17 Nov 2011

No country is an island ...

In a recent mailing, Arran wrote:

Just wanted to encourage you to read Jane Davidson's article … I really appreciate the way it represents sustainable development. … I like the way it starts off by talking about "quality of life and community wellbeing" rather than economic growth with a bit of resource conservation, the way it describes "the concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given" and mentions the vision of Wales "using only its fair share of the earth's resources so that its ecological footprint is reduced to the global average availability of resources". That's a long way from the language of Whitehall, and clearly embraces the contraction end of contraction and convergence which often gets forgotten. Hopefully it's a reflection of the wider discourse used in political circles in Wales, but even if not it certainly encourages the reclaiming of the term sustainable development.

Yes, hopefully it is.

Prompted by this encouragement, I read Jane’s article, and looked again at the 2009 report: One Wales: One Planet. In the article, Jane herself asks: "So what would a sustainable Wales look like?" and then reminds us that a cross-party vision was agreed in One Wales: One Planet last year:

Across society there is recognition of the need to live sustainably and reduce our carbon footprint. People understand how they can contribute to a low carbon, low waste society. These issues are firmly embedded in the curriculum and workplace training. People are taking action to reduce resource use, energy use and waste. They are more strongly focused on environmental, social and economic responsibility, and on local quality of life issues, and there is less emphasis on consumerism. Participation and transparency are key principles of government at every level, and individuals have become stewards of natural resources.”

For me, this doesn't quite picture a "sustainable Wales"; rather, it's a view of Wales's becoming less unsustainable, and (then, perhaps) more sustainable, over time. The verbs used here are all about the journey "… are taking action ..."; "… understand how they can ..."; "… a recognition of the need ..."; etc.

But this is fine, as sustainable development is just that: the reflective social learning that this descriptor captures – albeit in too little detail. It was Jane's question that was misleading with its definitive notion of a "sustainable Wales".

Actually, the view of a sustainable Wales presented in One Wales; One Planet is not quite this:

Our Vision of a Sustainable Wales is one where Wales:

  • lives within its environmental limits, using only its fair share of the earth’s resources so that our ecological footprint is reduced to the global average availability of resources, and we are resilient to the impacts of climate change;
  • has healthy, biologically diverse and productive ecosystems that are managed sustainably;
  • has a resilient and sustainable economy that is able to develop whilst stabilising, then reducing, its use of natural resources and reducing its contribution to climate change;
  • has communities which are safe, sustainable, and attractive places for people to live and work, where people have access to services, and enjoy good health;
  • is a fair, just and bilingual nation, in which citizens of all ages and backgrounds are empowered to determine their own lives, shape their communities and achieve their full potential.

… but here there is no hint of social learning, or any sort of learning and education, although the document as a whole does address such matters.

I do think the omission significant, however, as none of what I have just quoted will occur without a great deal of learning, and un-learning, by all concerned, and absolutely not just through ESDGC in schools.

Thus, there will be development of a less unsustainable, and then of a more sustainable sort, and One Wales; One Planet details some of the initial steps along this track. It is less clear, however, when it comes to forming judgements about effectiveness and progress; ie, about indicators, an issue that the UK itself continues to struggle over – especially in relation to education.

I mis-quoted John Donne in the title of this post. Here's the original:

... No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.

We are all involved in humankind, and Wales will only be properly sustainable when everyone else is too. But I think they know that.

1 comment:

  1. Whitehall is very slow to take the point, but I guess they'd say they're trying. Very glad to read that Jane Davidson and Arran argue from a C&C perspective. C&C has support: - http://www.gci.org.uk/endorsements.html