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News and Updates: General SETAC News

Berlin Declaration on Sustainability

Monday, October 29, 2012   (7 Comments)
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The ad hoc task group of the SETAC Advisory Group on Sustainability has appreciated your comments on the Berlin Declaration on Sustainability discussion, which offers a view of how the emerging science of sustainability can guide and inform societal decision-making processes. SETAC, with its competencies and its tripartite membership of scientists and environmental professionals from academia, business and government, offers a model system for the transdisciplinary development of a science of sustainability and for an open and transparent dialogue among stakeholders.

You can also download a copy of the declaration as a .pdf file.


Whereas since its inception in 1979, the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) has focused on the sciences to inform environmental policy and management and has been guided by its mission "to support the development of principles and practices for protection, enhancement, and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity”;

Whereas SETAC has encouraged leadership in developing tools and frameworks in many disciplines that inform policy and management decisions in the realm of sustainability including life-cycle analysis, ecosystem services, environmental risk assessment, and international strategies for managing chemicals;

Whereas SETAC’s tripartite structure of academia, industry, and government provides a model for dialogue on complex issues;


Whereas in 2011, the SETAC World Council approved the formation of an Advisory Group on Sustainability, signalling a new level of participation in the global dialogue on sustainability;

Whereas the growing recognition of the complexity of environmental issues has required a shift in the ecological sciences to a transdisciplinary approach including social, economic, and behavioural sciences, and more direct collaboration with the traditional biophysical sciences;

Whereas the challenges of meeting the needs of a growing population of seven billion humans with increasing disparity in the use of natural resources , and all that entails in terms of a 21st Century society, will require new insights and new sciences;

Now, Therefore THE SETAC WORLD COUNCIL proclaims THIS DECLARATION ON SUSTAINABILITY as a foundation to promote social equity and basic dignities for the human population living and working within the global economy, but also to promote wise management of the Earth’s Natural Capital, defined to include ecosystem products and services, and pertaining to the maintenance of biocomplexity, provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural services at local, regional, and global scales.

Article 1

Promote the development and application of the sciences and tools that enable citizens and organizations to reduce their ecological footprint.

Article 2

Promote resource-efficient economies that allow us to better manage natural resources in light of the increasing demands.

Article 3

Cultivate the development of long-term perspectives for resource management and energy use that reflect the nested interrelationships of ecological systems, societies, and economies at local, regional, and global scales.

Article 4

Promote respectful dialogue about the challenges of an ever increasing human population and the inalienable rights of citizens to experience social equity and equal access to resources while protecting genetic and biological diversity.

Article 5

Engage academic, business, governmental and non-governmental sectors in the pursuit of informed policies that promote continual improvement in our collective understanding of the direct linkages between ecological dynamics, global societies and human well-being.


Joshua Sullivan says...
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2012
All comments beyond this are in reference to the most recent Declaration on Sustainability, posted 24 October 2012.
Cynthia Stahl says...
Posted Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Thanks to those who've spent the thought and time to comment so far. Looks like there are a couple of messages coming through so far.1) SETAC is first a science organization and 2) there needs to be greater mindfulness for increased inclusiveness in sustainability discussions within SETAC such as NGOs and also to make sure that all peoples' interests are represented. Both of these messages are important and can be honored in the sustainability discussion. While SETAC is first a science organization, we also need to be relevant to decision making, which is full of judgments and values (this is why many of us do application-oriented science). It's possible (in fact, necessary) to have transparent, methodical, inclusive decision making processes while honoring science principles. SETAC can support the social/cultural/political via its science origins --and disagreements are inevitable and OK. We want lots of different stakeholder perspectives because we'll be stronger for it.
Thomas P. O'Connor says...
Posted Sunday, September 2, 2012
SETAC should guard its reputation as a scientific organization. It would lose credibility if it also declares itself to be a political organization. That is what this DECLARATION would do. We can be a forum for scientific dimensions of reducing ecological footprints, decoupling growth from natural resources, and inalienable rights to social equality and access to resources. However, those are basically political ideals over which honorable people can disagree for reasons having nothing to do with science. Political advocacy should remain outside the purview of SETAC
Ben J. Kefford says...
Posted Thursday, August 30, 2012
In my opinion Article 4 should contain reference not only to increasing human population but increasing affluence, resource use and pollution per person. The absolute number of people is not the only important factor, their resource use and pollution output is equally important. I note that this issues is in part addressed in article 2 but should still be included in Article 4. Also the Preamble and Article 5 should update SETAC long held tripartite structure (of academia, industry and government). SETAC should included 4 levels, i.e. academia, industry, government and NGOs (non-government organizations) and seek to engage across these 4 sector. Many NGOs play an influential role in environmental and conservation debates and policy formation. Some SETAC members, including myself, will disagree with the actions or policies of certain NGOs. In my view, this is an argument to engage NGOs not to exclude this sector.
Rick D. Cardwell says...
Posted Thursday, August 30, 2012
Kudos for the initiative. Sustainability certainly needs continued emphasis in the world's civilizations. The articles struck me as bland and generic. I kept wondering how? I kept wondering about the people in the developing countries when I read the purpose statement ("promote social equity and basic dignities for the human population living and working within the global economy, but also to promote wise management of the Earth’s Natural Capital, defined to include ecosystem products and services, and pertaining to the maintenance of biocomplexity, provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural services at local, regional, and global scales."). I wondered whether we, as professionals in developed countries with ready access to clean water, health care, abundant food, etc., are forgetting about the many who live on $1 to $3 a day and do not have.
Arthur Braunschweig says...
Posted Friday, August 17, 2012
Thank you for a useful basic statement. My proposals for further development are: -- (a/text) I did not find a sentence stating SETAC's mission in regard to these five articles. e.g. after the preamble "SETAC's mission in the development of a sustainable society covers to:" -- (b/vision, Art. 1) instead of "to reduce their ecological footprint" (which is correct but doesn't portray a bright future) rather "to live decently while staying within acceptable ecological footprints" -- (c/mission, Art. 2 & 3): SETAC should by all means not restrict itself on resource management and energy use, but foremost mention its traditional strengths, being toxicalities and chemistry. SETAC should not strive to be the forum where new energy systems will be developed, but it should (and does) strive to be the forum where the increasing intoxication of the environment is identified, discussed and remedies are developed and critically reviewed. Thanks to all & all the best! Arthur Braunschweig (CH)
Gene R. Mancini says...
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2012
Good job pulling this together. This is an important and appropriate effort for SETAC. My suggestion...modify Article 2 to "Promote resource conservation and efficient resource utilization." Scratch the decoupling economic growth part of the statement. It's unachievable, as stated, in a world where 150,000 humans are born daily. I've never seen it accomplished within any expanding society...anywhere. Thanks for your efforts.