Sustainable development - behavioral changes with a view to a more sustainable future

Markus Arzberger


The heading clearly splits in three different parts. Above all: Sustainable Development. As an introduction, the first part of the paper will be influenced by the work of Donella Meadows and Dennis Meadows, which has been done in the seventies of the last century (The Limits to Growth). Other authors, who the paper refers to, are the economists Tim Jackson and Herman Daly, as well as the German post-growth economist Niko Peach. Since the term “Sustainable Development” means a wide range of possible interpretations, this definition is fundamental at the beginning.

According to behavioral changes, it needs to be worked out, who has to change the way of living in a non-sustainable setup and, even more important, why. The American scientist Jared M. Diamond has done a whole lot of research, regarding the possibility of catastrophic near-future consequences to mankind, which many of us have to endure already, especially in poor countries. In order to get an idea why sustainability is a good choice, several concepts will be considered. A very important concept to measure fairness is the ecological footprint. It measures the human demand on the Earth’s resources and is distributed highly unfair between monetary rich and poor countries. Based on the results of Kate Picketts work “The Spirit level - Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better”, published in 2009, worldwide fairness will be proven to be the only way to a global sustainable development.

After the definition of “A sustainable future” has been done, the last part of the paper deals with the accuracy of predictions and the limits of models. Do mathematical models, even highly sophisticated, really describe reality in a sufficient way? Certainly not! Yet, we are not even able to describe a comparatively  simple subsystem as the weather. It is just too complex, to be predicted for as little as just a few days in advance. Besides that, a few more questions will be considered. Since we know, that systems are adaptable, one can argue that today nobody cares about the fall of Easter Island.  People have learned to deal with the different situation and abandoned the Island. Indeed not voluntarily at all. What we could learn as society for our present situation is: To exclude the possibility that mankind will settle other planets one day would certainly be wrong. To assume, it will happen within the next days too. Before the background that the earth will be there for about another three billion years, it is safe to say, that we are not in a hurry. At least for the construction of space ships there is plenty of time left.


Anthropocene; Sustainability; Growth; Future

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