Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report:
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
- the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
- the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."
All definitions of sustainable development require that we see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time.
When you think of the world as a system over space, you grow to understand that air pollution from North America affects air quality in Asia, and that pesticides sprayed in Argentina could harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia.
And when you think of the world as a system over time, you start to realize that the decisions our grandparents made about how to farm the land continue to affect agricultural practice today; and the economic policies we endorse today will have an impact on urban poverty when our children are adults.
We also understand that quality of life is a system, too. It's good to be physically healthy, but what if you are poor and don't have access to education? It's good to have a secure income, but what if the air in your part of the world is unclean? And it's good to have freedom of religious expression, but what if you can't feed your family?
The concept of sustainable development is rooted in this sort of systems thinking. It helps us understand ourselves and our world. The problems we face are complex and serious—and we can't address them in the same way we created them. But we can address them. http://www.iisd.org/sd/
The term renewable energy is used to describe a source of energy or power that has the capacity to replenish itself. Renewable energy or renewable power is by definition, renewable, such that this source of power can replenish itself over and over again. Renewable energy can sometimes be called infinite energy, because it relies on energy that is in infinite supply. Finite energy sources are known as non-renewable energy sources, as they rely on supplies and reserves of which there is a fixed quantity.
Renewable energy is also considered clean energy, because it does not produce toxins or pollutants that are harmful to the environment in the same manner that non-renewable energy does. Thus, renewable energy is also known as green or clean energy. Much of the world today is converting to renewable energy sources as a means of providing power to homes and businesses in order to function more environmentally friendly. The most commonly used types of renewable energy today are wind power, solar power, and hydroelectric power.
Wind power is the most common form of renewable energy. Here, electricity is generated by blades turning turbines which run a generator. Wind power has a potentially infinite energy supply and a number of advantages to its use. Wind is a free commodity and is in infinite supply and thus an affordable renewable energy source. Further, generating wind does not produce toxins or pollutants to the environment and thus assists in the fight against global warming.
Solar power is another renewable energy source, where the energy from the sun is harnessed in order to produce energy. Because the sun is the sun, heat and energy found in sunlight is in limitless supply so long as the sun is shining, and thus is an excellent renewable energy source. Some areas of the world cannot rely on solar power because their weather and climate are not conducive to its use if long periods of cloudiness are present. Overall however, solar power is a clean energy source that does not pollute the environment or contribute to global warming, and as such, it is a widely used source of renewable energy.
Hydroelectric power is now gaining in popularity when it comes to serving as a renewable energy source. Hydroelectric power functions through the flooding of a valley by building a dam. Rainwater is caught and allowed out through turbines that use generators to convert the energy into electricity. Primary advantages of this renewable energy are that no fuel is required and there are minimal running costs.
These are simply the most common forms of renewable energy, though there are many more sources of renewable energy on the planet.
Why Renewable Energy is Important?
“We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century.” –President Barack Obama, address to Congress, February 24, 2009
As concerns about rising fossil fuel prices, energy security, and climate change increase, renewable energy can play a key role in producing local, clean, and inexhaustible energy to supply Alaska’s growing demand for electricity, heat, and transportation fuel. Because there are little or no fuel costs associated with generating electricity from renewable sources, more Alaskans are looking to resources like wind, geothermal, hydropower, tides, waves, solar, and biomass to hedge against the price volatility of natural gas and diesel.
Renewable resources, over the long term, can provide energy at a known cost that is not susceptible to the vagaries of fossil fuel supply and demand. With some of the best renewable energy resources in the country, Alaska has an opportunity to be a leader in their development and bring new revenue streams into the state’s economy.
Energy Efficiency and Conservation
Virtually everyone benefits when individuals, companies, and entire communities reduce the amount of energy they use. The benefits come in the form of lowered utility bills, protection against rising energy costs, and decreased demand for construction of new energy projects. The latter can, in turn, translate into a cleaner environment and address climate change concerns if the construction of additional conventional fossil-fueled power plants and additional mineral extraction (e.g., oil and gas drilling, coal mining) are avoided. Energy efficiency and conservation also can contribute to greater national security by reducing our demand for foreign energy resources.
In general terms, energy efficiency is achieved through the application of technology, such as insulation upgrades, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), high efficiency furnaces, and so forth. Energy conservation is achieved through behavioral changes, such as turning off lights when not needed, using household appliances differently, carpooling, and so forth.
There are many sources of information about energy efficiency and energy conservation that target energy use both in buildings and vehicles. Follow the links below to learn about specific energy efficiency and energy conservation measures that can be implemented.
Climate change has long-since ceased to be a scientific curiosity, and is no longerjust one of many environmental and regulatory concerns. As the United Nations Secretary General has said, it is the major, overriding environmental issue of our time, and the single greatest challenge facing environmental regulators. It is a growing crisis with economic, health and safety, food production, security, and other dimensions.
Shifting weather patterns, for example, threaten food production through increased unpredictability of precipitation, rising sea levels contaminate coastal freshwater reserves and increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, and a warming atmosphere aids the pole-ward spread of pests and diseases once limited to the tropics.
The news to date is bad and getting worse. Ice-loss from glaciers and ice sheets has continued, leading, for example, to the second straight year with an ice-free passage through Canada’s Arctic islands, and accelerating rates of ice-loss from ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Combined with thermal expansion—warm water occupies more volume than cold—the melting of ice sheets and glaciers around the world is contributing to rates and an ultimate extent of sea-level rise that could far outstrip those anticipated in the most recent global scientific assessment.
There is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed. Ecosystems as diverse as the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic tundra, for example, may be approaching thresholds of dramatic change through warming and drying. Mountain glaciers are in alarming retreat and the downstream effects of reduced water supply in the driest months will have repercussions that transcend generations. Climate feedback systems and environmental cumulative effects are building across Earth systems demonstrating behaviours we cannot anticipate.
The potential for runaway greenhouse warming is real and has never been more present. The most dangerous climate changes may still be avoided if we transform our hydrocarbon based energy systems and if we initiate rational and adequately financed adaptation programmes to forestall disasters and migrations at unprecedented scales. The tools are available, but they must be applied immediately and aggressively.
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