The Sense of Sustainability: A Perversion of Meaning

By Dr. Tilak K Doshi

Sustainable development is mom’s apple pie and the central organizing principle of all things environmental. Governments and companies are all for it. Sustainability occupies pride of place in public policy and social discourse across multilateral agencies, governments and societies. However the concept lacks definition and its ambiguity allows its proponents to make extravagant claims that cannot be tested.

In the private sector, most companies extol their commitment to sustainability in advertisements, annual reports, CEO speeches and PR communications. These serve to promote a favourable corporate image, burnish credentials in corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) and, not least, to appease their NGO and social activist critics. Originating in the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development includes leading multinational corporations such as AT&T, BP, General Motors, Mitsubishi, Nestle, Proctor and Gamble, Shell, Sony and Toyota.
While the sustainability concept has been defined in many ways, it was first made popular in a report published by the Brundtland Commission in 1987 (Gro Brundtland was the former Prime Minister of Norway and was appointed by the UN to head its sustainability programme in 1983). It was defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition appeals quite naturally to the broad intuition of people who are concerned about ensuring a better life for future generations. Yet it is difficult to pin down when practical questions of policy or private sector behaviour are posed.

Some examples serve to make this apparent. The first derives from the experience in the US. Among the most expensive energy policies imposed in that country is the program to substitute a portion of the gasoline used for transport by blending it with ethanol derived primarily from corn. Current U.S. ethanol production uses 30 percent of the nation’s corn crop, billions of gallons of water, and vast quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, and diesel for tractors to produce a blended fuel that drives up food prices and gets one-third less mileage per gallon than ordinary gasoline. Vast tracts of precious farmland are being devoted to make ethanol with little discernible benefit to energy security or reducing CO2 emissions.
Meanwhile the country – with private capital and dynamic entrepreneurship — is producing prodigious amounts of additional oil from what was once useless shale rock by the remarkable “fracking revolution” in the past decade. For most observers, calling the blending of ethanol for gasoline supply in the US a “sustainable” practice is a gross misuse of the term.

Perhaps the most direct sense of sustainability that relates to the man on the street has to do with the fear of “running out of resources”. This Malthusian scare was propagated by the Club of Rome which came out with the highly publicized study entitled “Limits to Growth” in 1972. Utilizing a (then) state-of-the-art computer model, it forecast that the world would have run out of aluminium, copper, gold, lead, mercury, natural gas, oil, silver, tin and zinc by 2013. Of course none of this has happened, and the study’s predictions are now duly noted as examples of doom-mongering that gained global attention.

The example of oil resources is illustrative. In 1980, world oil reserves stood at 684 billion barrels according to the BP’s 2018 statistical bulletin. Annual use amounted to 22 billion barrels, yielding a reserves/production ratio (time before the resources “ran out”) of 30 years. In 2017, reserves stood at 1.7 trillion barrels, and at a consumption rate of 36 billion barrels a year, life expectancy increased to 47 years despite billions of barrels of oil being used up in the interim. How was this so?

A basic appreciation of economics and technological progress suggests that as demand increases and the price of oil rises, consumers would economize, and suppliers would search for newer sources of oil, improve techniques of extraction and exploit opportunities to use substitutes wherever possible. This applies to all natural resources. Indeed, the conventional wisdom that resources are finite is false: as the late economist Julian Simon remarked presciently that the only true resource in the world was human ingenuity.

Another example of what sustainability really means relates to organic farming which forsakes the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well as genetically modified seeds. This is quite a turn from the situation five decades ago when countries such as China, India, and Mexico among many other countries were facing widespread food shortages and endemic hunger. Famines were a common occurrence in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In the 1960s, Dr. Norman Borlaug introduced high yielding varieties of the wheat crop and later other staples such as rice. These yielded a dramatic improvement in agricultural productivity. The Green Revolution that subsequently took off in Asia and elsewhere has been credited with saving hundreds of millions of people. When the Nobel Laureate was asked about his views of organic farming, he said: “There are 6.6 billion on the planet today. With organic farming, we can only feed 4 billion of them. I don’t see two billion volunteers [willing]to disappear.”

It is clear that while organic farming can be a thriving small sub-sector of global agriculture serving affluent consumers with particular preferences – despite the lack of any scientific evidence that organic crops are “healthier” than those normally-grown — it is not sustainable for the world at large.

What is most striking, if not perverse, about any discussion of this ambiguous concept – and its subtext of how modern lifestyles are unsustainable — is the fact that humanity as a whole is doing better than it ever has. With entrepreneurship, free markets and technological progress, the world is richer, more peaceful and healthier than at any previous time in history. Yet, in reading any number of “sustainable development” tracts, you would never have guessed it.

The writer is a consultant in the energy sector, and is the author of “Singapore in a Post-Kyoto World: Energy, Environment and the Economy” published by the Institute of South-east Asian Studies (Singapore, 2015).

(a modified version of this article was published in The Business Times (Singapore), 18 April 2018)

Advertisements

101 thoughts on “The Sense of Sustainability: A Perversion of Meaning

  1. ” Vast tracts of precious farmland are being devoted to make ethanol “….

    But there’s no shortage of corn for food or feed…..so that’s putting more farmers to work

    • Well at least the product creates even more CO2 which keeps corn and little critters healthy.

      “It’s all connected man.” – Neal

    • We could put more people to work by getting rid of tractors and going back to mule teams for plowing.

      Paying people to do work that isn’t needed doesn’t help anyone.

      • The great Milton Friedman was a consultant for the Prime Minister of India. Friedman was looking out of a window in the PM office and noticed hundreds of men digging a trench with shovels and inquired why they didn’t use backhoes. The PM said that it beefed up employment to which Friedman replyed – if that is the case, why don’t you issue them spoons.

      • The concept of digging canals by hand comes to mind. And the comment of a bystander who was told it was to provide work. His answer? “So why give them spades rather than teaspoons?”.

