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SETAC World Council Approves Berlin Sustainability Declaration: What’s Next?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012  
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SETAC World Council Approves Berlin Sustainability Declaration: What’s Next?

After a nearly two-year effort, the SETAC World Council approved the Berlin Declaration on Sustainability at the SETAC North America 33rd Annual Meeting in Long Beach, Calif.  Earlier drafts came under close scrutiny and were discussed in myriad forums and debates in various geographies around the globe. The approved version of the declaration consists of a preamble and five articles. The preamble provides the scientific underpinnings of SETAC’s involvement in the environmental aspects of sustainability and the need to accommodate "a shift in the ecological sciences to a transdisciplinary approach including social, economic and behavioral sciences, and more direct collaboration with the traditional biophysical sciences.” The five articles specify areas in which SETAC can engage in the "science of sustainability,” promote economies that allow better natural resource management and energy use, and on a tripartite basis pursue policies that reflect "linkages between ecological dynamics, global societies and human well-being.”

The declaration alludes only to direct activities that SETAC should take to accomplish these goals.  To that end the World Council asked for an implementation or action plan to be submitted by early 2013.  The Advisory Group on Sustainability, chaired by Norbert Scholz and co-chaired by Cynthia Stahl, has been assigned lead responsibility, but other groups are being approached to assist. One of the components of the plan includes the writing of topical papers to establish a framework and to elaborate further activities. This idea was put forward initially in Berlin and has been accepted as a way to support the action plan. Where and how these papers should be published is being discussed.. Options range from a series of Globe articles to submitting the papers to IEAM. 

Currently three matters are being addressed (with perhaps more to follow).  These derive in part from the declaration itself and in part from the ongoing work by SETAC experts and other groups:

  • We ought to focus on science.
  • Decoupling economic growth from resource use doesn’t seem possible.
  • Life cycle assessment (or more specifically life cycle sustainability assessment) takes care of addressing sustainability.

The idea is to have an outline for these papers and the implementation plan in January 2013 and to have the drafts submitted in the first quarter of the new year.  If you wish to become part of any of these writing teams or to suggest other topics, please contact Norbert or Cynthia through the SETAC website.


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