993a; 1993b; Trainer, 1990). As writers such as Sen (1999) and Hill (1989) have in different ways suggested, exchange is simply part of the way in which free people live and interact.
One of the 'key commitments' emerging from the Summit reads as follows: 'By 2020, achieve a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers'. It really is difficult to see how this will be achieved without learning by those 100 million people: and even if that learning relates simply to the acquisition of skills of literacy and numeracy, that is, to goals of basic education, we may still ask whether learning will not be needed by others elsewhere in the world as a result of the coming into existence, over a relatively short period, of an extra 100 million literate, numerate individuals with incomes to spend and expectations and hopes to fulfil. We have argued that such learning can be made both more efficient and more