Imagine – just imagine – that someone asked you: “What could be the most important idea to ensure a sustainable future?”
That’s what Daniel Esty, a professor of law at Yale University, asked 53
colleagues. The final outcome is this book. In the introduction, the editor starts from a rather pessimistic position. While America has made great strides in the environmental realm in past decades, environmental protection in recent years has become an arena for bitter partisan battles. Although some progress has been made in addressing the most grievous environmental damages, the pace of progress has been drastically slowed.
Esty asked an extraordinary collection of thought leaders, environmental activists, and graduate student – spanning a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, issue expertise, and political beliefs – to present their ideas for reigniting environmental progress. The 40 essays in this volume provide a menu of innovative suggestions on which the world might build over the next decades in reimagining the response to pollution, land use, natural resources, and energy challenges.
Esty arranged the book in five parts. Part One is “Sustaining Humans and Nature as One.” There are two different views on this question. The reigning view is a despairingly stark one: It sees humankind existing apart from nature.
An alternative inspires hope by imagining the possibility of humankind (the social) and nature (the ecological) existing together, entwined as a “socioecological system,” in which each part requires the other for its existence.
A similar idea is presented in the essay “Habitable Earth,” on protecting biodiversity through natural systems. Scientists and diplomats have begun to set targets for biodiversity protection. The parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity suggest that 30 percent of the terrestrial and marine ecosystems of the planet should be put under strict protection by 2030 – known as the “30 by 30 target.”
- “A Better Planet: 40 Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future” | Daniel C. Esty (Ed.). New Haven,
CT: Yale University Press, 2020.
Udo E. Simonis started his academic career as Professor of Economics at The Technical University of Berlin before becoming Director of the International Institute for Environment and Society in Berlin. He is currently a Professor Emeritus for Environmental Policy at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB). | Taylor & Francis Online 2021