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Caring for the Earth - A Strategy for Sustainable Living

Copyright 1991 International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources/ United Nations Environment Programme/WWF- World Wide Fund For Nature.

Reproduction of this publication for educational and other non- commercial purposes is authorized without prior permission from the copyright holders. Reproduction for resale or other commercial purposes is prohibited without the prior written permission of the copyright holders. Any redistribution of this work, in whole or in part, must contain this copyright notice.


Caring for the Earth - A Strategy for Sustainable Living

Published in partnership by IUCN-The World Conservation Union UNEP-United Nations Environment Programme WWF-World Wide Fund For Nature Gland, Switzerland, October 1991

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CIDA - Canadian International Development Agency Canadian Wildlife Federation

DANIDA - Danish International Development Assistance

FINNIDA - Finnish International Development Agency International Centre for Ocean Development Ministere de l'Environnement du Quebec,

Ministry of Environment of Quebec

The Johnson Foundation Inc.

Ministero degli Affari Esteri, Direzione Generale per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo, Italy

Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation

NORAD - Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs,Norway

SIDA - Swedish International Development Authority



Asian Development Bank

FAO-Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

IIED-International Institute for Environment and Development

ILO-International Labour Office

ICHM-Istituto Superiore di Sanita

OAS-Secretariat: Organization of American States United Nations Centre for Human Settlements - Habitat

UNDP-United Nations Development Programme

UNESCO-United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNFPA-United Nations Population Fund

The World Bank

WHO-World Health Organization

WMO-World Meteorological Organization

WRI-World Resources Institute


Second World Conservation Strategy Project

Project Director: David A. Munro

Senior Consultant and Writer: Robert Prescott-Allen

Production: Peter Hulm and Nikki Meith

Secretary: Margrith Kemp

Cover and graphics: Kurt Brunner/Art Center College of Design (Europe)

Final text edited by David A. Munro and Martin W. Holdgate

English ISBN 2-8317-0074-4; French ISBN 2-8317-0075-2;

Spanish ISBN 2-8317-0076-0; Earthscan edition 1-85383-126-3


Citation: IUCN/UNEP/WWF. (1991).

Caring for the Earth. A Strategy for Sustainable Living.

Gland, Switzerland.


5. Keeping within the Earth's carrying capacity


Human impact on the Earth depends both on the number of people and on how much energy and other resources each person uses or wastes. The maximum impact that the planet or any particular ecosystem can sustain is its carrying capacity. Carrying capacity for people can be expanded by technology, but usually at the cost of reducing biological diversity or ecological services. In any case, it is not infinitely expandable. It is limited ultimately by the system's capacity to renew itself or safely to absorb wastes.

Sustainability will be impossible unless human population and resource demand level off within the carrying capacity of the Earth. If we apply to our lives the rules we seek to apply when managing other species, we should try to leave a substantial safety margin between our total impact and our estimate of what the planetary environment can withstand. This is the more essential because while we know that the ultimate limits exist we are uncertain at exactly what point we may reach them. It is important to remember that we are seeking not just survival but a sustainable improvement in the quality of life of several billion people.


The actions needed to keep within the Earth's carrying capacity will vary greatly from nation to nation - and even among communities within nations - because of the wide variations in population size, population growth rates, human needs, resource consumption patterns, and the availability of resources. Five major features of today's human situation must be taken into account when development strategies are planned:

- A minority of people, mostly but not all in upper-income countries, enjoy a high standard of living, consume a disproportionate share of available energy, food, water, minerals and other resources, and suffer from the diseases of affluence (mostly linked to excessive consumption).

- That minority may accept a reduction in its resource consumption through gains in efficiency, and a stabilization of its standard of living, but it is unrealistic to expect people willingly to reduce that standard.

- The majority of people today, mostly but not all living in lower- income countries, have a standard of living ranging from the miserable to the barely tolerable, use far less than their arithmetical share of the Earth's resources, and in many cases suffer from the diseases of poverty (linked to malnutrition and compounded by inadequate health care).

- The poor are locked into poverty largely because the rich control the world's markets, resource flows, prices, and finance. But they are aware of one another. Modern communications and tourism bring the luxury of the rich before the eyes of the poor, and the latter no longer accept these disparities with patience or as a part of some natural historical order.

- Population growth rates are highest where poverty is most intense. Lack of health care, education and social infrastructure, and of facilities to allow those who want to limit their fertility to do so, are among the factors conspiring with tradition to keep birth rates high in the countries least able to give each new citizen the prospect of a life of dignity. Box 8 gives some facts and figures that illustrate these disparities.

The situation is clearly unstable and inequitable. Gross disparities in resource consumption and rates of population growth have to be overcome. Otherwise we can expect some communities to become defensively isolationist and others to slide into insecurity and conflict.

A concerted effort is needed to reduce energy and resource consumption by upper-income countries. Between 1970 and 1986, several high consumption countries significantly reduced their per capita energy consumption: USA (down by 12%); Luxembourg (down by 33%); UK (down by 10%) and Denmark (down by 15%). But most of the other big consumers increased it.

Trends that favour more widespread and rapid reductions include the increasing productivity of modern economies in terms of energy and materials (OECD countries as a whole significantly reduced energy consumption per unit of GNP) (see Fig. 2); the development of technologies that produce and use energy and materials more efficiently, including recycling; and public demand for products with lower environmental impacts.

World population doubled from 2.5 to 5 billion people between 1950 and 1987. The growth rate is declining but the population will continue to increase rapidly because of the population structure of countries with high total fertility rates. The United Nations' medium projection is for world population to grow by a billion people per decade, reaching 6.4 billion by the year



Evolution of energy intensity in different countries

After decades of steadily declining energy intensity (energy consumption per unit of GNP) in the industrialized world, where the economic infrastructures are moving toward services, the less- developed countries (LDCs) are now faced with rising demands presented by the use of energy-intensive materials in the course of their own development

After Ecodecision 1: 1, 1991



2000, 8.5 billion by 2025, 10 billion by 2050, and an ultimate size of between 11 and 12 billion.

