Tonight we’ll be talking about the upcoming “This Way to Sustainability Conference” to be held on the Chico State and Butte Community College campuses on November 4th, 5th, and 6th. We’ll talk with two students who coordinators of the conference– Ciara Meanes from Chico State and Lisa Dayoan from Butte College. And we’ll talk about the whole concept of sustainability.
Background: The Sustainability Concept
We want to start by looking at some perspectives on sustainability and at the history of the concept. “The Sustainability Report”–which is affiliated with the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability in Canada—provides a brief history of “sustainable development.” Their definition of sustainability
sees human activities as part of and dependent upon the natural world. . . . [T]he human ecosystem, including the communities we build, is a subset of the larger ecosystem of the Earth. . . . Most definitions stress that sustainability requires making decisions that recognize the connections between actions and effects in the environment, economy and society.”
Here’s the history “The Sustainability Report” provides:
“The sustainability idea as we know it emerged in a series of meetings and reports during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972, the UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment marked the first great international meeting on how human activities were harming the environment and putting humans at risk.
[We want to note editorially that the first Earth Day also occurred in 1972, so there is even more evidence of global awakening.]
The “Sustainability Report” continues:
The 1980 World Conservation Strategy, prepared by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature along with the UN Environment Program and the World Wildlife Fund, promoted the idea of environmental protection in the self-interest of the human species.
In 1987, the UN-sponsored Brundtland Commission released Our Common Future, a report that captured widespread concerns about the environment and poverty in many parts of the world.
The Brundtland report said that economic development cannot stop, but it must change course to fit within the planet’s ecological limits. It also popularized the term sustainable development, which it defined as development that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
World attention on sustainability peaked at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro. It brought together the heads or senior officials of 179 governments, and included the Earth Summit, the largest-ever meeting of world leaders. Rio produced two international agreements, two statements of principles and a major action agenda on worldwide sustainable development.
The “Sustainability Report” notes that:
The interest in sustainability that flourished during that period was spurred by a series of incidents and discoveries, including the leak of poisonous gas from a chemical plant at Bhopal, India, the explosion and radioactive release from Chernobyl, Ukraine, the hole in the Antarctic ozone layer, leaking toxic chemical dumps, such as Love Canal, general fears about chemical contamination and conflicts over decreasing natural resources such as forests and fisheries.
“The Brundtland report”—sponsored by the UN in 1987—“captured many of those concerns when it said:”
Major, unintended changes are occurring in the atmosphere, in soils, in waters, among plants and animals. Nature is bountiful but it is also fragile and finely balanced. There are thresholds that cannot be crossed without endangering the basic integrity of the system. Today we are close to many of those thresholds.
Again, that from the Sustainability Report, from the Canadian Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability: http://www.sustreport.org/background/history.html
In planning and developing communities, the issue of sustainability is very complex indeed. Trying to weigh everything that must be considered to make a community/a town/a city sustainable requires understanding many interdependent factors. “Sustainable Measures,” a private consulting firm in Connecticut dedicated to promoting sustainable communities describes what has to be taken into consideration when working toward a sustainable community. They note:
[T]he economy exists entirely within society, because all parts of the human economy require interaction among people. However, society is much more than just the economy. Friends and families, music and art, religion and ethics are important elements of society, but are not primarily based on exchanging goods and services.
Society, in turn, exists entirely within the environment. Our basic requirements — air, food and water — come from the environment, as do the energy and raw materials for housing, transportation and the products we depend on.
Finally, the environment surrounds society. At an earlier point in human history, the environment largely determined the shape of society. Today the opposite is true: human activity is reshaping the environment at an ever-increasing rate. The parts of the environment unaffected by human activity are getting smaller all the time. However, because people need food, water and air to survive, society can never be larger than the environment.
Sustainability requires managing all households — individual, community, national, and global — in ways that ensure that our economy and society can continue to exist without destroying the natural environment on which we all depend. Sustainable communities acknowledge that there are limits to the natural, social and built systems upon which we depend. Key questions asked in a sustainable community include: ‘Are we using this resource faster than it can be renewed’ and ‘Are we enhancing the social and human capital upon which our community depends?
