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Statistical measures of unsustainability

Author: Ayres, Robert U. INSEAD Area: Economics and Political ScienceIn: Ecological Economics, vol. 16, no. 3, March 1996 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 239-255.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask us for this itemAbstract: This paper presents numerical comparisons of energy and materials use in the real world vis a vis an ideal case where all of the identifiable criteria for sustainability are satisfied. Apart from population stabilization, 5 general but quantifiable criteria for sustainability are suggested, including (1) stabilization of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, (2) stabilization of acidity (pH) in rainfall, (3) reduction of dissipative uses, and wastes, of heavy metals to natural mobilization rates, or lower, (4) elimination of agriculture based on pumping "fossil" water from non-renewable aquifers and (5) elimination of loss of arable land because of salination or erosion. Other criteria, such as preservation of biodiversity and socio-economic equity between countries and generations might be added to the list. Having fixed the list of criteria, the next step is to identify measures that either go to zero or unity, as the system approaches more and more closely to sustainability
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This paper presents numerical comparisons of energy and materials use in the real world vis a vis an ideal case where all of the identifiable criteria for sustainability are satisfied. Apart from population stabilization, 5 general but quantifiable criteria for sustainability are suggested, including (1) stabilization of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, (2) stabilization of acidity (pH) in rainfall, (3) reduction of dissipative uses, and wastes, of heavy metals to natural mobilization rates, or lower, (4) elimination of agriculture based on pumping "fossil" water from non-renewable aquifers and (5) elimination of loss of arable land because of salination or erosion. Other criteria, such as preservation of biodiversity and socio-economic equity between countries and generations might be added to the list. Having fixed the list of criteria, the next step is to identify measures that either go to zero or unity, as the system approaches more and more closely to sustainability

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