5 W. Cache La Poudre St. (map)
Sustainability, nations, globalization: can we have them all with 7 billion people and more?
Whatever sustainability means, it includes protecting Earth's physical, chemical, and biological environments locally and globally for time periods of human concern, subject to natural variability. National governments usually view their primary responsibilities as lying within their own boundaries on the time scales of the next election cycle or, at most, the education of the next generation. Global businesses look for resources and markets wherever they offer economic advantage to globally dispersed stockholders and management in time for the next quarterly report or the next annual meeting of stockholders, or (rarely) over the coming decade. Since 1820, aggregate economic activity grew more than 74-fold, and now the material inputs and outputs of economic activity have magnitudes comparable to what Earth can yield and absorb. Some scientists warn of possible abrupt changes in vital Earth systems. Half of today's 7 billion people remain poor. Billions more people and massive urbanization and ageing are in prospect in the coming decades. In this new world, it is time to create the information, incentives and institutions needed to reconcile environmental sustainability, national governance, and economic globalization.