Physical realities and the sustainability transition

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Abstract

In responding to the global impact of local and regional activities, sustainability science has become captured by economic assertions about what constitutes progress.Although the policy high ground of continued marginal change is entrancing, by compromising essential scientific truths, we risk forestalling transition to a more sustainable society until global and regional systems are near collapse. To contain this compromise, six science realities must be incorporated into any sustainabilityscience. These are: i) existence and growth is physical; ii) energy is the key; iii) lifestyle has impacts on most physical dimensions; iv) globalisation allows theoutsourcing of impacts; v) sustainability policy is deceitful; and vi) personal consumption in aggregate must substantially decline. Since the relationship between human development and progress can be defined in adequqacy terms by per-capita energy use, this defines a physical space that sustainability transitiosn must move toward. By acknowledging this reality, Australia's views on what is national progress must change and development trajectories must improve population health and lower the impact of our activities on land, water, biodiversity and atmosphere.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNegotiating our future
Subtitle of host publicationLiving scenarios for Australia to 2050
EditorsMichael R. Raupach, Anthony J. McMichael, John J. Finnigan, Lenore Manderson, Brian H. Walker
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherAustralian Academy of Science
Chapter5
Pages64-79
Number of pages16
Volume2
ISBN (Print)9780858473409
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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