The path to sustainability is vague and winding

Kursens sjunde vecka handlade om Measuring sustainability och innehöll den tredje och sista inlämningsuppgifter. Här kommer den.


In Module 1, we discussed how we would know if the world is on an unsustainable path. I would like you to revisit this idea now. Has your perspective changed as a consequence of what you have learned? Using the concepts and language we have examined in the course to write a concise response to the question: Are we on a sustainable path? Reference a news item or current event that has occurred since you started this course to illustrate your position (do not forget to include a link or citation to your source).

In the beginning of this course I thought I had a fairly good idea about sustainability and what we need to do to live a sustainable future. But, I now understand I wasn’t really close to knowing what it’s all about. The subject of sustainability is covering much more than I thought.

However, I don’t think I changed my opinion about us succeeding in creating a sustainable future, and I still don’t think we’re on the path to sustainability quite yet. But I have learned a lot of new ways to find the path and evidently we have the map to find it and the knowledge to follow it.

Just the other day, on 27th September, the Dutch environmental assessment agency, NEAA, published their latest report regarding green house gas (GHG) emissions [1]. They report that the global GHG emissions increased during 2016, but the CO2 emissions is stable or even decreasing in the five largest emitting countries plus European Union [2]. Only India is increasing among them. The decrease of CO2 emission is despite increased population and that is really good news.

The report also tells that global emissions of non-CO2 emissions increase and a large contributor is methane (NH4) which, among other things, occurs during production of fossil fuels (28%). So if we abandon fossil fuels the decreased production will decrease emissions drastically and perhaps a transition from developing to developed countries with increased meat consumption might fit within today’s volume.

However, we need to do more than just decreasing GHG emission. According to Earth Overshoot Day [3] we are currently using 1.7 earths which obviously isn’t sustainable. We need to consume more efficiently and from the sustainable consumption equation [4] one can see the impact of continuous non-improved consumption patterns.

If we help the developing countries to use the experience from our failures they will be able to skip a lot of environmentally bad steps by using technology, high yield farming, fossil free (energy) production and more. And if the prediction of faster demographic transitions in developing countries will come true we won’t be as many people to feed by mid-century as expected by the UN.

All together, we are on the way to or even at the beginning of the path to sustainability but we need to pick up speed to cover some distance in time. And it’s quite possible.


[1] The article – Greenhouse gas emission levels continued to rise in 2016:

[2] The trend report – Trends in global CO2 and total greenhouse gas emissions:

[3] World Overshoot Day

[4] SI = P x C/P x I/C


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