    • L, your observation can be sharpened. I owned a dairy farm for 33 years (just sold). We used to grow corn as a supplemental feed to alfalfa. When ethanol took off, we grew more and sold all of it for ethanol, taking back the carbohydrate poor, protein and roughage enhanced (yeast) distillers grain left after fermentation, which is an even better alfalfa supplement.
      In volume terms, ~41% of US corn goes to ethanol production, and ~27% is returned as distillers grain ruminant feedstock. The net impact on ‘food’ is only 14%. And that swing is less than price driven planting changes (corn/soy/alfalfa) and good/bad crop years.

      • Once the corn grown on my land hits the elevator, it’s somebody else’s work. What we labor to do is grow as much as possible on every patch of land. We also grow many other products for you. A corn field can be harvested and then no-till planted with winter wheat where I live, and in the following late spring the wheat goes to market and we plant soybeans. The field then lies fallow for a winter, dressed with anhydrous ammonia and soil amendments and the whole process starts over. This is only one of the possible crop rotations available here in central IL.

        • I have had bad crops during droughts which were contaminated with aflatoxins from aspergillus mold which would have not been acceptable for feed purposes. Corn-to-ethanol saved me from fiscal disaster in 2012.

    • Whatever the merits of corn ethanol, it’s interesting that our President caved to the corn lobby and agreed to increasing the maximum percentage of ethanol allowable in motor fuel. In Trump’s characteristic fashion, he readily admitted that the farm lobby pressure was too much.

      The point is that ethanol is a political creation and it seems it will last forever so long as there’s an ag lobby. We should move on to something we can maybe do something about.

    • At whose expense ?.

      Who pays through the nose for it with money could have spent on food heating or cooling.

  2. Oftentimes the concept of sustainability goes way too far. There is an anti-depressant under the name of Citalopram. Now, one could expect an anti-depressant to have side effects and, indeed, Citalopram does. However, one of the side effects is so weird that it has me convinced Citalopram was not developed by a pharmaceutical company but by an ecological organization, intending sustainability instead. You see this side effect – and I’m not making this up – is a ‘sustained’ erection that requires medical treatment.

      • Celexa can most certainly cause priapism. I know this clinically as an ER nurse and as a patient with near-priapism effects from the medication. But I agree with you about the intent. Greens tend to be leftists and leftists hate all that toxic maleness.

        • Best wishes for a speedy recovery … and I mean from the ailment that causes you to choose to use the drug!

          • Thank you so much! It’s been years since I’ve taken any antidepressants. Still have depression but I use behavioral modification vs drugs now.

    • It was unsolicited, but I did choose to run it, so yes. While we have entire university departments dedicated to sustainability as an academic pursuit, I’ve always considered it a nebulous concept with no definition suitable for policymakers. It means whatever you want it to mean, and that usually means less efficient or more expensive.

      • Amen to that, charles. I was put on a corporate “sustainability team” a few years ago. Normally, on a team like this, the first task is to define the objective. We never did. One of our plant guys was also on the team by phone. He said that he could make one little tweak at the plant that would completely overwhelm all of our efforts back at the office for a year. He was ignored and never came back. That made it clear to me, sustainability was all about effort, emotion and feel good. Real results, not so much.

      • ” … entire university departments dedicated to sustainability … ” Yep. Dedicated to sustaining themselves in the lifestyle they want, preferably out of the public purse. Then there are the fat-cat virtue signallers who have taken over sustainability in construction, proudly proclaiming their “initiatives” that frequently double the cost per square metre. I tried to counter this by promoting “sustainability for the rest of us”, but that has had limited success. I now have to avoid the term altogether, as most people turn off when they hear it. “Resilience” is another term that has been irreparably damaged.

      • Thank you Charles for deciding to run it. Its original publication here in Singapore is pay-walled and readership is limited. Further, in Asia, conformity with “official” narratives is very high, and there is almost no contrarian critical scholarship in academe and media. Best regards, Tilak

  3. “It is clear that while organic farming can be a thriving small sub-sector of global agriculture serving affluent consumers with particular preferences”

    I believe you misspelled peculiar.

  4. I am in complete agreement with the idea that the “sustainability” concept has been used as a cover for all sorts of practices that go beyond what I consider sustainable. At the top of the list is the idea that mitigating GHG emissions is sustainable when the fact is that much of the mitigation technology available is anything but good for future generations. The ethanol example is a good one. How about wind energy? It lasts half as long as a natural gas fired power plant, takes up much more room, has direct impacts on birds and bats, and requires rare earth minerals that are much more impactful to extract than natural gas. Long term I don’t think that technology is sustainable. Behind all those mitigation links to sustainability is the blind adherence to the belief that catastrophic climate change is imminent, inevitable, and can only be prevented by mitigating GHG emissions.

  5. Sustainability is a noble concept, like motherhood and love and other such concepts. But meaningless to policy setting.

    Policy making is always going to be a matter of satisfying wants and needs of today’s decisionmakers. Not tomorrow’s, because todays decision makers are entirely consumed with preserving their jobs, their income, their power, and their perks.

    Humans collectively have never been selfless beings. Individuals can be and many are indeed selfless. But collectively, not. Collectively we are all about today. It’s human nature. That will never change.

  6. “However the concept lacks definition and its ambiguity allows its proponents to make extravagant claims that cannot be tested.”

    As designed.

  7. Citalopram does not induce Priapism.
    If anything, quite the opposite. Been there. Not done that.
    If Citalopram or any of the similar drugs had any actual effect whatsoever, either what they’re supposed to do or other ‘side benefits’, they’d be available on street corners.
    No. In London and plenty places, coke is delivered by cell-phone apps in a fraction of time a pizza would arrive, Prozac not so.

    If, in the UK at least, there is even the slightesy weaniest tiniest most vaguely overheard whisper that motor fuel is going be in short supply, bet you bottom dollar that within 2 hours, fights will be breaking out at a petrol station near you. Folks do not ‘economise’ Not on this planet anyway.
    See also here:
    https://news.sky.com/story/police-federation-no-deal-brexit-could-lead-to-disruption-danger-delays-and-rationing-11555125

    Norman B did not get the plants (wheat and rice etc) to produce ever greater yields.
    What Borlaug did was persuade them to put more of the ‘material’ they normally produced into their seeds rather than their leaves and stalks.
    So we got dwarf plants with huge seeds instead of huge plants with dwarf seeds. There was exactly the same amount of photosynthetic effort went into both.

