Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development

Concretely, the Centre aims to achieve the three objectives of the economic development, environmental conservation and promotion of equity. From the perspective of economic development, a place is a location where production, consumption, distribution and innovation take place. The place is in competition with other places for markets and for new industries. Space is the economic space of highways, market areas, and commuter zones. The environmental viewpoint sees the place as a consumer of resources and a producer of wastes. The place is in competition with nature for scarce resources and land, and always poses a threat to nature. Space is the ecological space of greenways, river basins and ecological niches. The equity standpoint sees the place as a location of conflict over the distribution of resources, of services, and of opportunities. The competition is within the place itself, among different social groups. Space is the social space of communities, neighborhood organizations, labour unions and the space of access and segregation. Due to the different objectives of 3Es, the following conflicts arise -

Conflict 1 (economic growth vs. equity)

The property conflict is the result of competing claims on and uses of property, for example management vs. labour, landlords vs. tenants, and forest dwellers vs. investors. The contradictory tendency for a capitalist, democratic society to define property (e.g. housing, land) as a private commodity, but at the same time to rely on government intervention (e.g. zoning, public housing for the working class) to ensure the beneficial social aspects of the same property, is called the “property contradiction”. The conflict is generated due to the fact that the private sector resists and as well as needs government intervention.

Conflict 2 (economic growth vs. environment)

The “resource conflict” is about prioritization of natural resources. Corporates require natural resources, but at the same time need state regulation to conserve them for present and future needs. The conflict arises due to the economic utility in the industrial society vs. the ecological utility in the natural environment. Commoner (1971) talks of two types of capital - conventional” and biological. Biological capital in the form of soil, water and oxygen is freely available for human use. Private industry accumulates conventional capital at the cost of biological capital. This process continued for some time will lead to complete exhaustion of biological capital, for example one indicator is the increase in surface temperature. Importantly, with the deterioration of biological capital conventional capital also looses value.

Conflict 3 (equity vs. environment)

This is the “development conflict” and the challenge is to increase social equity and protect the environment simultaneously. This is the most difficult for planners, particularly if economic growth has to be slowed in order to address environmental concerns and may increase inequalities within countries and between the rich and poor nations.

The Centre imparts training to empower executives and managers in the public and private sector to reach the centre of the triangle. Action research is also aimed at developing tools for decision-makers to construct a public interest based on the varying objectives of the 3Es.

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