Foster, John The Sustainability Mirage

Foster, John The Sustainability Mirage, 2008 Earthscan ISBN 978-1-84407-535-5 pbk, 170pp  £15 REVIEW follows

REVIEW of The Sustainability Mirage     by John Foster

Illusion and Reality in the Coming War on Climate Change 

     This thoughtful, original study gives insight into the dominant orthodoxies about   climate change and sustainable development.   Foster argues that present approaches   trap societies into inaction. 

       Although sustainable development thinking is now accepted across political   parties, its deal between present and future will always collapse under pressure of the   ‘now’ because the needs of the present always win out.  This leads to moveable   targets and action that falls short of what is really needed.  It is a mirage of warm   words, politicians’ promises, international pledges and distant targets: all these   constitute “the politics of never getting there.”
       Challenging glib environmentalisms of our day Foster encourages us to engage   with a deeper experience.  Thus we must acknowledge the ultimate meaning of our   individual lives to grasp the nature of the gathering threat to the earth.  The planet   does not negotiate.   We have to adopt an active stance in the present, rising to the   carbon challenge now, not trying to micro-manage the longer term. 

     Three different motivations for sustainability that do focus on the present are:   Harmony with Nature, Climate Justice, and Quality of Life.  Yet all of these can be   subject to the mirage effect, confusing motivation and sustainability in ways too   accidental, too contingent for us to be able to rely on them in the coming crisis.  He   proposes an alternative account encompassing all three.   He defines this as deep   sustainability, based on sensitivity towards the glorious profusion of wider life.
       The U.N. climate conference in December in Copenhagen may be the last chance   to agree large enough cuts in carbon emission to protect earthly life.   We need to   employ all our human resources to stop the destructive carbon emissions, and change   our lifestyles that are laying waste to the planet.  Foster asks that we each commit to   “whatever it takes”, cooperating across the nations to protect the earth. 

by Frances Morgan