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Rethinking the good life

[ 2012-04-13 14:55]     字号 [] [] []  
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Rethinking the good life

A new report says the global economy that sprang from the industrial revolution may not be suitable for sustainable growth in the 21st Century. The Worldwatch Institute says environmental stress, economic volatility and growing social inequality are threatening prospects for prosperity.

The report is called State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity.

Michael Renner is co-director of the report. "We chose the term 'sustainable prosperity' because we feel that there's a real danger that this notion of taking care of the environment is too often seen as a burden that just comes at the wrong time when we're facing a big economic crisis. And I think it's absolutely essential to proceed in ways that we look at both the environmental concerns and the social and economic concerns. How can we reduce the burden on the planet?"

Renner says, for more people to lead the so-called good life, existing resources need to be used wisely.

"Well, you know, the good life I think sort of traditionally has in Western countries been defined as a life that is built on fairly massive consumption of resources – energy, water, materials of all sorts. What we like to argue is that you can still lead a good life, just without consuming so much in the way of resources," he said.

One example, he said, is better infrastructure.

"How can our transportation system, for example, be organized so we don't have to travel such huge distances every day just to go to jobs, go to the stores or the movies and so on. And so there are various technical and structural ways to ensure that we have a decent life," he said.

He said countries need to move toward developing renewable energy and not rely on fossil fuels. He added that new oil finds in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and other countries may not be the long-term solution to energy demands.

"The scale that we're talking about in terms of global consumption - these additional finds of oil are really not going to make that much of a difference. Short-term, yes, it may look pretty good. It looks good for the particular country in question because they can earn additional income if they export it. They earn additional foreign exchange. But from a global perspective it doesn't really in sort of any meaningful way change the picture that in the longer run we're going to run into some real serious problems," he said.

Renner said China, while a major consumer of fossil fuels, is also developing renewable energy resources.

"I think there is a growing recognition that there is a need to invest in alternatives. And that we need to invest in those now because it will take years and in some cases some decades to generate alternatives that are scaled where they really make the difference that we need to see," he said.

The Worldwatch Institute report recommends 'degrowth' in what it calls 'over developed' countries, and the establishment of green economies.

"Before we actually run into a problem where resource scarcity makes our economies basically stutter and come to a halt, let's actually plan ahead. And let's reduce our take on the planetary resources in a forward-looking way. So that we can actually change things according to our own schedule, according to our own priorities, rather than suddenly saying, 'Oh, my God, we do have scarcity,'" he said.

Other recommendations include having more corporations that are socially and environmentally responsible; making agriculture more productive and efficient; and creating a food production system that reduces waste and is environmentally sound.

The report also addresses the issue of population growth. The global population has surpassed seven billion and the UN estimates it will reach nine billion by 2050. However, it does not recommend population control, such as the one child policy that had been imposed by China. It says, "Over time, population growth will end and reverse" through reproductive health and equal rights for all.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This June, city is hosting a conference on sustainable development called Rio+20. The Worldwatch Institute calls on participants to "radically change the consumer culture" and make "sustainable living" a priority.

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(来源:VOA 编辑:旭燕)