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Defining and measuring sustainability : the biogeophysical foundations (English)

This volume is based on papers prepared for the International Conference on the Definition and Measurement of Sustainability: the Biophysical Foundations, which was convened at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. from June 22 to 25, 1992. The primary goal of the conference was to explore the prospects of establishing a scientifically rigorous definition and set of measures for sustainability. The tasks before the conference participants were to make significant progress in: 1) agreeing on a scientific definition of biogeophysical sustainability, 2) providing the biogeophysical framework to complement the social and economic dimensions of an overall measure of sustainability, 3) recommending indicators and biogeophysical measures for monitoring and predicting the sustainability of the major managed ecosystems and finally 4) recommending a scientifically sound and practical set of indices of biogeophysical sustainability. This volume, which presents the highlights of the conference, shows that the participants have indeed taken a major step forward toward realizing the tasks set before them. The conference participants made the following ten general recommendations: 1) more work is needed to refine the definitions and propose the indicators for biogeophysical sustainability; 2) for the purposes of communication, a very simple index is urgently needed; 3) many of the measurements made in temperate agriculture systems could be useful in tropical agricultural systems; 4) for natural ecosystems more knowledge is needed about the driving forces that keep those ecosystems in equilibrium, the natural processes involved, and the location of critical thresholds; 5) ecosystems are high-order nonlinear systems; 6) the significance of large system change is still uncertain; 7) integrating information is a difficult and challenging aspect of many disciplines of science; 8) there appears to be a need to assess the state of the science of sustainability; 9) there must a reorientation and refocus of research in the ecological sciences; and 10) to better deal with all of this, a new discipline dubbed "econology" is proposed. These recommendations indicate the formidable problems that still remain in attempting to agree on a practical scientific definition of and set of measures for sustainability. The volume contains a wealth of thought, discussion, and the debate that will have to be taken into account in the final formulation of the practical definition and set of measures.


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    Munasinghe, Mohan Shearer, Walter [editors]

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    Defining and measuring sustainability : the biogeophysical foundations

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Munasinghe, Mohan Shearer, Walter [editors]

Defining and measuring sustainability : the biogeophysical foundations (English). Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.