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these hazards for particular times and places. Following the lead of the Brundtland Commission, we next analyze how human activities in a number of crucial developmental sectors might pose important challenges and opportunities for navigating the transition toward sustainability. Finally, we turn to the question of interactions—how multiple developmental activities may interact with complex environmental systems to transform the very nature of the journey before us.

Throughout our discussion, we not only seek to identify potential obstacles to a successful transition, but also to highlight the skills, knowledge, and materials that might be most useful in detecting and understanding the hazards, and in devising solutions or mid-course corrections to address them. We conclude that in any given place there are significant if often place-specific opportunities for societies to pursue goals of meeting human needs while sustaining earth's life support systems. Some of these opportunities are likely to be realized by individual actors—firms, organizations, and states—in the normal course of their self-interested activities. Others, however, will require integrative planning and management approaches.

Conceptual Issues

One of the most difficult challenges of the Board's exercise—and one that has bedeviled other attempts to evaluate the pitfalls to sustainable development—has been to determine which of the many potential problems are truly those that cannot be ignored. Perhaps the easiest approach might be to list as potential concerns for sustainable development every resource limitation or environmental response that can be imagined. Equally clear, however, is that a canoe-steering society that tries to focus public resources on avoiding every possible danger in a river at once will likely be looking the wrong way as it collides with the biggest rock. How can we distinguish those threats that, while not insignificant, are likely to be avoided or adapted to from those with a real potential for sinking the vessel? And how can we devise a system that encourages society to update its priorities among all hazards in light of new information and expertise?

A further difficulty in the analysis arises because hazards have spatial and temporal dimensions and important interactions. However connected the world may be, and however global the transformations humans impose on it, the sustainability transition will be played out differently on a vast number of local stages. Neither population growth, nor climate change, nor water limitations will be the same in Japan as in the Sudan. The environmental hazards that nations and communities find most threatening and the response strategies they look to will continue to be

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