That description from the Sustainable Measures consulting firm in Connecticut.
The City of Chico is working on this whole complex issue through the Sustainability Task Force, a committee of the Chico City Council. Initiated in 2007, the purpose of the Task Force was to develop “initiatives to implement the US Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while simultaneously meeting environmental, economic, and community needs now and in the future.” Part of the work has involved creating a Climate Action Plan that includes—among other things–water and air quality. The Task Force has also worked on sustainability measures to be included the City’s General Plan Update. This has involved developing measurable sustainability indicators. Those indicators include things like Land Use, Community Design, Transportation, Economic Development, Noise, Parks and Open Space.
We plan to devote an entire show to the Sustainability Task Force in the near future. Meanwhile, to learn more about its work you can go to the Sustainability Task Force’s website on the City Council site.
Our Discussion with Ciara Meanes and Lisa Dayoan
With us now in the studio are Ciara Meanes from Chico State and Lisa Dayoan from Butte College, student coordinators of “This Way to Sustainability, “ a conference sponsored by Chico State and Butte College.
1. What is the purpose of “This Way to Sustainability Conference” coming up on November 4-6.
2. How did Chico State and Butte College begin this collaboration? How long have you been doing this and how has it developed over the years?
3. There are events going on at both the Butte College campus and the CSU campus. Can you explain those arrangements?
4. Tell us about some of the major speakers who will be presenting.
5. Who do you hope will come to the conference?
6. One thing we really like about the conference is the various strands of the conference directed to different communities. Can you tell us something about that?
[Some notes from the web site: The theme for this year’s conference is Connecting Communities and we are taking that theme deep into the structure of the conference. In the past we have established “tracks” and invited some people to make presentations, and invited other people to come listen. This year we are establishing five communities – learning, building, business, biotic, and advocacy- and we are asking people involved or interested in those sectors of our larger, global community to come together to propose a set of presentations and other interactions that they, and thus others, would want to attend. While the communities will develop organically, we do have a few thoughts on each:
Learning Community ~ Education is the engine of change. Teachers, students, parents, and administrators need to work together to incorporate sustainability into all levels of the educational system.
Building/Facilities Community ~ Even in Northern California, we are an urban people. All of us live, study, and work in buildings, and we all have an interest in building a more sustainable community.
Business Community ~ Many of our most fundamental relationships are also business transactions and no sector of society has a greater reach in spreading sustainability in production, employment and consumption.
Living Community ~ Humans share the earth with many beings and we express that connection in many ways; in our ethics and our art, in our inspirations and our meditations.
Advocacy Community ~ Sustainability is about envisioning a better world, and then acquiring and employing the tools of change needed to make the vision a reality.
Community Center Expo ~ This year’s sustainability conference will include a Community Center Expo! This expo will provide space for vendors and exhibitors to display sustainable products and ideas in the main Auditorium of the Bell Memorial Union Thursday and/or Friday during the conference. The Community Center Expo will allow for exhibitor display areas in addition to a demonstration stage and workshop are.]
7. Tell us how you went about organizing such a big event? What got your involved in this effort?
8. The conference itself also makes a real effort to be “green.” What are some of the efforts to create a small footprint for the event?
9. What other aspects of the conference would you like to highlight? What are you most looking forward to or excited about?
10. Could you again give us the details of the conference? When and where is it? How can people register?
Playlist for Eco #107: Sustainability Now
1. Will There Be Enough Water? 6:20 The Dead Weather Horehound
2. Clear Blue Skies (LP Version) 3:07 Crosby, Still, Nash & Young American Dream
3. Mother Earth (Natural Anthem) 5:11 Neil Young Ragged Glory
4. Supernova 4:42 Liquid Blue Supernova
5. Nature’s Way 2:40 Spirit Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
6. Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary
7. Teach Your Children 3:02 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Four Way Street [Disc 1] [Live]
8. Worldwide Connected 5:06 The Herbaliser Something Wicked This Way Comes
9. In A Future Age 2:57 Wilco Summerteeth Country
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