This assumes that fertility rates will fall to 3.3 births per woman by the year 2000. However, family planning programmes in the 1980s failed to keep pace with the demand for fertility control in lower- income countries. Regular contraceptive use must grow from 51% to 59% of couples in lower-income countries by 2000, requiring a doubling of annual expenditures on family planning - from $4.5 billion to $9 billion - by that year. If fertility rates decline more slowly, the population could be even bigger than the UN's medium projection, unless environmental degradation leads to a substantial increase in death rates.

By contrast, a successful effort to achieve the UN's low projection could enable the world population to stabilize at an ultimate size of around 10 billion. The task is enormous but feasible: in the past 20 years, Suriname has halved and China, Cuba, Singapore, and Thailand have more than halved, their total fertility rates (and another 15 countries cut their TFRs by 40-48%).



Box 8. Some facts and figures about human population and resource consumption

Commercial energy consumption per person is a useful measure of environmental impact. This is because it is energy that enables people to take renewable and nonrenewable resources from ecosystems, to transform them into products and consume them, and eventually to return them to ecosystems as waste. The more polluting the energy source, the bigger the impact.


The 42 countries with high and medium-high levels of energy consumption per person contain a quarter of the world's population but account for four-fifths of its use of commercial energy (see Annex 5).


The 128 countries with low and medium-low levels of energy consumption per person contain three-quarters of the world's population but account for only a fifth of commercial energy consumption.


On average, someone in a "high consumption" country consumes 18 times the commercial energy used by a person in a "low consumption" country, and causes much more pollution: a North American causes the emission of twice as much carbon dioxide as a South American, and ten times as much as someone living in South Asia or East Asia (excluding Japan).


A citizen of the lower-income countries consumes on average 2,380 calories per day, mostly from plants. A citizen of the upper- income countries consumes 3,380 calories, a considerable amount from meat.


Most high-income countries have near-stable populations. But their resource consumption continues to rise.


Most of the low-consumption countries have high and medium- high total fertility rates, and their populations are expanding fast. Most already have great difficulty meeting their needs for food, water, health care, sanitation, housing, jobs, energy, and productive land. Rapid population growth adds to these difficulties and undermines prospects for sustainable development, because governments must draw on scarce financial reserves or add to their foreign debt to meet basic needs. This in turn often prompts them to increase demands on their shrinking stocks of timber, fish, petroleum, or other resources.


For each 1% of population growth, at least 3% of GNP is needed as "demographic investment" to expand the stock of buildings and machines for the new workers.



Stabilizing human populations and putting resource consumption on a more equitable and sustainable footing are the greatest challenges of our time, and they touch human sensitivity deeply. All of us - but particularly those who live in upper-income countries - need to alter our life-styles now, for the sake of a decent standard of living for our contemporaries and a dignified future for our descendants.


Priority actions

To stay within the Earth's carrying capacity - and well enough clear of its limits to allow real improvement in human quality of life (as emphasized in Chapter 3), communities throughout the world will need to:

- manage their environmental resources sustainably (as described in Chapter 4);

- address the issues of population growth and resource consumption in an integrated way;

- reduce excessive consumption and waste;

- provide better information, health care and family planning services.


A combined approach to resource and population issues

Actions to reduce resource consumption in the high-income countries, make more resources available to citizens in the lower- income countries, and to stabilize populations everywhere, have to be taken together.



Action 5.1. Increase awareness about the need to stabilize resource consumption and population.


Governments, educational bodies and non-governmental groups in all countries should support and undertake formal and informal education to make people aware that:

- the carrying capacity of the Earth is not unlimited;

- excessive and wasteful use of resources, particularly in upper- income countries, is a major threat to the Earth's carrying capacity;.

- people in high-consumption countries can eliminate wasteful consumption without reducing their quality of life, and often with financial savings (for example, through energy conservation);.

- consumption patterns, family health and size, and social welfare are closely interrelated;.

- population stabilization is essential, and men and women must accept their shared responsibility for achieving it;.

- enhanced, but sustainable, production of agricultural and other renewable resources is essential to meet the inevitable rise in human needs. The campaigns and programmes will be more effective if guided by the ethic for living sustainably (see Chapter 2) and by the results of research on cultural attitudes to these issues.



Action 5.2. Integrate resource consumption and population issues in national development policies and planning.


Governments should adopt explicit policies to limit resource consumption and population, and build these into national development planning. High-income and high-consumption countries should give priority to curbing wasteful overconsumption and pollution. Countries with high rates of population growth should give priority to achieving stability. The policies and plans should:

- monitor trends in resource consumption and population and assess their implications for sustainability;

- set goals for reducing consumption of energy (see Chapter 10) and other resources to a sustainable level (high-consumption countries);

- set goals for higher, but sustainable, agricultural production (low- consumption countries) (see Action 13.1);

- set goals for the stabilization of population at a sustainable level;

- integrate resource consumption and demographic goals with other social and economic objectives (see Action 17.7 and Annex 8);

- encourage the private sector and non-governmental groups to carry out programmes that support family planning and reduced resource consumption;

- involve the public fully in the establishment of policies and goals and the taking of action.


Action to reduce excessive consumption and waste of resources

If resources are to be conserved while quality of life is improved, three main kinds of action must be taken in an interlinked way. First, new and more efficient technologies must be developed. Second, national economic and regulatory policies must vigorously promote the switch to a less wasteful society. Third, individuals must be informed about how they can gain from changes in their own activities and consumption patterns.



Action 5.3. Develop, test and adopt resource-efficient methods and technologies.


Governments in high-income countries should use economic instruments and regulations to encourage industries and public utilities to adopt resource-efficient technologies and methods. Governments and development aid agencies in those countries should support the transfer of such technologies to lower-income countries. Actions that should be considered include:

- establishing awards for environmentally sound processes and products. In the United Kingdom a Better Environmental Awards for Industry (BEAFI) scheme has been in operation for some years, as a partnership between government, industry and a national non- governmental organization which runs the scheme. Such arrangements can be linked directly to "green consumer" movements, and to the development of national standards for products and processes (Actions 5.5, 10.4 and 11.2);

- providing capital aid and technical assistance to lower-income countries, including training in designing energy-efficient systems for use in homes, offices, agriculture and industry. The aim would be the speedy replacement of present energy-wasting practices in energy production and transmission and in industry; these practices impose an unnecessary burden on the countries concerned (see Action 9.7);

- providing more efficient domestic stoves and other devices and more energy to improve household light, cooling and refrigeration in lower-income countries. These would replace the present wasteful and inefficient wood-burning stoves (which add to the work of those who gather fuelwood or the economic burden if an urban household has to buy charcoal).