    Enquiring minds and folks who dare to ask awkward questions will wonder:
    Why did Ma Nature do it *that* way round?
    Surely huge quantities of big phat seeds is a better way of ensuring the survival of the species?

    So why did Ma Nature do the contrary?
    Are you *really* suggesting that we know better?
    Are you *really* suggesting that we know better than ‘The Thing’ that created us?

    Hint: All that ‘waste’ leaves and stalks that the plants previously created went into looking after the soil.
    And does anyone see the word ‘soil’ or ‘dirt’ in the above exposition?
    Only a sideways swipe at folks who try to make an effort to protect it.

    Hubristic. Selfish. Junk
    Exactly the sort of talk and thinking that sees wives constantly getting ‘headaches’ and keeping their legs crossed – resulting the negative baby boom that is now unravelling.
    Then, when the boys who are full of this sort of talk get the Lawyer’s Letter containing the words ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’, they haven’t a clue what it’s talking about.
    Thence they hammer yet another nail into their coffins by going down the pub to ask their mates – and celebrate the rising yields of barley or that ever greater numbers of people are forced to eat a tasteless and nutrient free diet revolving around rice.
    Even and especially nowadays if it is a Virtual Pub. Like here.

    Is it actual blindness or wilful blindness, or something brought on by ever increasing yields of barley….
    Positive feedback, doncha just love it

    • WUWT a Virtual Pub? Exactly. Good one Peta..and I just bought you a virtual beer..ha. Can always glean a few truths out of your sometimes witty and entertaining posts…at least the glass is half full with you. You do have me thinking of my diet more often. Keep up your positive feedback Peta. The world definitely needs more positive feedback.

    • Peta We didnt do a bad job of improving on nature’s raw gifts. You surely realize that we were designed by nature to do what we do. Nature gave us highly exposed vulnerable tissues, we are not fleet of foot, we look after our children for a third of their lives… She gave us a highly creative brain to figure out how to survive. I blame her for the whole shmeer. The fact that she can be manipulated to put the energy into seed pods means she even had that arrow in her quiver.

    • Hi Peta of Newark, – – Actually Borlaug bred with an already semi-dwarf wheat to deliberately get plants that when fertilized specifically with additional nitrogen (as more farmers were at that time were beginning to use) stayed short instead of growing tall vegetatively. Incidently, since photosynthetic machinery has some protein factors the supplemental fertilizer nitrogen partitioning does augment that as well (enzymes are proteins). To be precise this is not all that his wheat breeding involved.

      In terms of willfull blindness, rice may be tasteless to some of those who are not raised on it. Inquiring minds might ask in countries where rice is the grain mainstay how long it takes for fights to break out at petrol stations due to rumours of fuel scarcity.

    • “Why did Ma Nature do it *that* way round?”

      “Ma Nature” doesn’t do a f-ing thing. Plants don’t plan on improving soil or anything else. They grow in a way that maximizes their inclusive fitness because that is the way evolution works. However that is usually not optimal from the viewpoint of farmers, so we change the plants to suit us. Always. Sometimes vastly. Corn for example is so unlike the wild form that it was only fairly recently determined which species is the wild ancestor. And that by the way was mostly done by politically correct native american “organic” farmers.

    • ta:-) and animals ate the long stalks we now are led to think of as wasteful…
      meanwhile a lot of new machinery got created to pick up short stalk crops
      Im oldfashioned i prefer to see the crops at the 3ft+fenceline level and know the hays going for feed
      and as a unusual downside to short crops….you cant find decent lengths to make corn dollies anymore;-( galleon barley used to be perfect for that, havent been able to source that for 18yrs

  8. ‘Sustainability’ as used is a reification fallacy. It is not concrete.

    It’s “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”

    “Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and
    murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure
    wind.” – George Orwell

  9. Thanks for posting this excellent article.

    If there was any justice in this world, it would appear on the front page of Pravda (a/k/a the N.Y. Times), Bloomberg and the WaPo.

  10. This has been infuriating me for years. Every prat of a bureaucrat and government sponsored TV station and agency always love to put sustainability in their blurb somewhere without the first clue of what that means.

    The concept that wood harvested in the southern USA, chipped and transported to the UK is sustainable is utterly laughable.

  11. “Humanity as a whole is doing better than it ever has.” Did you ever dream of becoming a king, like most progressives? We have to progress towards the past. There were golden times when every Greek city had a king, and every island had a king. Do you dream of having slaves to sustain a royal lifestyle?

  12. The word sustainability has been corrupted by the marxists beyond redemption, just like freedom, justice, fairness, bias, environmentalist, education, war, peace, love, hate and on & on. We have to invent a new, uncorrupted word for it.

    • Thank you Willis for that post. One of the comments from that post bears repeating:
      There is a difference between sustainable development and “Sustainable Development” (note the capitalization). One is the concept of doing things in such a manner as to be considerate of your neighbors and future generations. The other is a mechanism by which governments abdicate their representative responsibility and allow their planning boards, zoning commissions, and environmental agencies to be run by policy set by the UN. “Sustainable Development” as set forth in Agenda 21 of the Rio conference:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda_21
      and includes such concepts as the “Precautionary Principal” where something must only be a “plausible” threat to the environment and scientific uncertainty is not to be a factor in limiting action.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle
      We have zoning compliance boards now throwing people out of their homes in LA county in the name of Sustainable Development. It works kind of like this:
      You develop high density “affordable housing” along transportation corridors. Then you start making it unaffordable to live in rural areas or to live “off grid” by mandating that you must be connected to the grid and you must be connected to a municipal water supply of that your water supply meet the same standards as a municipal water supply. In other words, they make it unaffordable but anyone other than the very rich to live in rural areas. The poor are “stacked and packed” into “high density” housing while low density areas are condemned as “under utilized” and people are forced to move out.
      But more importantly, national governments, states, and localities are encouraged to “internationalize” their policies. This means they are encouraged to go lock-step with UN policy recommendations such as the UNFCCC recommendations. This means that a group of unelected bureaucrats who are for the most part appointed by third world despots get to dictate policy directly to the local level without anyone who is an elected representative of the people being involved anywhere in the process. And they do this under the Orwellian name of “Sustainable Development” knowing that anyone who opposes it will be accused of wanting “unsustainable development”.
      http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/index.shtml?utm_source=OldRedirect&utm_medium=redirect&utm_content=dsd&utm_campaign=OldRedirect
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_development
      So basically, some political crony of the President of Bolivia gets to set zoning standards for people living in South Carolina.
      It is complete freaking crazy and the first thing we need to do after this next election is to extract ourselves from the Rio treaty.

