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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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Our Common Journey

A Transition Toward Sustainability

Board on Sustainable Development
Policy Division
National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS • 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. • Washington, D.C. 20418

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was supported by grants from Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, the George and Cynthia Mitchell Foundation, and the National Research Council. Additional support for the Summer Study, 1996 was provided by Contract No. 56-DKNA-5-31000 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, D.C. 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); http://www.nap.edu

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 99-50619

International Standard Book Number 0-309-06783-9

Printed on Recycled Paper image

Copyright 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine
National Research Council

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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BOARD ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

EDWARD A. FRIEMAN, University of California, La Jolla, California, Chairman

ROBERT W. KATES, Independent Scholar, Trenton, Maine, Vice Chairman

LOURDES ARIZPE, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico

JOHN BONGAARTS, The Population Council, New York, New York

RALPH J. CICERONE, University of California, Irvine, California

WILLIAM C. CLARK, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

ROBERT A. FROSCH, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

MALCOM GILLIS, Rice University, Houston, Texas

RICHARD R. HARWOOD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

PHILIP J. LANDRIGAN, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York

KAI N. LEE, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts

JERRY D. MAHLMAN, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey

RICHARD J. MAHONEY, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

PAMELA A. MATSON, Stanford University, Stanford, California

WILLIAM J. MERRELL, H. John Heinz III Center, Washington, D.C.

G. WILLIAM MILLER, G. William Miller & Co., Inc., Washington, D.C.

M. GRANGER MORGAN, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

PAUL RASKIN, Stockholm Environment Institute-Boston/Tellus Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

JOHN B. ROBINSON, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

VERNON W. RUTTAN, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota

THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland

MARVALEE H. WAKE, University of California, Berkeley, California

WARREN WASHINGTON, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

M. GORDON WOLMAN, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Ex-Officio Member

Chairman, Committee on Global Change Research

BERRIEN MOORE III, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire

Staff

SHERBURNE B. ABBOTT, Executive Director

LAURA SIGMAN, Research Associate

LESLIE MCCANT, Project Assistant

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Acknowledgments

Many individuals assisted the board in its task by participating in summer studies and workshops, developing background papers, and providing critical reviews of chapters. The board is especially grateful to Tony Patt, Harvard University, Darby Jack, Williams College, and Garren Bird, Williams College, for assisting in preparing background materials; C. Ford Runge, University of Minnesota, for contributing a thoughtful paper on globalization of the economy and sustainability; Eric Kemp-Benedict, Charlie Heaps, and Jack Sieber, Stockholm Environment Institute-Boston/Tellus Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, for preparing the scenarios found in the appendix to Chapter 3; and Professor Harvey Brooks, Harvard University, who provided critical analyses of the strategic approach to navigation and illuminated various terms.

The board would also like to express appreciation to individuals, other than members of the board, National Research Council staff, or individuals serving in a staff role, who participated in summer studies and workshops. They are:

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1996 Summer Study: "Scouting the Rapids"
Bar Harbor, Maine
July 20–26, 1996

Bruce Alberts, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.

Richard Balzhiser, Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, California

Robert W. Corell, National Science Foundation, Arlington, Virginia

Arthur J. Hanson, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

H. Theodore Heintz, Jr., Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.

Steve Katona, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine

Mary Hope Katsouros, The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Washington, D.C.

Nancy Maynard, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C.

Donella H. Meadows, Dartmouth College, Durham, New Hampshire

Nebojsa Nakicenovic, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria

Robert C. Repetto, World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.

Roberto Sanchez, Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Montreal, Canada

Jurgen Schmandt, Houston Advanced Research Center, The Woodlands, Texas

Billie L. Turner, II, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts

Robert Watson, World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Workshop on Environmental Barriers to Sustainable Development
Stanford University, Stanford, California
December 12, 1996

Miguel Altieri, University of California, Berkeley, California

Gretchen C. Daily, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Anne H. Ehrlich, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Paul R. Ehrlich, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Walter P. Falcon, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Rosamond Naylor, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Peter M. Vitousek, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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Workshop on Decomposition of
Complex Issues in Sustainable Development
Washington, D.C.
February 27–28, 1997

Jesse Ausubel, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

William Bender, Independent Scholar, Groton, Massachusetts

Cabell Brand, Recovery Systems Inc., Salem, Virginia

Thomas Dietz, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Kenneth Frederick, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C.

Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, Oakland, California

Mark Rosegrant, International Food, Policy & Research Institute, Washington, D.C.

Lee Schipper, International Energy Agency, Paris, France

Iddo Wernick, Columbia University, New York, New York

Workshop on Food Security: Sustaining the Potential
Minneapolis, Minnesota
May 28–31, 1997

Robert Evenson, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Robert Goodman, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin

Anne R. Kupuscinski, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota

John Mellor, John Mellor Associates, Inc., Washington, D.C.

Ronald L. Phillips, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota

Terry Roe, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota

C. Ford Runge, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota

G. Edward Schuh, Hubert Humphrey Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Benjamin Senauer, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota

Paul Waggoner, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, Connecticut

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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1997 Summer Study: "Science for a Sustainability Transition"
Woods Hole, Massachusetts
July 7–12, 1997

Bruce Alberts, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.

Jesse H. Ausubel, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York

Richard Balzhiser, Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, California

Eric Davidson, Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Paul R. Epstein, Harvard University Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Christopher Field, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Genevieve Giuliano, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

Susan Hanson, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts

Gary S. Hartshorn, Organization for Tropical Studies, Durham, North Carolina

Robert W. Lake, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Jerry M. Melillo, The Ecosystems Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Vicki Norberg-Bohm, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Rick Piltz, U.S. Global Change Research Program Office, Washington, D.C.

Robert C. Repetto, World Resource Institute, Washington, D.C.

F. Sherwood Rowland, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California

Ambuj Sagar, Center for Science and International Affairs, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Jurgen Schmandt, Houston Advanced Research Center, The Woodlands, Texas

Robert H. Socolow, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

H. Guyford Stever, National Research Council, Washington, D.C.

Henry J. Vaux, University of California, Riverside, California

Thomas J. Wilbanks, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

William A. Wulf, National Academy of Engineering, Washington, D.C.

Reviewers

This report has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the pub-

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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lished report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remains confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:

Brian J.L. Berry, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas

John S. Chipman, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Elisabeth M. Drake, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Christopher Field, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Harold K. Forsen, National Academy of Engineering, Washington, D.C.

Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, Oakland, California

Thomas Graedel, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Robert Harriss, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Geoffrey Heal, Columbia University, New York, New York

Brian Heap, Royal Society of London, United Kingdom

Donald F. Hornig, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts

Ronald Lee, University of California, Berkeley, California

Daniel P. Loucks, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Akin Mabogunje, Development Policy Centre, Ibadan, Nigeria

Harold A. Mooney, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Tarla Rai Peterson, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

M.S. Swaminathan, Centre for Research on Sustainable Agriculture, Madras, India

Gilbert E. White, University of Colorado, Denver, Colorado

Robert M. White, Washington Advisory Group, Washington, D.C.

While the individuals listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authoring committee and the NRC.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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Preface

This report is a work of moderate, length, considerable effort, and large ambition. In seeking to reinvigorate the strategic connections between scientific research, technological development, and societies' efforts to achieve environmentally sustainable improvements in human well-being, it has drawn upon nearly 375 reports of the National Research Council and hundreds of other works cited in the text. In the course of its four-year effort, the board held eight meetings, two summer studies, three workshops, and a public symposium, and commissioned two studies. We benefited enormously from the voluntary efforts of the participants in these studies and workshops and their willingness to share with us their knowledge and experience and provide the critical analysis, perspectives, and questions the board needed to sharpen its understanding and judgments.

Most of all, this report is the work of the 25 members of the Board on Sustainable Development, its executive director, Shere Abbott, and her associate, Laura Sigman. The board is extremely large and diverse, as is the nature of our topic, with a heady mix of the natural and social sciences and engineering, seasoned by a few members with considerable experience in both industry and government, and from north and south of the United States. With mutual respect, careful listening, deep thought, and much hard work, they came together with the set of unanimous findings, judgments, and priorities for knowledge and action. Early on, the board benefited from the experience of its first director, John Perry, and the guidance of our chairman, Edward Frieman. Laura Sigman filled in the

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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blanks of memory, intention, and citation with great research and good humor. But in the crucial years of preparation of this report, Shere Abbott piloted us on the board's journey, drafted significant parts of the report, and shared with us the pains of understanding and the pleasures of discovery. On behalf of our colleagues on the board and all who benefit from this report, we acknowledge her central contribution and offer her our heartfelt thanks.