The scope for gain in these sectors is very large. It has been estimated that the energy needs of lower-income countries for a combination of domestic and industrial uses could be met with an increase of only 20% in per capita energy use if efficient methods were used, whereas without them the increase would have to be 100% or more. If China were to achieve the energy efficiency of an average high-income country, it could double its GNP without building any more power stations.



Action 5.4. Tax energy and other resources in high consumption countries.


Governments in high-consumption countries should:

- first remove any subsidies and other factors that distort resource prices, except for subsidies that have been introduced to promote sustainability;

- then, if necessary, introduce taxes so that the prices of resources match their real costs to society. Higher prices should induce more efficient technology and patterns of consumption, even though energy price increases do not always reduce demand.

Governments in other countries, while seeking the same goal, should introduce such measures more gradually and specifically, applying them first to industrial sectors and urban areas where energy consumption is high and wasteful.

Each government will obviously need to work out for itself how such changes can be brought about without increasing poverty. It is not difficult to do this while keeping the overall tax burden unchanged, for example by reducing income tax - particularly on lower incomes. Electricity and fuel credits could be given to pensioners. Making resources cost relatively more, and labour less, might also help employment.

This approach would get round the present political objection that resource taxes (including a carbon tax) are additional to existing taxes and so are politically unacceptable. Here it is proposed that energy and other resource taxes wholly or partly replace existing taxes. Energy and resource taxes are consistent with the principle of "the user pays" - the more you consume, the more you pay.

Well-designed taxes on energy should encourage more efficient technologies and a switch to energy sources that emit less carbon dioxide and other pollutants. The cleanest source of energy should be taxed only enough to achieve efficiency, while other sources are taxed at progressively higher rates to deter pollution. Taxes on fossil fuels would, for this reason, be high for coal, moderate for oil, and low for natural gas (see Actions 10.1 and 10.2).

Taxes on raw materials could be set similarly to encourage more efficient technologies, more use of renewable resources, and more durable products.



Action 5.5. Encourage "green consumer" movements.


Consumers in upper-income countries can use their buying power to strengthen the market for goods that do the least possible harm to the environment. They can switch from one brand to another; or they can stop buying a particular product. As a "green" consumer, the individual can do something positive, however serious the problem, and whatever the government of the day is doing. The cumulative effect of "green" actions by millions of consumers can significantly change patterns of resource consumption.

If they are to do this, consumers need reliable information. At present, lack of standards and of reliable labelling hampers informed choice. Governments should work with consumer groups, environmental groups and industry to develop national standards and a "green consumer" label for products.

Developing such a scheme is not without difficulties. Decisions about environmental acceptability are matters of judgement. We often do not know all the environmental effects of the products we use. And there may be difficult choices. For example, is cotton clothing better than polyester because synthetic fibres use up nonrenewable resources? Or is polyester better because cotton growers use a lot of pesticides and fertilizers? Despite such problems, the government of Germany has set up a national scheme to identify and promote environment-friendly products, and this is now being broadened to cover the whole European Community.

Individuals should help move the market forward by:

- becoming informed consumers of products and services;

- asking for environmentally friendly products;

- telling manufacturers and retailers the reasons for choosing certain products or brands and avoiding others;

- informing others about the issues: writing to local and national media, to utilities, and to legislators;

- joining campaigning and lobbying organizations;

- encouraging family, friends, neighbours, and co-workers to do the same.


Action to stabilize population

Many factors act together to determine family size. They include access to (and information on) family planning services for both women and men; family income and security; maternal and child health care; women's status in society; education for women and men; and religious and cultural factors, including the attitudes of men. The factors reinforce each other. Population stability can be achieved only if action is taken on them all.

People limit family size when it makes sense to them socially and economically - that is, when women's education and role in society improve, when men are prepared to accept changes in the roles of women and men, when families can survive without relying on the income from children, and when maternal and child mortality drop.

The status of women needs to be improved (see Chapter 3, Box 6). Women who have completed primary school have fewer children than those with no schooling, and families become smaller as the education level of mothers rises. In Brazil, "uneducated" women have an average of 6.5 children each, whereas those with secondary education have only 2.5. And in Liberia, women who have been to secondary school are ten times more likely to be using family planning services than those who have never been to school at all. In four Latin American countries, education was found to be responsible for between 40% and 60% of the decline in fertility registered over the past decade.


Action 5.6. Improve maternal and child health care.


Dramatic results can come from inexpensive health services that provide:

- prenatal and postnatal care at the local level, especially giving food supplements to undernourished pregnant and lactating women, and promoting breast feeding;

- education to women, men and children on the importance of simple hygiene such as sanitary treatment of food and drinking water, washing hands before meals, and safe disposal of excreta;

- family planning services (see Action 5.7).


Health support to poor households in rural and marginal communities should be improved. It is necessary to:

- create facilities in villages and urban neighbourhoods using paramedical personnel, with referral to, and supervision from, district or subdistrict medical centres;

- expand outreach to the household, using workers recruited from the local community;

- work with and through such local organizations as mothers' clubs;

- integrate services at the local level and decentralize many aspects of programme management.

Both health and population stabilization will benefit from measures that encourage traditional methods of child spacing. More births are averted in sub-Saharan Africa by ovulation suppression during breast feeding than by the use of modern methods of contraception. Although bottle feeding may be necessary when mothers work away from home, the use of milk formula under unhygienic conditions by families who neither need nor can afford it kills babies and increases fertility.

Governments and employers should make breast feeding easier for working mothers. This can be done by providing creches at work, making working times flexible so that mothers can give feeds, and encouraging work at home. Commercial pressures to promote unnecessary bottle feeding are unethical and should be condemned. The International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes should be enforced.



