Global Scale Level
Global Scale Level
This website currently focuses on global sustainable scale challenges (see Sustainable Scale Issues). A full understanding of sustainable scale issues requires an understanding of what is happening at local and regional scale levels as well, but is beyond the present scope of The Sustainable Scale Project. The focus on global issues is intended to clarify the pervasiveness and unprecedented nature of the challenges we face, and to identify the global limits within which local and regional solutions are required. This approach is based on the assumption that understanding these limits is essential to first determining the seriousness of our current situation, and to designing local and regional solutions that will have a reasonable hope of developing sustainable scale at a global level in the future. Unless local solutions collectively address the global limits they will have little chance of ensuring that economic activities remain within sustainable scale (see Attractive Solutions).
There are many examples of regional scale problems flowing over into the global level:
- depletion of local or regional water supplies
- greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change
- emissions of ozone depleting compounds responsible for thinning of the atmospheric ozone layer
- local or regional destruction of habitat for endangered species, to name just a few.
The local and regional accumulation of these problems has given rise to the global challenges to sustainable scale (see Sustainable Scale Issues, and Areas of Concern). The economic activities which give rise to these problems are carried out by people in specific communities around the world. The sheer physical size of this cumulative and globalized economic enterprise, and the lack of attention to the ecosystem impacts of how economic activities are designed and carried out, are what has given rise to sustainable scale problems at all levels (see Causes of Scale Problems).
Why a Global Focus?
The decision to focus on global issues of sustainable scale is based on:
At the local and regional level, sustainable scale problems can generally be dealt with through trade - by importing resources and biocapacity from other regions, and exporting wastes and even dirty production. With global sustainable scale problems this option is not available; the global limits are the ultimate limits. The fact that we are currently exceeding some of these limits is cause for grave concern.1
The global level is also the level which receives the least attention. Local and regional economic and ecosystem problems are the primary focus of most business, government and environmental groups; this is understandable as these groups focus on problems that are most immediate and noticeable. Global problems are more remote, and may be so slow to emerge that they appear to be more easily ignored. However, these temporal effects can be illusory – by the time the problems emerge with sufficient force to demand attention, it may be too late to affect the slow cycles set in motion by local or regional activities many decades or even centuries earlier (see Sustainable Scale Issues). In addition, attempts to solve local problems could make the global challenge even more difficult to resolve (eg. exporting toxic wastes). Global problems require global institutions and policies.
1Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. A Synthesis Report. Washington: Island Press, 2005. www.maweb.org