8 12 2009

Today was our jam-packed Team Topic Presentations, for 301 Sustainable Development Series at Royal Roads University.  9 teams each presented two case studies: one taken from Chris Turner’s The Geography of Hope (2007), and the latter taken from examples across the globe encompassing the themes: energy, transport, urban planning, green buildings, international development, smart design, making change, economics, and sustainable communities. The case studies each were explored in their relationship to sustainable development as a whole.

The presentation topics show a good indication that sustainable development needs to encompass the three imperatives of being socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.  Sustainable development must emerge on the micro-scale as well as the macro-scale.  For example, international development may be considered on the global scale: nations collaborating to implement carbon regulations, technology trading and aid for developing nations in implementing green initiatives.  On the micro-scale, this may translate to a woman obtaining a small loan from the Grameen Bank, using this money to buy a grinder so that she can grind grain, sell the flour, and feed her family.  These micro-scale actions are the basis of sustainable development, and can create many positive-feedback loops.  This woman would most likely be a part of a larger group of women supporting each other financially, and collaborating to improve their communities and standard of life, so that their children may have the opportunity for proper health care and education.  Sustainable development success is dependent on the factor of social capital.  These small groups of people and communities develop strong social and working relationships with each other, which increases a feeling of security and well being: they increase their chance of success as they work together towards a common goal.  Success on the small scale radiates back to the international, or macro-scale. The Grameen Bank may obtain more funding for its success, and the positive recognition may seed other international initiatives. 

The presentations had a large infrastructure component, addressing the need for major change in the ways that we move about and the transportation of goods; the structures in which we live, work, and play; and how these components make up the landscape in which we live.  Sustainable development begins with smart product and building design, and an acceleration of these technologies in order to make them economically feasible.  A major damper revolving around LEED buildings is that they are incredibly expensive to build.  It appears that variability will be a key factor in sustainable infrastructure: a wide range of energy production such as wood incinerators (e.g. Dockside Green), geothermal, solar, wind, and other alternatives depending on the scale of the operation, the climate, and the resources available.  Again, variability will be a key factor when it comes to transportation: public transit may consist of light-rail, buses (hybrid, electric, and bio-diesel), cycling, and ride-sharing.  The transportation of goods is going to become a major hurdle to overcome, due to the amount of energy it takes to transport items by diesel train, ships, and cargo planes.  The “buy local” and 100 mile diet initiatives are important stepping stones in reducing the need for mass movement of goods. The restructuring of communities (urban design) will become crucial in order that cycling and public transit become the main means of travel, in addition to moving to a more radial community design, versus the grid system which makes us dependent on cars to go about our daily lives. 

The presentations illustrated positive cases of sustainability, which, unfortunately are struggling to gain momentum beneath the pile of negative initiatives; however, these cases of “success” may gave us a good indication of the right direction to take on the road to sustainable development. There will need to be a major readjustment on the political scale, and the implementation of a carbon tax, the encouragement of green technology through government subsidies, and re-prioritization when it comes to local initiatives such as small organic farms, cycling, community social groups, and the list goes on.  As discussed earlier, international collaboration provides the massive blanket under which all of these positive actions happen.  The strongest indicator of sustainability that I saw throughout the presentations was the idea of social sustainability: the importance of preserving culture, increasing interactions within communities, and increasing respect for each other and the environments in which we reside.  Ultimately, it comes down to the individuals wanting to change.  If enough people came together to propose the implementation of improved transit and bicycle routes within the community, they very well may be able to get the government to listen: at least on the municipal level, and the chain of power moves up from there.

We can develop the perfect plan for a sustainable society, provide all the resources to make it happen, and people may decide that they don’t want to take part.  Change is a hard item to market, which may be the reason that many of the cases presented today revealed situations in which people were forced to change, due to a lack of resources, therefore, producing a sustainable solution in its wake.


  • Team 1-8 PowerPoint presentations November 17, 2009: Royal Roads University, ENSC 301

 Turner, C. (2007). The Geography of Hope. pp. 305-351. Toronto, ON: Vintage Canada.

 Dockside Green. (2009). Retrieved from Dockside Green Community:

Grameen Foundation. Combining the power of microfinance and technology to defeat world poverty. Retrieved from:




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