State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? is coming out April 16, when we’ll host a half-daylong symposium presenting the report and hearing from 11 authors over the course of the day. If you’re in DC, you can join us in person, or if you’re elsewhere in the world—join us by live webcast. Either way RSVP here.
In the meantime, read through Worldwatch President Robert Engelman’s introductory chapter, “Beyond Sustainababble,” and the three section openings, “The Sustainability Metric,” “Getting to True Sustainability,” and “Open in Case of Emergency.” (You can read this preview below or download it here.)
This year we chose the theme Is Sustainability Still Possible? because ironically, after decades of efforts researching sustainable development, the answer is getting increasingly unclear. Every year, humanity becomes more conscious of environmental problems, but at the same time is barreling more rapidly towards runaway climate change and other frightening ecological transitions.
So what are we to do? First, as we discuss in Section 1, we have to find some clarity on what true sustainability encompasses. How do we measure sustainability? Carbon releases? Number of species lost? Aquifer depletion? When can we declare that sustainability has been achieved? This section grapples with these challenges and outlines a useful set of ideas: from planetary and social boundaries to what a one-planet lifestyle would look like.
The second section then explores how we could get to a truly sustainable society if we could marshal the political will to do so (granted this might take a bit of magic or an alien named Klaatu). We’d need to re-engineer our cultures, delegitimize fossil fuels, mobilize the citizenry, build a renewable energy infrastructure, and many other things. No easy task, of course, and one we have yet to succeed at in the 40 years since the limits to growth were first pointed out, but still possible.
But the window to get to sustainability proactively is closing and soon we may find it completely shut. In that case, Section 3 offers ways to get through what James Howard Kunstler calls the long emergency. From new evolutions in governance, education, and how the environmental movement is organized to how to deal with climate refugees, build resilience, and even rebuild after conflict. This section, while certainly not cheery, offers what we hope is a splash of cold water to get us ready now for the inevitable ecological transitions that we’ve already set in motion no matter how sustainably we act tomorrow.
So take a sneak peak and join us this April 16 for a more in-depth look at State of the World 2013.