Action 5.7. Double family planning services.


In 1990 some 381 million couples (51%) in lower-income countries used a family planning method. To achieve fertility rates consistent with the UN medium population projection of 6.4 billion by the year 2000, an additional 186 million couples (a total of 567 million or 59%) must be using contraception by the end of the century.

Despite traditional opposition and the fact that for some a large family is seen as a living pension and a source of prestige, family planning is widely desired. Health and demographic surveys conducted in a large number of lower-income countries show that 50-80% of married women wish to space or limit their childbearing.

Keeping within the Earth's carrying capacity This need is not being met. In Africa less than a quarter of women not wanting any more births are practising contraception; in Asia the figure is 43%, and in Latin America 57%. Perhaps a quarter of all pregnancies in lower-income countries end in abortion, often because contraception is not available. If all women who said they wanted no more children were able to stop childbearing, the number of births would be reduced by 27% in Africa, 33% in Asia, and 35% in Latin America. Maternal mortality could be halved. It has been estimated that family planning alone would save the lives of 200,000 women and 5 million children by helping couples to space their children and avoid high-risk pregnancies.

Governments and international aid agencies should increase their support to family planning services. Currently, $4.5 billion per year are spent on family planning services in the lower income countries, $3.5 billion coming from the countries themselves and $0.7 billion from OECD countries. Many services cannot expand because their supply of contraceptives is not assured. Some actually run out of contraceptives. The OECD contribution represents only 1.3% of development assistance by OECD countries. The total should be increased to $9 billion per year by 2000, with $4.5 billion coming from development assistance. These are not impossible sums. Much of the cost is current rather than capital and may be financed largely in local currency; and the money saved by lower expenditure on maternal and child health can be greater than the initial costs of family planning. Another benefit of more investment in family planning is better educational opportunities for children.

Wherever realistic family planning facilities have been made available, fertility has declined. Experience from 83 countries shows that a 15% increase in contraceptive availability decreases fertility by nearly one child per woman. Birth rates have fallen two to seven times faster in lower-income countries with effective family planning programmes than they did in Europe and North America during a similar transition from high to low fertility.

Governments, local administrations and development aid agencies should ensure that family planning is a part of all rural and urban development programmes and is funded as a part of their budgets. People should be advised about the alternative methods available (traditional or natural; barrier; hormonal and surgical) and helped in their choice. Contraceptive pills should not be distributed without professional supervision. At present only 15% of people in lower income countries use natural and barrier methods, as against 50% in upper-income countries, yet these are the methods that do not need a medical input. Surgical and hormonal methods have been promoted disproportionately in countries with poor health services, and this needs to change. Effective and safe birth control can be achieved only if it is linked to improvement in the provision of health services to poor people (see Action 3.3).


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6. Changing personal attitudes and practices


There are many reasons why people live unsustainably. Poverty can force them to do things that will help them to survive for the present, even though they know that they are creating problems for the future. Changing economic factors can make it difficult for people to improve their circumstances, and their efforts to escape from poverty can actually make their impact on the environment worse. In many lower-income countries the first priority is therefore to increase per capita income and build the infrastructure - the health care, social services, housing and other support - that will give people more secure livelihoods. These issues are discussed in Chapter 3. More affluent groups and countries live unsustainably because of ignorance, lack of concern, or incentives to wasteful consumption. For them particularly, the need is to change attitudes and practices, not only so that communities use resources more sustainably but also to bring about alterations in international economic, trade and aid policies.

People in different countries need to be persuaded and helped to change their life-styles in different ways. But despite these differences, there is a widespread need to prepare people for changes that are likely to conflict with the values they have grown up with. Education will be important in bringing these changes about.

There is a base to build on. Various opinion polls suggest that concern about environmental deterioration is widespread in all countries. Many people are voicing demands to protect nature and show responsibility for future generations. However, other surveys show that people quickly tire of messages of doom, and that the links between individual lifestyles, the alleviation of poverty, the use of resources and world economic and trading patterns are not widely understood. Many people simply do not see how changing their behaviour would help others.

Even those who accept the need to live differently often fail to follow their ideals. Not enough people in high-income countries adopt a driving style that conserves energy, recycle their garbage, or place "environmental friendliness" above "convenience" when shopping. Faced with recession or rising unemployment, even environmentally aware governments are tempted to slacken standards if their application might reduce the profitability of an existing industry or prevent a new one from starting up.

People will adopt the ethic for sustainable living (see Chapter 2) when they are persuaded that it is right and necessary to do so, when they have sufficient incentives, and when they are enabled to obtain the required knowledge and skills. Most formal education does not now give them the knowledge and understanding they need. With a few notable exceptions, the most powerful influences on popular attitudes in upper-income countries - advertising and entertainment - promote over-consumption and waste.

There are two lessons from this. First, a new approach is essential to build understanding of human relations with the natural world into formal education. Second, the power of non formal education and communication must also be harnessed, through parental influence, newspapers and magazines, television and radio, advertising and entertainment and places like zoos and botanical gardens. The second, non-formal, element is just as important as the first.

Environmental groups have been successful in creating public concern about issues such as deforestation, the loss of biological diversity, local pollution and inappropriate development projects. Humanitarian groups have helped raise concern about poverty, famine and lack of development. They should now join in campaigns aimed at wider social change, based on the acceptance of the ethic for living sustainably. IUCN and WWF, which together link a significant proportion of the world's major environmental NGOs, should give a lead.

The need for universal education has been mentioned in Chapter 3. Formal education should not only be provided more widely but changed in content. Children and adults should be schooled in the knowledge and values that will allow them to live sustainably. This requires environmental education, linked to social education. The former helps people to understand the natural world, and to live in harmony with it. The latter imparts an understanding of human behaviour and an appreciation of cultural diversity. To date, this blend of environmental and social education has not been widely applied. It needs to be - at all levels


Priority actions

Transforming people's attitudes and practices requires a concerted public information campaign, encouraged by governments and led by the non-governmental movement. Formal environmental education for children and adults needs to be extended and more support should be given to training for sustainable development. The success of all these actions will depend on how far it has been possible to improve people's quality of life in the ways advocated in Chapter 3.



Action 6.1. Ensure that national strategies for sustainability include action to motivate, educate and equip individuals to lead sustainable lives.


Plans for action should be joint initiatives of governments, citizens' groups, educational institutions, the media, and businesses. UNESCO and UNEP can extend useful support in preparing such plans. The goals of action plans should be to explain why a sustainable society is essential and to provide all citizens with the values, knowledge, skills and incentives to help them achieve and flourish in it. The plans should promote both the principles of sustainability and the actions that flow from them. They should be implemented through both the educational system and public campaigns (see Box 9).

Any action plan needs to be guided by knowledge of what is needed and how well the needs are being met. Systematic surveys should find out how well the principles of sustainability are understood, what people are willing to do (and pay for), and how satisfied they are with the progress being made. Periodic reviews of the influence of school curricula, advertising campaigns, widely followed television and radio programmes, and other expressions of popular culture would also be useful.

Every society is likely to have special symbols, stories, sacred places, and other cultural features that can support the world ethic for living sustainably as well as its own cultural needs. These should be identified, so that educational programmes can be tailored to the culture and environment of the society that they serve.

Children may be taught one thing in school, and influenced to do quite the opposite by what they see and hear outside. Adults also may take television programmes, popular songs, and the behaviour of role models to represent the values in which society really believes.



Box 9. Elements in a campaign for a sustainable society

Everyone is a participant in the quest for a sustainable society. There is no "audience" or campaign "target". Therefore, the campaign should encourage a two-way flow of information, enabling people to contribute as well as receive ideas and information.

The methods used will inevitably vary with country, cultural tradition, religion and stage of development. But the following "toolbox" of guidelines and methods covers the spectrum.

- Involve everyone and encourage their ideas. Use local languages.

- Use all available media (print, radio, television, film, videotapes, theatre, street theatre, dance, song, traditional storytelling) according to audience. Face-to-face and audiovisual means of communication should be used in areas of low literacy. Traditional methods can work very well. Poster campaigns and environmental literacy programmes can give useful backing.

- Relate national and global issues to local situations, using familiar examples and experiences.

- Get people to interact and discuss their vision for their areas. Explain how that future may be threatened by current global and local trends and what the solutions are.

- Give people summaries and syntheses of the facts, in appropriate form. Encourage development of syntheses for teachers, labour unions, business groups, government officials and politicians. Include case studies of what has and has not worked in the past.

- Make sure people have access to clear, comprehensible information. Show people how to change their practices. Help them with advice and practical support to implement schemes they devise for themselves. Training in techniques and access to credit, land or other resources may be needed (see Chapter 7). People get frustrated by, and eventually ignore, proposals that they cannot turn into action.

- Involve volunteers, especially children, in projects in their areas, for example to restore degraded land, create " green belts", and plant trees.

- Use information centres and exhibits, both within local communities close to home and in places people visit like museums, zoos, botanic gardens and national parks. These are especially effective because people choose to go to them and expect to learn.



ensure that informal education, formal education, and training reinforce each other, the action plan has to cover them all, unifying the other actions called for in this chapter.

The media should be enlisted as allies in promoting social change. They should build up a corps of journalists and editors who are environmentally educated. Citizens' groups concerned with ecologically sustainable development should encourage their members to enter journalism This has been done successfully in New Zealand, and in Pakistan where a Journalists' Resource Centre has been established as a source of information about the environment.



Action 6.2. Review the status of environmental education and make it an integral part of formal education at all levels


Governments, through central and local education authorities, should review the present state of environmental education (including social education) and should make it a part of all courses at primary and secondary, and many at tertiary level. This is one of the major objectives of UNESCO and UNEP's International Environmental Education Programme (IEEP). Actions already taken in Australia provide one model of how this might be done. In doing this the following points should be considered:

- While some special environmental courses will be needed, notably at tertiary level, it is usually most effective to incorporate environmental themes in other courses. Teachers can work together to do this, helped by colleagues with environmental training. In the longer term, environmental education should be a standard part of teacher training. Under IEEP, model curricula are being developed for every region, covering primary, secondary, primary teacher, and secondary teacher levels. WWF prepares and distributes teacher's kits and other practical materials.

- Environmental education is easily included in literacy programmes. By focussing on the daily lives of families and the resources they depend on, it can increase the immediate relevance and attractiveness of education, and so enhance efforts to improve enrollment.

- Traditional methods of education will remain powerful in many parts of the world. Formal education should not try to supplant, but to work with, traditional educators.

- Teaching in schools should be practical as well as theoretical, and linked to field projects. Audits of the use of energy, paper, and other resources in school can point to ways of reducing consumption without harming school activities (and with financial benefits). The lesson that sustainability pays will be taken home.

- Teachers trained in the social sciences need to work closely with environmental educators, using their methods to build social awareness of the need for sustainability into their courses. Secondary and tertiary level courses should provide training in the technical and managerial skills required for people to support themselves in a sustainable economy.

Environmental education deals with values. Many school systems regard this as dangerous ground, and many teachers (particularly in the natural sciences) are not trained to teach values. The "whole school" approach, in which the school tries to behave consistently with what is taught, may also be dauntingly novel. Yet no lifestyle or educational system is value free. It is vital that schools teach the right skills for sustainable living. It is equally important that what the school does reinforces what it teaches.

Development assistance agencies need to give more support to environmental education. It is the key to sustainability. A country that is environmentally literate is most likely to make a success of its development. Where the significance of the environment is not understood, development will fail.

UNESCO, UNEP and IUCN should establish an international clearing house for information on environmental education. All countries would benefit from the exchanges of information and experience which this would permit.



Action 6.3. Determine the training needs for a sustainable society and plan to meet them.


Governments, in partnership with the teaching profession, should evaluate the new combinations of professional and technical skills a sustainable society will require. At the professional level, there will be great need for specialists in ecology, the various sectors of resource management, environmental economics, and environmental law. All professionals will need a broad understanding of how ecosystems and societies work, and of the principles of a sustainable society.

At the technical level, the main need is for more extension workers who are trained to understand ecological relationships and can help resource users to develop better practices. They should have a broad approach, and be able to give cross-sectoral advice rather than focus, as many now do, on a single sector, such as agriculture or fisheries.

The urban poor, and many farmers, fisherfolk, forest workers, artisans and other land and water users would be helped by opportunities to learn how to use resources sustainably and profitably. They should also be encouraged to share knowledge they already have. They would benefit from advice that combines information about income development, farming methods, soil and water conservation, self-help water supply, sustainable production of fuelwood, timber and forage, sustainable management of wild resources, cottage industries, sanitation, nutrition, family health, and cheap, environmentally sound technologies for housing, cooking, heating and other needs. Training can be provided by course work, extension services and demonstrations, all of which are most likely to be effective if they are delivered through a community-based organization.

People could increasingly train each other. In middle- and low- income countries, they particularly need to exchange information on conservation and development projects, planning methods, training workshops, distribution of training materials, local networks for sustainable development, and effective communication. These exchanges should lead to the transfer of technology directly between lower-income countries ("south-south transfers") (see Action 7.2).

Development assistance agencies should give high priority to supporting action plans to meet these needs; and to travel and other means for grassroots groups to exchange personnel and information.


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7. Enabling communities to care for their own environments


Care for the Earth and sustainable living may depend upon the beliefs and commitment of individuals, but it is through their communities that most people can best express their commitment. People who organize themselves to work for sustainability in their own communities can be a powerful and effective force, whether their community is rich, poor, urban, suburban or rural.

A sustainable community cares for its own environment and does not damage those of others. It uses resources frugally and sustainably, recycles materials, minimizes wastes and disposes of them safely. It conserves life-support systems and the diversity of local ecosystems. It meets its own needs so far as it can, but recognizes the need to work in partnership with other communities.


Community is used here to mean the people of a local administrative unit, such as a municipality; of a cultural or ethnic group, such as a band or tribe; or of a local urban or rural area, such as the people of a particular neighbourhood or valley.


People can do this if they make it a priority, and if they are given the necessary powers to make full use of their own intelligence and experience. The process by which communities organize themselves, strengthen their capabilities for environmental care, and apply them in ways that also satisfy their social and economic needs has been termed Primary Environmental Care (PEC).

The objective is to sustain productive local environments, managing soil, water and biological diversity for the benefit of local people. Conservation action, pollution control, rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems and the improvement of urban environments are all essential elements in a community plan.

Communities must be guided in these tasks by the ethic of living sustainably. They must have secure access to the resources required to meet their needs, and an equitable share in managing them. Community environmental action will not work unless all citizens have a right to participate in decisions that affect them. Education, training and access to information will be needed. Programmes of action may require initial outside financial support, but many should become increasingly self-supporting.

Communities vary in their ability to care for their environment. Lack of consensus, organization, knowledge, skills, suitable technologies and practices, funds or other resources can all undermine their capacity. So can adverse local, national and international policies, laws, institutions, and economic conditions. Many community problems are caused by external factors and cannot be solved by community action alone; the external factors must be addressed as well.

Problems also arise because of conflicts within a community. Individual needs, perspectives and roles differ. There are wide variations in cohesion, sense of identity, consciousness of problems, and access to resources. Some communities exclude women and ethnic or religious minorities from major decisions. In some cases a lengthy process of community-building may be necessary before any common environmental action can be undertaken. Every interest group should be identified and enabled to participate.


Priority actions

Three overlapping types of action are needed:

- actions that give communities greater control over their own lives, including secure access to resources and an equitable share in managing them; the right to participate in decisions; and education and training;

- actions that enable communities to meet their needs in sustainable ways;

- actions that enable communities to conserve their environment.



Action 7.1. Provide communities and individuals with secure access to resources and an equitable share in managing them.


Communities and individuals need secure access to the land and other natural resources necessary for livelihood. Without this, people will not be motivated to use resources sustainably.

In many countries, land tenure reforms are essential. Hunters and nomadic herders need legally guaranteed access to hunting grounds (and supporting habitats) and to grazing areas. Farmers, including shifting cultivators, require clear title to their land. Cases in the Philippines, Thailand, and India show that sustainable use is most likely when farmers have the right to occupy or harvest land for a long enough period to make it rational for them to manage resources for the long term.

In urban areas, a legal right to house sites is essential. Self-built and self-managed housing should be supported. Community organizations of owner-builders generally use resources efficiently and also generate a diversity of activities and demands for local employment (see Chapter 12 and Box 20).

Allocation systems that are acceptable to the majority of users are most likely to be developed if communities manage their own resources. Shared resources need to be managed with the agreement of all interested parties. Local communities that depend on a resource take a longer view of management requirements than outside commercial interests that come and go. If effective communal property rights and resource management systems exist they should be recognized in legislation. If they are declining but are potentially effective, they should b~ restored, or incorporated in a modified system (see Action 4.14).

Government agencies should support community resource management, rather than simply police the use of resources. If local rules are insufficient to assure sustainability, central governments may need to intervene, for example to establish cooperative management arrangements. This may be especially important where a resource is migratory or shared by different user-groups.

Land management authorities should support property rights in each community by undertaking surveys to define landholdings, legalizing land tenure, improving the system of property transfer and registration, and keeping survey and registry records up to date.



Action 7.2. Improve exchange of information, skills, and technologies.


Communities require information in their own languages and idioms, and need to be involved in the assembly and analysis of environmental data. The provision of information and advice should be based on a consultation with the community. Using local knowledge and integrating it with the results of scientific studies is essential. But this is likely to occur only when the communities see the research as useful, and are fully involved in setting priorities and testing the methods and technologies that research recommends. In addition, more information about local perceptions, experiences, needs and capacities needs to go from the local to the national and international levels.

Especially in lower-income countries, there is great need for exchange of information and technical assistance among communities. Grass-roots and national citizens' groups are increasingly providing the links for this exchange. They need support so that they can extend their contacts to other lower-income countries. Access to sources of information, training, research and long-term institutional support is essential. Training programmes should be designed to improve local capacities to solve problems using local knowledge and skills (see Action 6.3).

Environmentally sound technologies are best developed through participatory research so that they meet the needs perceived by the community, are suited to local conditions, take proper account of the roles of men and women, and are efficient, affordable, usable and repairable by local people (see Action 8.10).



Action 7.3. Enhance participation in conservation and development.


Local governments, communities, business and other interest groups should help set the agenda for human development. They should be full partners with central governments in decisions on policies, programmes and projects that directly affect them, their environments and the resources on which they depend. Where possible, and especially for projects that do not significantly affect the national interest, communities and organizations should make the decisions themselves. Procedures are needed to make sure one community does not override the interests of another. Undertaking a local strategy for sustainability, which would take account of the environmental impact of proposed projects, is a means of doing this (see Action 17.5 and Annex 8). Information about proposed actions, including the results of environmental impact assessments, must be provided to other communities with an interest and to national governments.

Full participation is essential. Communities are invariably more diverse than their local governments, which may not represent disadvantaged groups well. Central governments should ensure that all groups can express and defend their interest. All community members need to play a role in decisions that affect their livelihoods, and particularly decisions on the use and management of common resources. Women must be able to participate in these processes and contribute their often unrecognized expertise as environmental managers. Schools, businesses, youth organizations, and community groups including environmental NGOs, should be involved. The building of awareness could lead to the emergence of new groups, acting for interests that were previously unexpressed. Ways to facilitate community participation are shown in Box 10.



Action 7.4. Develop more effective local governments.


Local governments are key units for environmental care. Their responsibilities vary greatly from country to country, but can include land use planning, development control, water supply, waste water treatment, waste disposal, health care, public transport and education. They collect taxes, and enact laws. They are the units of government that should be best able to understand the day to day needs of their citizens, that represent them most directly, and with which citizens have most contact. They should be enabled to:

- respond to citizen demands for infrastructure and services; and ensure there is a legislative and regulatory system that will protect citizens from exploitation by landlords, entrepreneurs and employers;

- enforce land use planning and pollution prevention laws, in accordance with national standards, or with more stringent standards where local interests so demand;

- ensure safe and efficient water supplies, sewage treatment and waste disposal;

- regulate transport and local industry, again in accordance with national standards or higher;

- strengthen sustainable economic activities in the region;

- invest in and promote environmental improvement.

Action 12.2 gives additional detail on local governments.



Box 10. Community participation

Community participation helps ensure that decisions are sound and all parties will support them. It is facilitated by:

- conducting consultations where the people are;

- working with traditional leaders and the full range of community groups and organizations;

- ensuring that the scope of consultation is appropriate to the decision being made;

- limiting the number of management and consultative bodies to which communities have to relate;

- giving communities and other interested parties adequate readily intelligible information and enough time to consider it contribute to proposals themselves and respond to invitations to consult;

- ensuring that consultations are in a culturally acceptable form. For example indigenous people with a tradition of decision making by communal discussion should not be expected to respond with a written submission from one representative. If indigenous consultation mechanisms exist, they should be used;

- ensuring that the timing of consultations is right. Consultation must not take place so early that no useful information is available or so late that all people can do is react or object to detailed proposals.



Action 7.5. Care for the local environment in every community.


All communities should take action to care for their environment. They should be encouraged by the governments to debate their environmental priorities and to develop local strategies (for example, through workshops involving invited experts). Governments should then help the communities to convert their strategies into action (see Action 17.5).

In upper-income communities the aim should be to reduce resource consumption, waste production and harmful impacts on the environment, and to restore local habitat and species diversity. It is also important to form citizens' groups, including green consumer groups, and for businesses to ensure their activities are sustainable. Other actions could include the cleanup of degraded urban and rural environments and the creation of local nature areas. Information campaigns should stress that everyone's behaviour affects the environment and that everyone needs to take action to protect it.

Actions in lower-income communities should focus on communal projects in agroecology, agroforestry, soil and water conservation, and restoration of degraded land. They could also involve low-cost water and sanitation projects and communally-built housing and infrastructure in villages and neighbourhoods. In many cases, environmental action programmes should be combined with business development and help for people, particularly women, to obtain access to resources and services, including adequate education, training, primary health care and family planning.

Communities should initiate and be involved in all stages of environmental action, from setting objectives and designing activities to doing the work and evaluating the results. Participation should be as broad as possible, involving all segments of the community, and emphasizing that individual actions can make a difference. The participatory approach aims for fair consideration of all viewpoints in reaching reasoned and informed decisions. It takes all factors into account, including people's feelings and values. It draws on all relevant knowledge and skills, and uses "expert" assistance with care and sensitivity.

Evaluation should be continual; objectives should be re-examined and (if necessary) redefined. Plans should be subject to modification in light of experience. Information should be exchanged among the participants and, if possible, with others engaged in similar activities Assessment, monitoring and evaluation are essential, preferably using participatory methods. Monitoring helps to inform people of progress, since they sometimes forget how far they have come. Independent evaluation is useful so that people can develop a body of experience from which everyone may learn.

The experiences of individual communities should be evaluated centrally so that handbook of effective practice can be prepared and distributed. Machinery set up to monitor and evaluate national and local strategies for sustainability could be used for this (see Annex 8).



Box 11. Indigenous Peoples

Some 200 million indigenous people (4% of the world's population) live in environments ranging from polar ice to tropical deserts and rain forests. The lands where they still live are usually marginal for sustainable high-energy agriculture or industrial resource production, but they are distinct cultural communities with land and other rights based on historical use and occupancy. Their cultures, economies and identities are inextricably tied to their traditional lands and resources.

The subsistence component of indigenous economies remains at least as important as the cash component. Hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering or herding continue to be major sources of food, raw materials and income. Moreover, they provide native communities with a perception of themselves as distinct, confirming continuity with their past and unity with the natural world. Such activities reinforce spiritual values, an ethic of sharing, and a commitment to stewardship of the land, based on a perspective of many generations.

It is often assumed that indigenous peoples have only two options for the future: to return to their ancient way of life; or to abandon subsistence and become assimilated into the dominant society. They should also have a third option: to modify their subsistence way of life, combining the old and the new in ways that maintain and enhance their identity while allowing their society and economy to evolve.

The main needs are to:

- Recognize the aboriginal rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources, including the rights to harvest the animals and plants on which their ways of life depend, to obtain water for their stock, to manage their resources, and to participate effectively in decisions affecting their lands and resources.

- Ensure that the timing, pace and manner of development minimizes harmful environmental, social and cultural impacts on indigenous peoples; and that indigenous peoples have an equitable share of the proceeds.

- Ensure that policy makers, development planners, conservation scientists and managers cooperate with indigenous peoples in a common approach to resource management and economic development.





Action 7.6. Provide financial and technical support to community environmental action.


Governments and development assistance agencies should enhance the conditions for, and support, community environmental actions. Other potential partners of local communities include universities, banks, religious groups, local and non-local environment and development NGOs and national and international institutions. Supporters should recognize that like all paths to sustainability community environmental action is based on changing attitudes and practices. It may not require a lot of money but it will almost certainly need a lot of time.

Governments can help communities obtain financing by guaranteeing low interest loans for urban and rural community organizations, small businesses and individuals. Extension of credit should not be totally dependent upon the availability of collateral. Experience has shown that small loans provided to poor people for concrete, clearly specified, business purposes are most often honoured, and useful records of repayment are thus built up. Another powerful incentive is the matching of funds raised by the community by national or subnational government.

Economic and regulatory instruments such as tax concessions, subsidies and product standards can all encourage environmental improvement. Communities and governments should jointly design economic incentives for communities to develop their resources sustainably and ensure that they earn a reasonable return from them. Governments should review the effects of taxes, subsidies, external trade and payments, and government expenditures on local economies and environments.

The price of products made from, or with the use of, natural resources, should reflect the full value of those resources. and provide a reasonable return to communities. Economic incentives can motivate communities to use their resources sustainably and ensure that they earn a fair return. The communities should be involved in the design of the incentives.

Central government tax, trade and expenditure policies can place communities, particularly in rural areas, at a disadvantage. For example, policies often favour export agriculture instead of production for local needs because the former yields revenue. This is particularly important in countries which need to service external debt. Effects on local economies and environments should be evaluated before such policies are decided.

All parties, including management and funding agencies, must learn as they go along. This means that projects should be managed with more than usual flexibility, as long as this is consistent with sustainability.


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8. Providing a national framework for integrating development and conservation


Human development and environmental conservation must be integrated if a society is to be sustainable. It is essential to build a public consensus around an ethic for living sustainably, and to enable individuals and communities to act, as discussed in Chapters 2, 6 and 7. But it is equally important to ensure an effective national approach, and for this purpose governments must provide a national framework (and, in federal countries, provincial or state frameworks as well) of institutions, economic policies, national laws and regulations, and an information base.

During the past two decades, many countries have established administrative departments and other institutions concerned with the environment. Over 100 have established special agencies for environmental protection. However, many of these units have been added to existing bureaucracies, or set up as sectoral bodies with limited mandates and inadequate budgets. Environmental policy has generally been reactive, responding to problems after they have developed and when they are more expensive to treat than if they had been tackled early on. Links with resource management agencies are often weak, and environmental policy has seldom been coordinated with the economic development decisions that commonly shape the environment. This sectoralism obscures potential compatibilities among competing interests, and increases the difficulty of resolving conflicts.

Environmental laws - provided that they are enacted with sufficient regard for cultural differences and social and economic realities - are important tools giving effect to policies needed for sustainability. They protect and encourage the law-abiding, and guide citizens on the actions they should take. An important function of the law is the application of sanctions to those who break it. No less important is its role in defining anti-social behaviour and discouraging people from acting in anti-social ways. The law sets standards, often forcing technological advances in the process, and moulds public and administrative attitudes. Indeed, it strengthens the hand of environmental administrators by empowering or obliging them to perform their functions, and providing them with a clear mandate and authority for their work. The law can also require changes that vested interests would otherwise resist.

Economic policy can be an effective instrument for sustaining ecosystems and natural resources. Policies and regulations that aim to protect the environment and conserve resources without adequate economic incentives are fighting an up-hill battle.

Every economy depends on the environment as a source of life- support services and raw materials. But neither market nor planned economies take account of the full value of these goods and services, or of the costs borne by society if the supply of environmental resources is reduced or the services are impaired, now or in the future. Instead, conventional systems of valuation treat the environment and its functions as limitless or free of charge, so providing an incentive for people to deplete resources and degrade ecosystems. New models that incorporate ethical, human and ecological factors as well as economic considerations are being developed. They are badly needed as we face the challenges of sustainable human development.

To take advantage of the efficiency of markets while protecting people and the Earth from their inadequacies, markets must work within laws that uphold human rights, protect the disadvantaged and the interests of future generations, and conserve ecosystems and natural resources. Here economics and law must work together. The law sets the rules and standards. The market ensures that society works within the rules and standards as efficiently as possible.

Policies and programmes for sustainability must be based on scientific knowledge of the factors that they will affect, and be affected by. Because knowledge is incomplete, uncertainty is unavoidable. Meanwhile, governments and communities have to act on the best information they have. At the same time research that will improve understanding of the environment, and reduce uncertainty, must continue. So must monitoring of changes in the environment, since this is the most useful direct measure of the effectiveness of the actions that governments and communities are taking.


Priority actions

Integrating human development and environmental conservation requires:

- institutions capable of an integrated, forward-looking, cross- sectoral approach to making decisions;

- effective policies and comprehensive legal frameworks that safeguard human rights, the interests of future generations, and the productivity and diversity of the Earth;

- economic policy and improved technology that increases the benefits from a given stock of resources and maintains, or even enhances, natural wealth;

- sound knowledge, based on research and monitoring.


Institutions for integrated decision making

The environment is the fundamental resource on which human societies are built. It affects all sectors of social activity, and any action that alters the environment is likely to have wide repercussions. The current fragmented and sectoral approach to policy must therefore be replaced (or buttressed) by new structures that ensure integration.


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