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Portal:Sustainable development

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The sustainable development portal


Environment Equitable Sustainable Bearable (Social ecology) Viable (Environmental economics) Economic SocialSustainable development.svg
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Scheme of sustainable development:
at the confluence of three preoccupations. Clickable.

Sustainable development has been defined as balancing the fulfillment of human needs with the protection of the natural environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but in the indefinite future. The term was used by the Brundtland Commission which coined what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

The field of sustainable development can be conceptually divided into four general dimensions: social, economic, environmental and institutional. The first three dimensions address key principles of sustainability, while the final dimension addresses key institutional policy and capacity issues.

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A solar cell, made from a monocrystalline  silicon wafer.
Appropriate technology is technology that is appropriate to the environmental, cultural and economic situation it is intended for. An appropriate technology, in this sense, typically requires fewer resources, which means lower cost and less impact on the environment.

Proponents use the term to describe technologies which they consider to be suitable for use in developing nations or underdeveloped rural areas of industrialized nations, which they feel cannot operate and maintain high technology. Appropriate Technology usually prefers labor-intensive solutions over capital-intensive ones, although labor-saving devices are also used where this does not mean high capital or maintenance cost.

What exactly constitutes appropriate technology in any given case is a matter of debate, but generally the term is used by theorists to question high technology or what they consider to be excessive mechanization, human displacement, resource depletion or increased pollution associated with unchecked industrialisation. The term has often, though not always, been applied to the situations of developing nations or underdeveloped rural areas of industrialized nations.

Selected picture


SeaWiFS Global Biosphere September 1997 - August 1998
Credit: NASA

The biosphere is the outermost part of the planet's shell — including air, land, surface rocks, and water — within which life occurs, and which biotic processes in turn alter or transform.

Selected organization


Flag of the United Nations
The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was established in December 1992 by General Assembly Resolution A/RES/47/191 as a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council, implementing a recommendation in Chapter 38 of Agenda 21, the landmark global agreement reached at the June 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment & Development / Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro.

CSD 1, the Organizational Session of the CSD was held in June 1993. The Organizational Session focused on a broad range of organizational and administrative issues, reflected in topics of the Commission's documents: budget implications of draft decisions; establishing a provisional agenda & a multi-year programme of work; national reporting on implementation of Agenda 21; information exchange - UN system & donors; UNCED follow up - international organizations & UN coordination; coordination of development data; progress in environmentally sound technology transfer; initial financial commitments & flows; government information on financial commitments; urgent & major emergent issues; UNCTAD & Agenda 21 implementation; UNEP & Agenda 21 implementation; issues relating to future work of CSD; guidelines for national reporting; multi-year programme of work; financial commitments & financial flows; and integrating sustainable development in the UN System.

Selected biography


Dr. James E. Hansen
James E. Hansen (born March 29, 1941, in Denison, Iowa) heads the NASA Institute for Space Studies in New York City, a division of Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, Earth Sciences Directorate. Dr. Hansen is an adjunct professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department at Columbia University. He is best known for his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue. He was a vocal critic of the George W. Bush administration's stance on climate change.

Hansen has focused on planetary research that involves trying to understand the climate change on earth that will result from anthropogenic changes of the atmospheric composition. One of his research interests is radiative transfer in planetary atmospheres, especially interpreting remote sounding of the earth's atmosphere and surface from satellites. Such data, appropriately analyzed, may provide one of the most effective ways to monitor and study global change on the earth. Dr. Hansen also is interested in the development and application of global numerical models for the purpose of understanding current climate trends and projecting humans' potential impacts on climate.

Current events



Did you know...


Mean surface temperature anomalies during the period 1995 to 2004 with respect to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980.

  • ...that global warming (pictured) of the average air temperature rose 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.3 ± 0.32 °F) during the past century?



Selected quote


Thomas Malthus
The germs of existence contained in this spot of earth, with ample food, and ample room to expand in, would fill millions of worlds in the course of a few thousand years.
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Sustainable development
Development: Country classifications (Least Developed Countries) • Development charities • Development specialists • Development studies • Economic development (Informal economy, Microfinance, Poverty)  • Energy development • Fair trade • Foreign aid by country • Human Development Index • International development • Make Poverty History • Multilateral development banks • Rural community development • Supranational banks (World Bank) • Water supply and sanitation by country  United Nations Headquarters view from the East River.

Sustainability: Advocates • Alternative energy • Anaerobic digestion • Appropriate technology • Biodegradable plastics • Biofuels • Carbon diet • Economics of sustainability • Ecovillages • Energy conservation • Environmental design • Low-carbon economy • Permaculture • Recycling • Renewable energy • Sustainable agriculture • Sustainable technologies • Waste management • Water

Sustainable development

Development: Development studies • Economic development • Energy development • Fair trade • Human Development Index • Informal economy • Information and communication technologies for development • International development • Least developed countries • Make Poverty History • Microfinance • Multilateral development banks • Poverty • World Bank Group

Sustainability: Anaerobic digestion • Appropriate technology • Biodegradable plastic • Carbon negative fuel • Ecological economics • Ecological modernization  • Economics of biodiversity • Ecovillage • Energy conservation • Environmental design • Energy development • Environmental technology • Environmental law • Low-carbon economy • Permaculture • Population  • Recycling • Renewable energy • Social sustainability • Sustainable agriculture • Sustainable city • Sustainable design  • Sustainable tourism  • Sustainable transport  • Waste management • Water

Human/World Population: Human overpopulation • Optimum population • Overshoot (ecology) • Population ageing • Population density • Population pyramid  • Tragedy of the commons  

List of countries by population:  List of countries by population growth rate • List of countries by population density • List of sovereign states and dependent territories by birth rate

Enercon E-66 wind energy converter in Egeln/Germany.


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