ISSN 1108-8931


Year 6 - Issue 68

Sponsored by: Zante Feast Discovery Holidays, Purple Valley Yoga Centre, Hana Maui Botanical Gardens, Jorth Consult Limited, Pacuare Lodge


Bill Tuffin, From Colorado to Laos

Member News
ECOCLUB Ecolodge Award 2005
Dominica Sustainable Living Initiative

Eco Focus
Mt. Xiqiao, Guangdong, China

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"Noun: jargon. 1. A characteristic language of a particular group (as among thieves)".

In Muscat, Oman for the Conference on Built Environments for Sustainable Tourism, the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation Francesco Frangialli said in his opening statement that: "If governments abdicate their responsibility for sustainable tourism development - destinations will be nibbled away by special interests". Amazing. How clear - whether one agrees or not - how refreshing and how different from the jargon one tends to hear from other corners, about stakeholders, triple bottom lines, corporate social responsibility, carbon emission schemes (and soon scams) and other Kafkaesque/Orwellian inventions.

Jargon unfortunately permeates every decision-making process in public and private bureaucracy, so as to keep outsiders, well, outside. Surnames, acronyms, names of cities, or villages are added to reports, decisions and commissions, that suddenly acquire a mystic status. The mantra-like repetition of jargon sanctifies treaties, justifies decisions and processes and excommunicates dissent.

Corporate social responsibility for one, is all the rage these days but is it more than a glorified version of "public relations"? Is there really a shareholder (rhymes with stakeholder) who will put up with losses just because a company is making efforts to beautify its social image, and avoid paying taxes by seeking tax-deductible opportunities and pseudo-philanthropy? Corporations can meet one basic responsibility to society by employing people and capital efficiently, legally and humanely, and turn a profit, that then can be taxed, and redistributed by an accountable government to the weakest and underprivileged.

Consider venerated Sustainability: Everyone refers to the "Brundtland Commission Report, 1987" as if it is the ten commandments. The Commission, selected (not elected) by the UN back in 1983, and chaired by a northerner, (Norway's first woman prime minister) Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, deliberated, as if it was talking about another planet dwelt by happy, peaceful and equal creatures, that Sustainability is "meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Aaaah, marvelous. Now is this more or less cynical than Nietzsche's "what does not kill you makes you stronger"? Where "you" is the poor South. Even worse, Sustainability's definition is tautological = future generations will be undermined, if we undermine them. It ignores regional and social inequality, and technological progress. The Brundtland Commission's other notable contribution, was its recommendation for the convening of an international conference, which was indeed held in Rio, in 1992, followed by the one in Johannesburg, both with magnificent results and practical decisions that have really saved the planet and made all people richer and happier...? Not really. The only outcome so far is the toothless Kyoto Agreement, with the missing front teeth being the worlds two largest polluters. While signatories can now pollute as much as they like provided corporations can pay the extravagant sum of 7 Euros per ton of CO2. While the financial sector can have a field day trading the otherwise 'unwanted' emissions. And corrupt officials can supplement their meager salary by monitoring not always so passionately them emissions.

In this current mess of a 21st century, isn't the real challenge how to peacefully and rapidly improve the livelihoods of the world's poor before they explode (see Bolivia), fed up with polite societys discussions on how to sustain their misery and quaintness, or how to sustainably convene conferences and photo opportunities every 10 years, in the same "exotic" places where thousands are dying of underdevelopment, AIDS and War? And isn't Sustainability a surreal / Monty-Python approach in terms of solving increasing environmental and social problems? And isn't jargon and jargon-friendly arrangements like Kyoto a sustainable excuse for inaction? 

So I propose the following revision to the Brundtland Report:

Sustainability is meeting the needs of the current generation
so that there can be a future generation.

Antonis B. Petropoulos


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Copyright © 1999-2005 ECOCLUB S.A. All rights reserved.


Copyright © 1999-2005 ECOCLUB S.A. All Rights Reserved.