Unlike most NRC reports, this one does not originate in a request from government for scientific advice. Rather it is a product of the desire of a major benefactor, George P. Mitchell, to address the research needs for the global commons of atmosphere, land, and water. Equally, it is a product of the desire of the Academies to reinvigorate the role of science and technology in sustainable development, and to contribute to the meeting of 80 international academies in 2000, co-chaired by the National Academy of Sciences' Foreign Secretary Sherwood Rowland, on the topic of a transition toward sustainability. Mr. Mitchell and the National Research Council have shared the cost of the study and the sometimes anxious awaiting of its outcome. In a special sense, however, the report is the product of Bruce Alberts, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, ably assisted by William Colglazier, who saw in the idea of a sustainability transition the great challenge of the coming century and consistently urged the board to explore and articulate how the science and technology enterprise could provide the knowledge and know-how to help enable that transition.

Finally, we acknowledge all of our children and grandchildren who, by their very presence, anchor us in the vague and uncertain future of the next two generations and make real our common journey. They, and their contemporaries, are the thinkers and doers and movers and shakers of the first half of the next century. And to them this report is dedicated with our hopes for a successful journey.

ROBERT W. KATES AND WILLIAM C. CLARK, CO-CHAIRS
SUSTAINABILITY TRANSITION STUDY

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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Contents

Executive Summary

1

Goals for the Transition to Sustainability

4

Trends and Transitions

4

Exploring the Future

5

Environmental Threats and Opportunities

7

Reporting on the Transition

8

Integrating Knowledge and Action

10

Introduction

15

1 Our Common Journey

21

Sustainable Development: Common Concerns, Differing Emphases

22

Sustainable Development: The First Decade

26

Goals for a Sustainability Transition

30

The Transition to Sustainability as Social Learning

48

References and Bibliography

51

Endnotes

56

2 Trends and Transitions

59

Human Development

61

Human Action and Environmental Transformations

80

Conclusions

101

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1999. Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9690.
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References and Bibliography

102

Endnotes

111

3 Exploring the Future

133

Strategies for Exploring the Future

134

Integrated Assessment Models

139

Scenarios

147

Regional Information Systems

154

Conclusions

159

Appendix: Scenarios for a Transition Toward Sustainability

161

References and Bibliography

177

Endnotes

182

4 Environmental Threats and Opportunities

185

Conceptual Issues

186

Environmental Perspectives

188

Development Perspectives

189

Interaction Perspectives

208

Integrated Approaches in a Place-Based Context

222

Conclusion

223

References and Bibliography

224

Endnotes

230

5 Reporting on the Transition

233

Indicators

233

The Use of Indicators

234

Indicators for a Sustainability Transition

244

Indicators and Social Learning

264

References and Bibliography

265

Endnotes

272

6 Integrating Knowledge and Action

275

Navigating a Transition Toward Sustainability

275

Priorities for Research

278

Priorities for Action

302

Toward a Sustainability Transition

318

References and Bibliography

320

Endnotes

329

Appendixes

333

A: Biographical Information on Board Members and Staff

333

B: Acronyms

345

Index

349

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World human population is expected to reach upwards of 9 billion by 2050 and then level off over the next half-century. How can the transition to a stabilizing population also be a transition to sustainability? How can science and technology help to ensure that human needs are met while the planet's environment is nurtured and restored?

Our Common Journey examines these momentous questions to draw strategic connections between scientific research, technological development, and societies' efforts to achieve environmentally sustainable improvements in human well being. The book argues that societies should approach sustainable development not as a destination but as an ongoing, adaptive learning process. Speaking to the next two generations, it proposes a strategy for using scientific and technical knowledge to better inform future action in the areas of fertility reduction, urban systems, agricultural production, energy and materials use, ecosystem restoration and biodiversity conservation, and suggests an approach for building a new research agenda for sustainability science.

Our Common Journey documents large-scale historical currents of social and environmental change and reviews methods for "what if" analysis of possible future development pathways and their implications for sustainability. The book also identifies the greatest threats to sustainability--in areas such as human settlements, agriculture, industry, and energy--and explores the most promising opportunities for circumventing or mitigating these threats. It goes on to discuss what indicators of change, from children's birth-weights to atmosphere chemistry, will be most useful in monitoring a transition to sustainability.

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