Sustainable Development: A Challenge for the 21st Century
Wilhite, Donald A.
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The term "sustainable development" is usually credited to the 1987 report of the World Commission On Environment And Development, entitled Our Common Future. To achieve the changes in human actions judged necessary to restore and preserve the planet's environment, the Commission recommended the development of a United Nations' program on sustainable development. The discussions and recommendations concerning this program provided the impetus for the United Nations' Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June, 1992. Debate at this conference focused on, among other things, world environmental and development issues related to climate change and sustainability. Since this conference, many nations have pursued the concept of sustainable development through entities appointed to formulate a process to define a sustainable future. In the U.S., this approach has taken the form of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, created in 1992 by President Clinton. Since 1988, pursuant to a bilateral agreement between the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environment Canada, the United States and Canada have jointly sponsored a series of five symposia on the implications of climate change. These meetings have focused on regions of mutual interest such as the Great Lakes, Great Plains, and the Pacific Northwest. This series continues in May, 1995, with a much broader focus: sustainable development in the context of global environmental change. The latest symposium, Planning for a Sustainable Future: The Case of the North American Great Plains, will emphasize a region that represents a critical environmental zone, where the impacts of climate change are likely to be more severe and to materialize more rapidly than in less fragile ecosystems. This symposium, the rationale for it, its planning, implementation and intended results, will be discussed as a model process by which a region can begin defining its sustainable future.