Shaping a sustainable future - an outline of the transition
The warnings from scientists are urgent and unequivocal: our civilisation is unwittingly stepping in front of an ecological lorry that is about to flatten us (Steffen, W., et al., 2004. Global change and the earth system: a planet under pressure. Berlin: Springer-Verlag). We are using resources future generations will need, damaging environmental systems and compromising social stability by increasing the gap between rich and poor. In short, we are consuming the future. Without a radical re-thinking of the way we currently live, our society is doomed. We need to tackle this problem head-on and develop far-reaching solutions to our environmental and social crisis. This does not just require technical innovation. It also demands fundamental changes to our values and our social institutions. This paper develops a vision of a HEALTHIER society - one that is Humane, takes an Eco-centric approach, adopts Long-term thinking, uses our natural resources responsibly, is Informed about the fragility of our natural systems, is Efficient in turning resources into the services we need and is Resourced from natural flows of energy. The paper goes on to suggest the first concrete steps toward achieving this sort of desirable future. History has shown that human systems can change very quickly. Once we realise the need for a new direction - and act on it - an equitable and sustainable world is within reach. If civilisation is to survive, this century will have to be a time of dramatic transformation, not just in technical capacity but also in our approach to the natural world - and each other. The road we are travelling now can only end in disaster.
Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems