Towards an Integrated Concept of Sustainability

Background paper for the Conference Sustainable Development Planning, Goethe Institute, Riga, November 2007

Joachim H. Dr. Spangenberg, November 2007

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Summary :

The first dimension of the global crisis is that, on current practice, our environment is overused and the stability of our life supporting systems is threatened.

The second dimension of the global crisis we can analyse is a distributional and social dimension: labour has been undervalued (underpaid in the US and under-used in the EU). The distribution of income exhibits a widening gap between the rich and the poor people, peoples and countries.

The third problem of our economies is, that instead of offering innovative solutions to new problems (e.g. ageing societies, social cohesion, safeguarding ecosystem services, demateria­lisation of services) and thus creating new markets, new business opportunities and additional employment, business is obsessed with cutting costs for the supply of yesterdays solutions to tomorrow’s problems.

The fourth challenge is the disappearing trust in decision makers (be it politicians, governments, trade unions or other representatives of the civil society) and societal institutions, in their willingness to promote and their ability to enforce change. As a result, a general crisis of legitimation emerges, undermining the cohesion of our societies.