      https://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/22/nothing-is-sustainable/#comment-730623

    • Thank you Willis for the reference and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Absolutely on the mark. Best wishes, Tilak

    • Thank you Willis for the reference and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Absolutely on the mark. Best wishes

    • Dear Willis — thank you for the reference. I found it absolutely right on the mark, and enjoyed reading it. Best wishes, Tilak

  13. Dr. Doshi, excellent essay exposing the buzzwords sustainability and the very unsustainability by any definition of “organic”. One thing I always correct in Malthusian understanding of mineral reserves and almost as often in the critisicsms of the Malts is what reserves really are. Yes they are an ‘economic’ concept but with overdrive.

    Diamond drilling an orebody is expensive (~$200/m all-in) and 20,000-35,000m is common for measuring a broad ‘resource’ of which a smaller part, ‘reserves’, is defined by certainty through the number of drill holes penetrating a certain volume of ore. Commonly, 15yrs worth of production is sufficient for design and planning purposes. What is ultimately there is multiples of the initial reserves. Moreover, since you look for elephants in elephant country, other orebodies almost always are found in the district. They still find new orebodies in most large districts that have been producing for a century.

    Briefly, Malthusians don’t understand that we dont demand, say, zinc. We demand rust proofing for culverts, sheet iron, etc. for which alternatives abound. Also, all the metals produced to date are on the surface – scrap and in use. Your wedding ring will have a tiny portion of gold in it that came across the Sahara in a caravan a 1000yrs ago. Mining is becoming a topping-up exercise. Miniaturization of products- a computer room of old fits in your pocket. New exploration and mining tech adds an order of magnitude to resources.

    • Thank you for your very insightful comments. Reminds me of my graduate days in which natural resource economics was an area of focus. Alas, the Malthusian specter never goes away…

  14. “Sustainable” has become another word for government subsidized. If something is truly sustainable it will continue without government intervention.
    Anything that is not sustainable will not continue on its own, by definition.Really there is nothing to see here.
    It is purely political propaganda to achieve collectivist control.

  15. Sustainability in a coupled, non-linear chaotic system is a meaningless term and a dangerous practice. Versatility and adaptability are desirable qualities in the world we live in. Sustainability is only approached in death, and programs that strive for sustainability are most often quite deadly in the long run; figuratively (as in the failure of the program) and literally (as in the death of the participants and the population at-large).

    Change is the only constant. Adaptability is the only way to survive.

  16. Contrary to the article, GMO wheat is not now being grown. Strains have been developed and approved for human consumption but not marketed.

    • not legally grown but its been found in some areas of usa quite a long way from the supposedly destroyed test fields I gather
      as have the gmo modded grasss used in golfcourses spread widely too

  17. We already have across-the-board sustainability. The only variables are how fast do you want to change and how much it will cost in the future. Despite the best efforts of capitalist money grubbers and flagrant over consumption the world has 1.5 billion fewer dirt poor people, more food for all, the population is on track to peak at around 9.5 billion, and there is plenty of surplus for fanatics, globalists, terrorists, and socialists to play their dirty games. Abject poverty in the third world should be gone within 30 years.

    As far as organic foods, the chicken, eggs, beef, and pork are fresher and taste a lot better- if you want to spend a few extra bucks on good food.

  18. I agree entirely with Dr Doshi. What might be added are at least two points. One, which is alluded to by Gary Pearse, is the long pedigree of this notion, going back to the Malthus formula, firmly accepted as gospel by every subsequent generation of intellectuals and given sanctity by “scientists” such as Paul Ehrlich in the 1960’s, the Club of Rome’s very scientific computer models of “the limits of growth” in the 1970’s, and the scare mongering of environmentalists from the 1980’s to the present.
    The second point I would like to add is that this dubious notion of sustainability is utterly dominant in today’s academy, to the extent that doubters are condemned as “deniers”(implicitly, the equivalent of denying the holocaust), and shunned as somehow disreputable outliers, not deserving of any credence or even attention. Thus, the common stance is that there is no need for debate. There are no two sides to the issue. The people of the earth are on an unsustainable course toward ruin unless drastic steps are taken; the matter is ‘settled’, just as “obvious” as was the 18th century Malthus formula. Never mind that the factual data have contradicted the model over and over again.
    As a longtime student of the scientific process and researcher on the relations between the science community, the technology sector, and public policy makers, I am stunned at the wholesale surrender of reason by what I thought was my community.
    Ronald G. Havelock, PhD, formerly Director of the Knowledge Transfer Institute, American University
    and former Research Professor and Program Director, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.

    • Yes, one would have thought that the exposure of previous mass hysteria cycles propagated by the likes of Ehrlich and the Club of Rome would have created stronger skeptical responses to the climate change claims. The “surrender of reason” among the intelligentsia is indeed shocking — but as many polls and surveys have shown, climate change is among the lowest of concerns among the broad public for whom jobs, income, health, education and other such practical daily matters are of far greater concern. Perhaps therein lies our hope?

  19. “Sustainability” could be viewed as an alarm trip- flare, whenever encountered. Watch the endorphin rush on the faces of those who speak the word. Ask them what they mean and watch confusion set in.
    The word needs winnowing, to fathom its meaning. Use the idea of the goose that lays golden eggs, as a flail.

  20. on the rare occasion that i go to Whole Paychecks, usually for their meat, i always have fun asking the staff where the inorganic vegetables are…

    it’s like the rare trip to the local “farmer’s market” where i watch idiots pay huge amounts on money for the same vegetables and fruits they could buy at the regular grocery store across the street.

    there’s a lot of stupid/gullible people here in Lost Angels, #Failifornia, as the elections just sowed.

    • We all eat exclusively organic food, since there is no such thing as inorganic food.

