Worldwatch Institute recently released the 29th version of its State of the World report entitled “Time Running Out to Ensure Sustainable Prosperity for All.” Worldwatch has also released a website Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity to accompany the report.
The Institute highlights a concept called “sustainability sweet spot” with data compiled from Global Footprint Network and UNDP. It attempts to answer questions like: What does a truly sustainable country look like? and How do you measure true sustainability in a country?
The report says that:
One way has been to compare how well a country achieves human needs, and at what ecological cost. WWF Global arrives at this by comparing two measures: the United Nation’s Human Development Index and the Ecological Footprint measure. To be sustainable, a country must first get a Human Development Index score of over 0.08 – a number the UN deems the lowest threshold for a high level of human development (i.e. meeting the needs of the present). The country must also have an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per person, the global average limit for not undermining the earth’s ability to regenerate (i.e. meeting the needs of the future).
According to the calculations, in 2007, only one country in the world could be listed as sustainable and that was Peru. The country boasted a Human Development Index of 0.086 and an ecological footprint of 1.5 hectares. Cuba had been in that sustainability sweet spot the year before, but had just missed the ecological footprint cut-off. Ecuador and Colombia, as well, hovered on the edge of sustainability.
Peru however is not without problems in spite of achieving this high sustainability status. Approximately 50% of Peru is covered with rainforests and most of these are protected from illegal logging. In spite of this, the country battles deforestation due to illegal squatting, road expansion, mining, and petroleum drilling. The country also struggles with wealth inequality but the country’s Environmental Minister hopes to eliminate deforestation using international aid.
The Prime Minister has also vowed to not allow environmental pollution, and the government demands environmental impact assessment for mining operations. Sustainability within the country therefore is a combination of high level of government involvement as well as concerted efforts by conservation organizations.
The fact remains that as a country with abundant natural resources, sustainability is easier in Peru than anywhere else in the world. Worldwatch also mentions many diverse solutions from various other countries that world towards creating a sustainable future that balances out growth and development. They also stress the importance of community based projects and not just government intervention.
Image Credit: Figure 1-2 from State of the World 2012. World Watch Institute.