Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Down With Sustainable Development

I have, over the years, become increasingly uneasy about the use of the term sustainable development -- trouble is, it is a byword in most conservation funding strategies, and government agencies, the World Bank etc seem to accept it as a sine qua non, that it is an ideal and objective we should all endorse. Now I have become not only uneasy about the use of the term but also its implications. It simply is not realistic. As I have written elsewhere in this blog, it is simply not feasible for the while world to aspire to the standard of living expected in Europe, let alone the USA or somewhere like Dubai.

So I am proposing that wildlife conservationist reject (almost entirely) the use of the term, and replace it with the phrase "sustainable management". This is a difficult enough target to aspire to, but at least it is reasonably realistic. If we can try and manage reserves in a sustainable way, then at least they are unlikely to increase pressure on the environment. And some development will be essential, and of course this must be designed to be as sustainable as possible. But I don't think a wildlife conservationist should ever have as a primary objective "Sustainable Development". It is invariably in direct opposition to the conservation objectives, and best described as a necessary evil. And while I am at it, let's throw out reforestation as an objective for conservationists. Restoration Ecology is what we really mean, and that is the term we should use.

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