      About the only inorganic substances we eat (and need) is water and salt.

  21. Once upon a time I worked for a large environment department in one of the largest and fastest growing states in the USA. It was decided after great political pressure that how the state was managing growth was not working. So it was decided that we develop an ecosystem management plan, which included the goal of managing for sustainable development. There was intense activity, conference, many meetings external and internal on just how to develop an ecosystem management plan. The first big problem was defining what a manageable ecosystem might be. Second problem was determining what sustainable development might look like and how it might be regulated. A great deal of effort went into this pie in the sky, idealistic view of our state. As close as anyone got to defining an ecosystem was to declare each river or spring drainage as an ecosystem.

    Meanwhile back at the ranch ill planned growth was overwhelming various systems throughout the state. Millions spent of developing ecosystem management should have gone to very basic and already known solutions.

    • That’s all well and good as long as the entire department had a good time and spent a lot of tax payer money.

  22. The lack of definition of the term,”Sustainability” is a feature not a bug.
    Policy based evidence manufacturing requires such nebulous memes.
    Look also at Climate Change.
    Carbon pollution.
    Mitigation..

  23. Dr. Tilak K Doshi’s article “The Sense of Sustainability: A Perversion of Meaning” lacks clear clarity on the subject, more particularly on “Sustainability”. On 16th November 2018 American Water Works Association [AWWA] India organized conference and Exibition (AICE), 2018 in Hyderabad. The organizers invited me to present a talk and also asked me to participate in the panel discussion [this note is given at the end]. Title of my talk was “Impact of ‘Climate Change & Human Interference’ on Water Resources Availability in India”. The first two slides of my talk are: [Late Pundit Jawaharlal the first Prime Minister used the word sustainable development in water resources development] —

    Water is a Natural-Renewable-Scarce Resource Fundamental to Life, Livelihood, Food Security, & Sustainable Development. Rainfall & Snowfall are the two Natural Sources for “Renewable Water”. Water resources developmental activities in India are Centuries old practice in a sustainable manner, but the current scenario is highly unsustainable even after spending lakhs of crores of rupees in the building of resource bases. Water Management in a Sustainable Way is of utmost Important. Sustainable Development must meet the basic needs of people “today” without ruining the chances of “future” generation to do the same. However in reality Sustainable Development is hindered by “Climate Change” & “Human Interference”. Here climate change refers to natural variability in precipitation and snowfall. Frequency of occurrence of floods in rivers and water availability in rivers follow this pattern. Without taking this one can’t achieve the sustainability in water.

    However, this is drastically modified by pollution. Let me present below the two slides of my talk: River Ganga travels 2525 km from Gangotri in Himalayas and joins Bay of Bengal at Gangasar. On its way, water Quality is affected by Agriculture Runoff [non-point source], Wastewaters from urban areas & Industry [point source], etc. Upstream Dams limit the cleaning up of pollutants in the downstream. In USA, Mississippi River carry the non-point source agriculture runoff and finally dumps into Gulf of Mexico and thus thousands of square kilometers became dead zone.

    Sustainable Development a Mirage: Hyderabad an example: Needs protection of water resources: like Himayatsagar & Osmansagar Lakes – of the 932 lakes, around 500 turned in to residential areas, the rest and Musi River around 50% encroached and the rest is filled with poison – groundwater is contaminated with nitrates, sulphates, poisonous chemicals. Needs controlling of water losses: brought at huge cost and of which around 55% is lost through pilferage 60% and leakages 40%. Use treated wastewater: out of 2000 mld, around 715 mld have STPs with around 50% efficiency [all India they are 30 to 70%] and thus when treated water joins untreated finally becomes again as wastewater. So these are basic problems to achieve sustainability in water resources. When we plan we must take all these in to account. But, however, people use in a casual manner “sustainable Development” like “Climate Change”, as an adjective.

    Doshi at the end raised the issue of green revolution versus organic. When green revolution technology was introduced in India, the basic problem was not food production but it was the distribution. Even in early 90s, I have seen this in Ethiopia. Some parts of Ethiopia are producing surplus but to transport to deficit areas, there was no transport facility and also hindered by internal struggle. Prior to green Revolution, India used to produce nutritious diet as farming includes animal husbandry. With green Revolution this was disturbed with polluted mono crop. We achieved quantity but not quality. GM technology also uses green revolution technology. So, the green revolution technology created health hazards that costs heavily to citizens as green revolution technology introduced soil-water-air-food pollution. This helped corporate hospitals. FAO reported around 30% of the food produced is going as waste and thus the resources used to produce that are also going as waste. When we talk of sustainability in agriculture we must take in to account all these. In the case of organic farming, animal husbandry becomes a part. When organic farming becomes part of “Cooperative Agriculture” system, the production [food security, economic security, nutritious security] will be more than green revolution technology. Israel has been following this agriculture system. Anand white revolution [Milk] in Gujarat and Sugarcane in Maharashtra are under cooperatives only. However, in agriculture multinational companies are not allowing the Indian government to move in this direction.

    Sustainability in isolation has no meaning. Corruption is the root-cause of all ills in developing countries.

    Panel Discussion: “State of Water Infrastructure in India”
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Firstly I am thankful to the organizers for given me this opportunity, Thank you Sir;

