*Ecuador Day #1, October 11, 2008 As I fly to Quito, Ecuador to study sustainable development while the world is in economic crisis
The timing of this trip is perfect – I am going to an important place, at the right time, to continue study of sustainable development. Ecuador includes four major regions: the Amazon, the Andes, the Pacific Coast, and the Galápagos Islands. It provides a microcosm of habitats and species that are affected by unsustainable development. And its people have just adopted (on September 28, 2008) a constitution that recognizes the rights of nature. This appears to be a “first” in the world.
The world is at a critical junction as we face the most severe economic stability since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The U.S. stock market has fallen significantly over the past six days. The bail out of the mortgage industry in amounts beginning with $700 billion dollars is now being called a mere “drop in the bucket” by some analysts. The falling prices on the stock market have spread to stock exchanges around the world. People are frightened. Government leaders are holding emergency meetings to try to figure out what to do.
Over the past year, people around the world have finally acknowledged that climate change is real and that we must change our human activities that exacerbate the changes. (I choose to refer to this as climate change, not global warming, because it is not all about warming. I agree with Hunter Lovins, President of the non-profit group Natural Capitalist Solutions, who calls it “global weirding”.) And our concerns are not just related to climate change. We have hit gas prices of over $4.00 per gallon in the United States. Our supplies are limited, and we find that we are hitting the bottom of the oil barrel. Finally, we realize that we must find alternative sources of energy. Moreover, are realizing that we have used and continue to use many other resources such as water, trees, coal, for example in unsustainable ways. All of this is interrelated; we simply must find ways to do business and live in sustainable ways. [Comment: Upon my return to the United States on October 26, gas prices had fallen sharply and they have continued to fall to about $2.17 as of November 4, election day in the United States.]
Sustainability is the new concern for many individuals, businesses, government bodies, and other institutions. (I hope that we will flesh out meaningful definitions of it, and not use it as another buzz word.) Michigan State University, my academic home, is working on major projects to “Go Green.” I am working with others in my college to identify ways to make our teaching, research, and life within our physical environment more sustainable. I know that my research on sustainability, which I have been doing in the early 1990s is needed.
My next fifteen days will give me an opportunity to talk with people of Ecuador about their perspectives. I plan to talk with people in fair trader, government, conventional (non-fair trade) business, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and indigenous organizations. And, I will have an opportunity to talk with people from differing cultural perspectives: the mestizo people of the city of Quito, as well as mestizo and indigenous people of the region of Imbabura.
Closing comment: After writing the paragraphs above, I wrote several pages about how and why Ecuador provides a powerful illustration of the need for sustainable development. I am examining how its three major export industries (oil, bananas, and shrimp) operate in ways that are unsustainable. Those pages will be incorporated in a law review article I am writing on “Trade and Sustainability in Ecuador.”
*Copyright © 2008, by Paulette L. Stenzel