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The Role of Technology in Environmentally Sustainable Development (1995)

Chapter:Definitions and Guiding Principles

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Suggested Citation:"Definitions and Guiding Principles." National Research Council. 1995. The Role of Technology in Environmentally Sustainable Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9236.
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Definitions and Guiding Principles

In the broadest sense, sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It means the balancing of economic, social, environmental, and technological considerations, as well as the incorporation of a set of ethical values. Such a definition provides a useful intellectual framework for addressing issues of sustainability.

For the purposes of this document, however, more specific guiding principles for achieving sustainable development have been adopted. The Council reacting to the needs of society, believes that sustainability can be achieved only if great attention is given to two key areas: environmental quality and economic development. In general the primary opportunities to pursue these twin goals are technological in nature. Therefore, in both developed and developing economies, technology and engineering issues are pivotal. Producers' and consumers' choices about product technology, producers' choices about process technologies, levels of investments in research and development, the rates of diffusion of technologies, and the design of government regulations affecting innovation are critical as societies move toward sustainable development.

The Council subscribes to the following:

  • Engineering and technology are key components of national and international efforts to achieve environmentally sustainable economic development for all nations;

  • The goals of economic development and environmental protection can and should be compatible;

Suggested Citation:"Definitions and Guiding Principles." National Research Council. 1995. The Role of Technology in Environmentally Sustainable Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9236.
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  • The ability to achieve global sustainability is strongly influenced by population growth;

  • Many natural systems are inherently variable. Such variability is easily confused with the impact of human activity on the environment. Distinguishing between inherent and man-made variability in natural systems and their capacity to respond to change is important subject for research;

  • For some environmental issues (for example, those involving the oceans and atmosphere), the planet must be regarded as a single complex system whose interests are best served by coordinated international action. Both developed and developing nations have a common interest in resolving global environmental issues;

  • Most actions to achieve environmentally sustainable economic development will take place at the national or local level, while at the same time taking into account the interdependence of nations. Individual countries will need to develop approaches to solving sustainability problems that are tailored to their own rate of economic development, cultures, religions, and political systems;

  • The achievement of environmentally sustainable economic development is dependent on adequate technical education at all levels and on education on how to balance economic, social, and environmental goals.

Suggested Citation:"Definitions and Guiding Principles." National Research Council. 1995. The Role of Technology in Environmentally Sustainable Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9236.
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Suggested Citation:"Definitions and Guiding Principles." National Research Council. 1995. The Role of Technology in Environmentally Sustainable Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9236.
×
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