Sustainable Development

Scenarios can be used for many purposes. Businesses and governments use them regularly as a tool for developing strategies and policies, and the resources on this site can be used for these purposes. However, the focus of this site is on a particular cluster of issues that falls under the heading of “sustainable development.”

The notion of sustainable development gained popularity with the release of the 1987 report Our Common Future by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). Also known as the “Brundtland Commission,” the WCED defined sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It paid particular attention to the different impacts that poverty and affluence have on environmental resources.

While the idea of sustainable development has been compelling for many, and has found advocates on both the political left and the right, it has also generated controversy. Some have objected that the term is too vague to be useful, allowing groups, companies and institutions to claim they are fostering “sustainable development” when they are doing nothing of the kind. Others object to the word “development” appearing in the name, because for them, “development” is not a neutral term - it has already been defined by Western countries with their own interests in mind. More broadly, there is considerable disagreement over what to sustain, for whom and for how long.

While the disagreements over what sustainable development entails may be unsettling, it can also be seen as an opportunity. The notion of sustainability is capturing the interest of governments, businesses, scientists, community and environmental activists, and others. The debate is exposing profoundly different visions of the future. This is - or can be - an exciting time.

Nevertheless, the debate over sustainable development will only be helpful in the long run if a broad range of opinions is brought to the table. One key way to articulate a vision of the future is through a set of scenarios. This web site was created in the interest of bringing this technique to the attention of a wider audience.

More information is available at the following sites: