chapter  1
26 Pages

Securing ‘Our Common Future’

If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it. Severn Cullis-Suzuki, daughter of David Suzuki,

speaking at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit at 12 years of age

Even a cursory overview of human history will conclude that the last few centuries have witnessed remarkable change, with now the majority of the world shifting from local agrarian communities to densely populated, highly urbanized, industrial cities. For much of this transition, nature was considered to be plentiful and innovation was focused on increasing labour productivity. A lack of financial capital was addressed by the formation of banking systems and stock exchanges, and access to cheap energy was achieved by generating energy from oil, natural gas and coal. Governments and business, working together have created remarkable material prosperity and economic growth for many living today. Much has improved; for instance, poverty has been reduced, life expectancy has risen, access to education and health services has increased (for instance, with polio now largely eradicated), democratic governance has spread, and there have been huge leaps forward in technology and communication. Agricultural production now helps to support a global population of over 6 billion people and an increase in global trade has helped to build a foundation for greater peace and security. In many ways these are the best of times; however, with these advances, new issues have emerged, particularly related to the scale of environmental pressures, that if not addressed, will have real impacts on future prosperity and economic growth.