Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Earth Summit Agenda 21

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 24, 2015

Agenda 21 is the framework for sustainable development (SD).  It presents an environmental management strategy that seeks to protect the environment.  The strategy is derived from the agreements reached by over 200 nations (and an even larger number of civil society groups) who met in the United Nations’ Conference on Environment and Development (or UNCED, but which is more often referred to as the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1992.  In that Summit, the consensus was reached that the environment should be viewed as a support system for society and its economy.  It needs to be protected and carefully nurtured, to ensure that it continues to provide support to society in the long-term.

Agreed upon at the Earth Summit are the four principles of managing the environment in relation to achieving economic growth.  These are:

EFFICIENCY – Resources are not to be over-exploited.  Neither should they remain unutilized.  Utilization must prescribe to full restoration.  It must aim at achieving a high marginal return sufficient to “pay back” the costs of utilization and the value of the resources being utilized.

SUFFICIENCY – Resources are to be used only for absolutely necessary ends.  Their use must aim for the biggest marginal returns.  Accrued gains from using a resource must entail the use of minimum unit of the resource.  It must not exceed the minimum needed to support a necessary end.  This principle involves a two-tier concept of (1) minimizing needs and (2) satisfying the most of a minimized need with the least resource being used.

CONSISTENCY – Ecosystems are to be managed to be compatible with each other.  The management of watersheds, for instance, need to be deliberately constrained so as to impair the functioning of downstream ecosystems (like wetlands and mangroves).  A “landscape” (or system of ecosystems) approach is preferred to a single-ecosystem management style.  Ecosystems are recognized as not “stand alone” chunks of Nature.  They constantly receive and direct materials, energy and information across each other, in a constant flux that create the conditions of a whole environmental system (martin, 1999).  They affect each other; thus, they need to be managed as a single super system.  Consistency requires that resources used be based on the strengths and weaknesses of a system of related ecosystems, including their human components.  Resource use must be constrained by the weakness of the weakest ecosystem in the landscape.

PRECAUTION – If the potential threats posed by an economic activity to ecosystems are serious, or where the environmental damage due to it is expected to be irreversible, precautionary or mitigating measures should be undertaken.  Lack of full scientific certainty that the threats or damage will in fact occur, is not a reason for postponing measures to prevent their occurrence.  Gambling with the environment is not advised, particularly if the stakes are high.

The foregoing information on efficiency, sufficiency, consistency and precaution were lifted from the book of Dr. Ben S. Malayang III entitled “Socio-Cultural Principles of Human-Environment Interactions”.  These principles included the ecological and social components to address our present and future needs as contained in the Earth Summit Agenda 21.

Just my little thoughts…

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