Brundtland Part II

Part II, Common Challenges, examines specific areas of concern that detail the overview of Part I. This set of notes begins with chapter 4. See Professor Wayne Hayes notes on Brundtland Part I.


Ch. 4: Population and Human Resources, pp 95-117

Wisely, Brundtland distinguishes humanity as an end, not merely as means. The emphasis here is development of human potential. “People are the ultimate resources,” p 95 captures this meaning.

Little doubt here of the influence of Brundtland herself: a public health doctor and a feminist. The emphasis is on poor countries. Education, health, population dominate the policy prescriptions in this important chapter.


Introduction, pp 95-6

Human potential is paramount: “People are the ultimate resource” p 95. But too many exceeds carrying capacity of nature and economy, especially in poor nations. Therefore, population is critical for Sustainable Development. Role of women is critical. Call for cutting population growth, not necessarily what 3rd World wanted to hear just then, but needed to be central to Sustainable Development.


I. Links to environment and development , pp 96-8

Understand how population growth dilutes economic growth per capita. But economic growth and social security cuts population growth spontaneously. A hospitable spiral of feedbacks exists. But the end (goal) is human development of potential, p 98.

Box 4.1 counts the calories to a maximum sustainable human population of 10 billion, best available estimate but will change, up or down. Not a goal, but a limit.


II. Population perspective, pp 98-105

This section and its tables crunches the numbers on population growth and should be clearly understood. Basic demographic analysis here can be replicated. Conclusion p 102 lays out stark choices for humanity.

Pp 102-5 aims at population quality over quantity. It explains key population dynamics: migration (including environmental refugees), health, education. To Brundtland report, false distinction between economic and social policy. Sets up policy framework.


III. Policy Framework pp 105-116

See the preamble for a summary: opening quote that frames the analysis and close to preamble that states the goal. Role of women and equitable sharing of benefits of economic growth identified as critical. Note the call for balance: rural development and small towns as regional centers prevents rise of mega-cities.

People are creative resources and quality matters, so health and education stand out as major concerns. (This directly contradicts the prevailing SAPs of IMF and World Bank, that privileged finance over nature and people.) See 109-110 for water and for public health (especially for women and children). AIDS coming into focus, not yet full blown pandemic  Education is direct benefit and fosters self-reliance, essential for Sustainable Development and a replacement for dependency. Education of girls, p. 112, again essential.

Eloquent statement on native people and livelihood rights concludes the chapter. See quote in box p 115. The conclusion consistent with our reading of Wolfgang Sachs, Fairness in a Fragile World.


Ch 5: Food Security

This chapter was recommended, not required. Note however the emphasis on the supply side, food production, linked to soil, water, chemicals (costly, fosters consolidation), forests, access to arable land. The control of land is linked to conservation, the prevention of more loss of arable land, and to restoration of damaged ecosystems.

The emphasis rests with equity and with the linkages of food to ecology and population. See powerful conclusion p 144.


Ch. 6: Species & ecosystems, pp 147-67

Theme shifts dramatically from humanity to the wild --- or whatever the Anthropocene has not yet tamed. At the time, the public discussion of extinction (“the deah of birth,” E.O. Wilson) was just beginning.


I. The Problem, pp 147-50

Introduces the extent and background causes of extinction. See Box 6.1, note that all cases are created by economic development. So far, the role of all species in “healthy and productive ecosystems is the point.” This will soon give way to anthropomorphism, the economic costs, a narrower ethical focus.


II & III. Extinction, pp 150-154

The analysis concentrates on the tropics, where the land conversion for economic gain is most severe. Quote p 164 about Central and South America drives home the argument. This oddly sets up the next section, on economic values.


IV. Economic values at stake, pp 155-7

The permanent loss of genetic material and species, largely through habitat destruction, is turned (weakly) into economics, such as pharma and seeds. (Rendering the costs or ethics of the issue of extinction and domination of wilderness into dollar costs seems out of place. What do you think?)


V - VIII. Action, pp 157-66

The nations experiencing the greatest habitat loss and extinction are not well positioned to change course, since what they define as economic development imperatives must be sacrificed (see p 160). The “benefit of all humanity” (still anthropocentric) seems weak give the severity of the stakes to nature.

Ironically, CITES seems to have become significant despite only a passing glance by Brundtland Commission (p 162).


The Commission calls for some measures by international bodies and even wildlife clubs (NGOs).