    India has more than 17.1% of the world’s population, but has only 4.6% of the world’s water resources with 2.3% of the world’s land area. Though in terms of geographical area Chine is around three times to India, population and area under irrigation are more or less the same.
    The natural input to any surface water system is precipitation and snow melt which are highly variable with climate change. Also Human interference in terms of pollution and water availability estimates and management play critical role in the quantity and quality of water available in both space and time. In general:
    India uses around 25% of the world’s groundwater. Out of the total 5723 groundwater blocks in India, more than 30% are already in the danger zone due to overexploitation. This may go up to 60% by 2025.
    In India, in 1960-61, around 30% of the net irrigated area was under wells & bore-wells. This has gone up to around 51% in 1999-00. In undivided AP level, they were 11% and 43%. In addition, wells & bore-wells are the main sources of drinking water in rural India. However, with indiscriminate pumping of groundwater, per pump irrigated area has drastically come down. The River Sarayu that passes through Bihar & UP reduced the width from 1.5 km to 30-40 meters and polluted and thus groundwater depleted and thousands of hand pumps dried.
    Immediately after the Independence, the First Prime Minister, Late Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru gave importance to irrigation sector wherein he considered “Dams are the modern Temples”. Yet around 60% of the cultivated area is still at the mercy of “Rain God”. Irrigation Projects have been moving at snails speed as in the 7th & 8th 5-Year plan periods Watershed Development Programme was given top priority as this helped the party cadre to mint money.
    Narmada Project is a classical example, which took several decades to complete the project. However, watershed technology failed in undivided Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, etc.
    Polavaram multi-purpose-cost effective project was turned into cost-ineffective. This was cleared by the Justice Bachawat Tribunal on all aspects in 1981. Until 2004 nothing has happened. In 2005 Environmental Clearance was obtained. The file on getting the national project status, Just before going to cabinet meet in 2009 Central Water Commission put a break by asking the state to modify the project plan for 50 lakh Cusecs a fictitious figure of maximum flood instead of 38.2 lakh Cusecs.
    This raised the cost from Rs. 10,000 crores to Rs. 16,000 crores. While this is going on, the state government completed 1st phase of Rehabilitation and Resettlement, excavation of right and left canals. Just at that time the then Chief Minister was killed.
    After the new government was formed in 2014, the cost has gone up to Rs. 60,000 crores – few days back central water resources minister raised this to Rs. 80,000 crores.
    In 2015 with three failures, by lifting water through pumps and putting into right canal and claimed it as inter-linking of rivers instead of completing the Polavaram project, that would have provided water through gravity.
    In Telangana state, by completing the pending irrigation projects on war-footing the cost of rural-drinking water scheme would have comedown drastically. Also successive governments have been just watching the destruction and polluting the local water resources in and around Hyderabad including the two drinking water reservoirs wherein water is available through gravity. Groundwater is contaminated with nitrates, sulphates and poisonous chemicals.
    One-thirds of the Telangana state’s population lives in Hyderabad with huge infrastructure, establishments and industries. At huge cost infrastructure was created to bring water to Hyderabad from River Manjeera, River Krishna and River Godavari but failed to stop huge losses of around 55% of which 60% through pilferages and 40% through leakages. Large population drink purified water.
    Around 75% of the water turns into sewage and around 20% is passed through STPs and finally flows in to Musi and again turns into sewage. In the last two decades successive governments planned to convert Musi into Sabarmati, Narmada water flushes the pollution in to the Sea but for Musi proper planning is required.
    Industries use “Zero Discharge” to overcome pollution control board’s action. CETPs have no proper technology to treat industrial effluents and thus effluents are diluted with sewage at 50:50 ratios and with some treatment dump into Musi River through Amberpet STP. Rainwater also turns into wastewater with sewage and effluents freely flowing.
    The core ailments for these are: they go by theoretical path instead of practical path; under poor ethics and poor governance. Niti Aayog brought out a composite water management index relating to augmentation-restoration & management of water. In the case of urban water management Chinese brought out a “Sponge City” concept [infiltrate, detention, store, clean, utilize, and discharge]. They are theoretically sound but they fail practically in India under climate change and pollution conditions.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  24. Dr. Tilak K Doshi’s article “The Sense of Sustainability: A Perversion of Meaning” lacks clear clarity on the subject, more particularly on “Sustainability”. On 16th November 2018 American Water Works Association [AWWA] India organized conference and Exibition (AICE), 2018 in Hyderabad. The organizers invited me to present a talk and also asked me to participate in the panel discussion [this note is given at the end]. Title of my talk was “Impact of ‘Climate Change & Human Interference’ on Water Resources Availability in India”. The first two slides of my talk are: [Late Pundit Jawaharlal the first Prime Minister used the word sustainable development in water resources development] —

    Water is a Natural-Renewable-Scarce Resource Fundamental to Life, Livelihood, Food Security, & Sustainable Development. Rainfall & Snowfall are the two Natural Sources for “Renewable Water”. Water resources developmental activities in India are Centuries old practice in a sustainable manner, but the current scenario is highly unsustainable even after spending lakhs of crores of rupees in the building of resource bases. Water Management in a Sustainable Way is of utmost Important. Sustainable Development must meet the basic needs of people “today” without ruining the chances of “future” generation to do the same. However in reality Sustainable Development is hindered by “Climate Change” & “Human Interference”. Here climate change refers to natural variability in precipitation and snowfall. Frequency of occurrence of floods in rivers and water availability in rivers follow this pattern. Without taking this one can’t achieve the sustainability in water.

    However, this is drastically modified by pollution. Let me present below the two slides of my talk: River Ganga travels 2525 km from Gangotri in Himalayas and joins Bay of Bengal at Gangasar. On its way, water Quality is affected by Agriculture Runoff [non-point source], Wastewaters from urban areas & Industry [point source], etc. Upstream Dams limit the cleaning up of pollutants in the downstream. In USA, Mississippi River carry the non-point source agriculture runoff and finally dumps into Gulf of Mexico and thus thousands of square kilometers became dead zone.

    Sustainable Development a Mirage: Hyderabad an example: Needs protection of water resources: like Himayatsagar & Osmansagar Lakes – of the 932 lakes, around 500 turned in to residential areas, the rest and Musi River around 50% encroached and the rest is filled with poison – groundwater is contaminated with nitrates, sulphates, poisonous chemicals. Needs controlling of water losses: brought at huge cost and of which around 55% is lost through pilferage 60% and leakages 40%. Use treated wastewater: out of 2000 mld, around 715 mld have STPs with around 50% efficiency [all India they are 30 to 70%] and thus when treated water joins untreated finally becomes again as wastewater. So these are basic problems to achieve sustainability in water resources. When we plan we must take all these in to account. But, however, people use in a casual manner “sustainable Development” like “Climate Change”, as an adjective.

