Sustainable Development Archives

September 12, 2005

Development Progress Report

undphdr.jpgWe have just ten years left before we hit the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals. How are we doing? And how do the various leading aid donor nations compare?

Draft answers to these two questions came out this last week.

The 2005 Human Development Report, from the UN Development Programme, is a detailed discussion of the current status of global development. Nearly half of the Report -- which totals nearly 400 pages -- is taken up by charts on a tremendous variety of development-related subjects. The full Report is available as a single 6.3mb PDF, and each chapter can be downloaded separately at this location. Complete versions in English, Spanish and French are available, with summaries in a variety of other languages.

The Commitment to Development Report, from the independent non-profit group the Center for Global Development, ranks the OECD countries on the basis of a variety of development-support categories. These rankings are a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, and are therefore a bit more subjective than the UN's information. Nonetheless, the report offers a filter through which one can compare different countries' strategies for supporting global development.

Although one is an official document from a global institution, deeply rooted in measurable indicators, while the other is a more political document from an independent group, combining measurement and perspective, they both come to largely the same conclusion: we (as a planet) are not doing nearly enough, and if we're going to meet the Millennium Development Goals' deadline of 2015, we'd best get moving.

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October 4, 2005

The Role of Regulation

greenmoneyecon.jpgThe European Union's been on quite a roll for changing how we produce goods. The Waste Electronic and Electric Equipment (WEEE) regulations went into effect in August; requirements that auto manufacturers be able to take back and recycle 85% of a vehicle become active January 1; the Restrictions on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) rules kick in next July. The Registration, Evaluation, and Assessment of Chemical Hazards (REACH) regulations don't yet have a start date, but will likely come to pass soon. In short, if you make something and want to be able to sell it in Europe, you'd better be certain that what you're making is non-toxic and readily recyclable.

But one of the (possibly) unanticipated results of the emerging battery of European environmental regulations is that many will come into effect elsewhere in the world, too, including the United States. Not because these non-EU countries are copying European rules, but because global manufacturers are already finding that it's often less costly to build and sell products that meet the tighter standards everywhere than to build to meet each market's varying guidelines. Moreover, some of the companies are starting to seek more regulation.

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December 13, 2005

Heeding the Tsunami's Lessons

srilankatsunami.jpgThe Indian Ocean tsunami that killed nearly a quarter of a million people hit almost a year ago, and the latest issue of Science includes several articles addressing some of the lessons. Unfortunately, as is all too common, political rivalries and bureaucratic intransigence could well mean that the next disaster hits just as hard as the last. As is typical for Science, most of these articles require a paid subscription, but and UNESCO News provide details of two of the key pieces.

In "Indian Ocean Tsunami: Girding for the Next Wave," Richard Stone and Richard Kerr look at the sluggish response to the call for improved ocean monitoring. Early signs of cooperation were consumed by debates over who would host the monitoring center and the availability of real-time data. Time is of the essence, however -- the fault line on which the 9.3 December 2004 earthquake hit is more active, and a new study shows that another big quake in the area could be just as devastating.

In "A Dead Spot for the Tsunami Network" (the full article may be viewed here for now), Pallava Bagla gives us a reminder that it's not just the dominant Western powers that can be dangerously stubborn. India is refusing to provide real-time seismic and ocean level data, despite having the currently-best regional monitoring network, because of security fears. The ocean level data could be used by an enemy nation invading by the sea, India claims, and the seismic data could reveal more information about their nuclear tests than they care to acknowledge.

India's reluctance to share data could come back to haunt it. India has refused to hook up its vaunted array of seismometers to the Global Seismographic Network, 128 stations that record temblors and listen for signatures of nuclear detonations to help verify compliance with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which India has not joined. The seismic network is crucial to quickly pinpointing a quake's magnitude and location-- and for analyzing tsunami threats.

These are not stories of solutions, but they're important nonetheless. These articles clearly demonstrate that, no matter how apparent the need and useful the technology, success requires us to grapple with long-standing social and political fears, uncertainties and doubts. There is no such thing as a purely technical solution -- every solution must be enabled and supported by society.

About Sustainable Development

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to WC Archive in the Sustainable Development category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Sustainable Design is the previous category.

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