Sustainable Development

Options Magazine, September 1989:

In the mid-1980s IIASA’s Environment Program turned its attention to studying the interactions between development and the environment. 

The resulting project, known as Ecologically Sustainable Development of the Biosphere, focused on issues from a long-term, global perspective that were not adequately examined in most national programs.

Under the leadership of Dr. W.C. Clark, now a Professor at Harvard University, the project brought together an international network of research institutes ranging from Yale University (USA) to the Institute of Geography of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The researchers sought to identify the processes that are most likely to compromise the long-term sustainability of development of the biosphere, and to devise appropriate 
technological strategies and institutional structures to deal with these threats.

To help guide the project, IIASA commissioned 16 essays written by some of the world’s leading scholars of environment–development interactions. The authors represented the academic disciplines from economists to geographers to climate specialists. At a workshop the authors, scientists and policy advisers from 16 countries extensively reviewed the essays. The resulting papers along with critical commentaries were published as a book, Sustainable Development of the Biosphere, in 1986. It was quickly accepted by the science community as the core scientific text on sustainable development.

The project at IIASA continued until 1988 investigating questions such as: What 
are the most serious constraints to future improvement of human well-being that could 
result from the interactions of economic development and the natural environment 
over the next century? Conversely, what concerns now being debated are likely to 
be of only minor long-term, large-scale significance?

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Last edited: 06 February 2017


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