    Doshi at the end raised the issue of green revolution versus organic. When green revolution technology was introduced in India, the basic problem was not food production but it was the distribution. Even in early 90s, I have seen this in Ethiopia. Some parts of Ethiopia are producing surplus but to transport to deficit areas, there was no transport facility and also hindered by internal struggle. Prior to green Revolution, India used to produce nutritious diet as farming includes animal husbandry. With green Revolution this was disturbed with polluted mono crop. We achieved quantity but not quality. GM technology also uses green revolution technology. So, the green revolution technology created health hazards that costs heavily to citizens as green revolution technology introduced soil-water-air-food pollution. This helped corporate hospitals. FAO reported around 30% of the food produced is going as waste and thus the resources used to produce that are also going as waste. When we talk of sustainability in agriculture we must take in to account all these. In the case of organic farming, animal husbandry becomes a part. When organic farming becomes part of “Cooperative Agriculture” system, the production [food security, economic security, nutritious security] will be more than green revolution technology. Israel has been following this agriculture system. Anand white revolution [Milk] in Gujarat and Sugarcane in Maharashtra are under cooperatives only. However, in agriculture multinational companies are not allowing the Indian government to move in this direction.

    Sustainability in isolation has no meaning. Corruption is the root-cause of all ills in developing countries.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  25. Conti—-Panel Discussion: “State of Water Infrastructure in India”
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Firstly I am thankful to the organizers for given me this opportunity, Thank you Sir;

    India has more than 17.1% of the world’s population, but has only 4.6% of the world’s water resources with 2.3% of the world’s land area. Though in terms of geographical area Chine is around three times to India, population and area under irrigation are more or less the same.
    The natural input to any surface water system is precipitation and snow melt which are highly variable with climate change. Also Human interference in terms of pollution and water availability estimates and management play critical role in the quantity and quality of water available in both space and time. In general:
    India uses around 25% of the world’s groundwater. Out of the total 5723 groundwater blocks in India, more than 30% are already in the danger zone due to overexploitation. This may go up to 60% by 2025.
    In India, in 1960-61, around 30% of the net irrigated area was under wells & bore-wells. This has gone up to around 51% in 1999-00. In undivided AP level, they were 11% and 43%. In addition, wells & bore-wells are the main sources of drinking water in rural India. However, with indiscriminate pumping of groundwater, per pump irrigated area has drastically come down. The River Sarayu that passes through Bihar & UP reduced the width from 1.5 km to 30-40 meters and polluted and thus groundwater depleted and thousands of hand pumps dried.
    Immediately after the Independence, the First Prime Minister, Late Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru gave importance to irrigation sector wherein he considered “Dams are the modern Temples”. Yet around 60% of the cultivated area is still at the mercy of “Rain God”. Irrigation Projects have been moving at snails speed as in the 7th & 8th 5-Year plan periods Watershed Development Programme was given top priority as this helped the party cadre to mint money.
    Narmada Project is a classical example, which took several decades to complete the project. However, watershed technology failed in undivided Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, etc.
    Polavaram multi-purpose-cost effective project was turned into cost-ineffective. This was cleared by the Justice Bachawat Tribunal on all aspects in 1981. Until 2004 nothing has happened. In 2005 Environmental Clearance was obtained. The file on getting the national project status, Just before going to cabinet meet in 2009 Central Water Commission put a break by asking the state to modify the project plan for 50 lakh Cusecs a fictitious figure of maximum flood instead of 38.2 lakh Cusecs.
    This raised the cost from Rs. 10,000 crores to Rs. 16,000 crores. While this is going on, the state government completed 1st phase of Rehabilitation and Resettlement, excavation of right and left canals. Just at that time the then Chief Minister was killed.
    After the new government was formed in 2014, the cost has gone up to Rs. 60,000 crores – few days back central water resources minister raised this to Rs. 80,000 crores.
    In 2015 with three failures, by lifting water through pumps and putting into right canal and claimed it as inter-linking of rivers instead of completing the Polavaram project, that would have provided water through gravity.
    In Telangana state, by completing the pending irrigation projects on war-footing the cost of rural-drinking water scheme would have comedown drastically. Also successive governments have been just watching the destruction and polluting the local water resources in and around Hyderabad including the two drinking water reservoirs wherein water is available through gravity. Groundwater is contaminated with nitrates, sulphates and poisonous chemicals.
    One-thirds of the Telangana state’s population lives in Hyderabad with huge infrastructure, establishments and industries. At huge cost infrastructure was created to bring water to Hyderabad from River Manjeera, River Krishna and River Godavari but failed to stop huge losses of around 55% of which 60% through pilferages and 40% through leakages. Large population drink purified water.
    Around 75% of the water turns into sewage and around 20% is passed through STPs and finally flows in to Musi and again turns into sewage. In the last two decades successive governments planned to convert Musi into Sabarmati, Narmada water flushes the pollution in to the Sea but for Musi proper planning is required.
    Industries use “Zero Discharge” to overcome pollution control board’s action. CETPs have no proper technology to treat industrial effluents and thus effluents are diluted with sewage at 50:50 ratios and with some treatment dump into Musi River through Amberpet STP. Rainwater also turns into wastewater with sewage and effluents freely flowing.
    The core ailments for these are: they go by theoretical path instead of practical path; under poor ethics and poor governance. Niti Aayog brought out a composite water management index relating to augmentation-restoration & management of water. In the case of urban water management Chinese brought out a “Sponge City” concept [infiltrate, detention, store, clean, utilize, and discharge]. They are theoretically sound but they fail practically in India under climate change and pollution conditions.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  26. Panel Discussion: “State of Water Infrastructure in India”
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Firstly I am thankful to the organizers for given me this opportunity, Thank you Sir;

    India has more than 17.1% of the world’s population, but has only 4.6% of the world’s water resources with 2.3% of the world’s land area. Though in terms of geographical area Chine is around three times to India, population and area under irrigation are more or less the same.
    The natural input to any surface water system is precipitation and snow melt which are highly variable with climate change. Also Human interference in terms of pollution and water availability estimates and management play critical role in the quantity and quality of water available in both space and time. In general:
    India uses around 25% of the world’s groundwater. Out of the total 5723 groundwater blocks in India, more than 30% are already in the danger zone due to overexploitation. This may go up to 60% by 2025.
    In India, in 1960-61, around 30% of the net irrigated area was under wells & bore-wells. This has gone up to around 51% in 1999-00. In undivided AP level, they were 11% and 43%. In addition, wells & bore-wells are the main sources of drinking water in rural India. However, with indiscriminate pumping of groundwater, per pump irrigated area has drastically come down. The River Sarayu that passes through Bihar & UP reduced the width from 1.5 km to 30-40 meters and polluted and thus groundwater depleted and thousands of hand pumps dried.
    Immediately after the Independence, the First Prime Minister, Late Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru gave importance to irrigation sector wherein he considered “Dams are the modern Temples”. Yet around 60% of the cultivated area is still at the mercy of “Rain God”. Irrigation Projects have been moving at snails speed as in the 7th & 8th 5-Year plan periods Watershed Development Programme was given top priority as this helped the party cadre to mint money.
    Narmada Project is a classical example, which took several decades to complete the project. However, watershed technology failed in undivided Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, etc.
    Polavaram multi-purpose-cost effective project was turned into cost-ineffective. This was cleared by the Justice Bachawat Tribunal on all aspects in 1981. Until 2004 nothing has happened. In 2005 Environmental Clearance was obtained. The file on getting the national project status, Just before going to cabinet meet in 2009 Central Water Commission put a break by asking the state to modify the project plan for 50 lakh Cusecs a fictitious figure of maximum flood instead of 38.2 lakh Cusecs.
    This raised the cost from Rs. 10,000 crores to Rs. 16,000 crores. While this is going on, the state government completed 1st phase of Rehabilitation and Resettlement, excavation of right and left canals. Just at that time the then Chief Minister was killed.
    After the new government was formed in 2014, the cost has gone up to Rs. 60,000 crores – few days back central water resources minister raised this to Rs. 80,000 crores.
    In 2015 with three failures, by lifting water through pumps and putting into right canal and claimed it as inter-linking of rivers instead of completing the Polavaram project, that would have provided water through gravity.
    In Telangana state, by completing the pending irrigation projects on war-footing the cost of rural-drinking water scheme would have comedown drastically. Also successive governments have been just watching the destruction and polluting the local water resources in and around Hyderabad including the two drinking water reservoirs wherein water is available through gravity. Groundwater is contaminated with nitrates, sulphates and poisonous chemicals.
    One-thirds of the Telangana state’s population lives in Hyderabad with huge infrastructure, establishments and industries. At huge cost infrastructure was created to bring water to Hyderabad from River Manjeera, River Krishna and River Godavari but failed to stop huge losses of around 55% of which 60% through pilferages and 40% through leakages. Large population drink purified water.
    Around 75% of the water turns into sewage and around 20% is passed through STPs and finally flows in to Musi and again turns into sewage. In the last two decades successive governments planned to convert Musi into Sabarmati, Narmada water flushes the pollution in to the Sea but for Musi proper planning is required.
    Industries use “Zero Discharge” to overcome pollution control board’s action. CETPs have no proper technology to treat industrial effluents and thus effluents are diluted with sewage at 50:50 ratios and with some treatment dump into Musi River through Amberpet STP. Rainwater also turns into wastewater with sewage and effluents freely flowing.
    The core ailments for these are: they go by theoretical path instead of practical path; under poor ethics and poor governance. Niti Aayog brought out a composite water management index relating to augmentation-restoration & management of water. In the case of urban water management Chinese brought out a “Sponge City” concept [infiltrate, detention, store, clean, utilize, and discharge]. They are theoretically sound but they fail practically in India under climate change and pollution conditions.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  27. If we accept that Sustainability is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, then we must note that ALL past generations have passed on an “unsustainable” world to their children. Whale oil for lamps, horses for transportation, peak oil, peak food, peak whatever. Statist sustainability requires that the needs of future generation can only be met in exactly the way those needs are met NOW.
    Static bureaucrats may shake their heads, but dynamic technology always wins.

    • Not correct. Past generations passed on sustainable world to their children but this was affected by greedy western multinational companies that changed the sustainability in agriculture into unsustainable. I studied using kerosene lamp. My children and grand-children are studying using electric lamp. This digraded the environment several ways with unhealthy bodies.

      In agriculture, farmers developed concepts over centures in terms of space and time. Now, technologies were developed based on few years experience that lead polluted food.

      Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

      • …and the statist bureaucrat shakes his head…

        Perhaps you should ask your children and grandchildren whether they would prefer a kerosene lamp to electricity.

      • Go ask the whales about whale oil. Electricity is not necessarily “unsustainable”. The main problem here is that scientists and politicians have taken over what is actually an engineering problem!

  28. Word “Green” means in addition to a color also a “novice”, “uneducated”, “uninformed”. So, a “green idea” is something that is not sustainable, not thoroughly thought.

    • The word “green” was coinned by the profiteers. In fact I called the traditional system as “Green” Green Revolution and the so-called green revolution as “Yellowish-blue-green” Green Revolution technology. This is presented in my book published in 2011 — available on line.

      Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  29. Sustainability has no meaning beyond the individual. The same thing with efficiency of energy use. My 4th law of economics states: Any attempt by governments to lower energy usage by promoting energy efficiency is doomed to failure. The reason is simple. If an individual saves money by increased efficiency on energy ; that individual will either put the saved money in the bank or spend it. If he/she spends it it will involve using energy of some sort. If he/she puts it into the bank, then the bank will lend that money to someone else that will use the money to either buy products that use energy or some service that uses energy. Either way energy is not saved in the end. Of course the individual is always better off individually if he/she uses energy efficiently.

  30. both ambiguity and emoting (a substitute for thinking) are both important tools in the arsenal of the leftists. Put them together and you have an ideal tool for totalitarianism.

  31. In Australia we get TV commercials encouraging gambling on horse races, with the entreaty “Gamble responsibly.” How long before we see “Gamble sustainably”? Geoff

  32. “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

    ― Albert Einstein

  33. Where i live is only 33 miles long and 11 wide.

    Down south we have peaty clay heavy soil,……
    Up north shingle and sandy soil.

    Barley wheat oat’s, are our cereal crops,…….

    Every year without fail the harvezters work north to south,
    Spring or winter sown doesnt matter, theres 3/4 weeks difference between the 2 ends of the Island.

    Theres no difference in yield, but theres definately a difference in crop high.

Comments are closed.