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“Strong Sustainability” Excerpts

The following are excerpts from the visionary scenario described in the booklet, Strong Sustainability for New Zealand – Principles and Scenarios (link to pdf)

This scenario, in part 4 of the booklet, envisages a situation in which “the conditions for strong sustainability have been met” and is written “from the perspective of a person at that future time (date not specified) who is describing things as they are and commenting on the changes that have taken place.

“Like all scenarios, this one is not intended to be predictive. It comprises stories that are plausible in terms of reasonable foresight analysis and judgements.”

Village-connections would welcome contributions from anyone else who would like to share selections from this book, or comment or write a review.

The excerpts:

Community and social forms

The low status of community and localness in 2009 has been transformed. Despite the evolution of the global community via email, the Internet (and its successors), and holographic video dialogues, the physical community is thriving locally. Food is more local, the workplace is more local, recreation is more local, and there is more engagement, particularly in decision making.

Village space is an important part of life. Community is a global (connected to global communities via technology) network of networks. Technology enables active participation in local and national conversations and decision making.

Communities are more mixed (diverse, resilient) not ‘gated’. Extended families are more proximate. Those of reproductive age are able to work while the non-reproductive are available to care for the young.

There are more shared facilities. Personal talents and attributes are developed to the highest potential; learning and scholarship are important social capital; wealth is seen in terms of experiences rather than money or assets.

Employment is more diverse and home based. Part-time paid work is mainstream and a 40+-hour week is unusual. Local community activities (voluntary) and pursuit of personal interests make up a significant proportion of an average week and the not-for-profit sector is actively supported and recognised as essential infrastructure in society.

Compared to 2009, fewer people are employed in the manufacturing, retail, wholesale and distribution, construction, financial services and freight transport sectors. More are employed in the IT, telecommunications, healthcare, resources and utilities, education, art and craft, local government, public transport, food and agriculture sectors. Having learned from countries which were already successfully introducing sustainable solutions at the community level in 2009, our communities are far more engaged in decision-making because they are now regularly responsible for making their own decisions with government playing more of a facilitation role. Stakeholders who were either unengaged or who lobbied the authorities and became disengaged, are now involved in the entire process, with the Government relied on to implement the consensus.

Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity is now viewed as a strong asset of New Zealand society. There has been a move away from dominant ideologies to a more pragmatic approach. The need for strong sustainability has guided people to be more eclectic and less ideological.
Bridges have been built between people who disagreed on ideological grounds in 2009. There is now a collective language of citizenship. Terms such as monoculturalism, biculturalism, and multiculturalism are viewed as old fashioned and are no longer in use. Diverse peoples live alongside each other in unity and with mutual benefit.

The political sensitivities and unresolved issues that in 2009 were still associated with interpretation and implementation of the Treaty of Waitangi have all been resolved. The norm for governance bodies, boards, and political parties is a vibrant mix of cultures. Social and economic exchange among all members of the community is also the norm. There is a strong sense of social cohesion and support for the functioning of formal institutions. We actively distil the best of traditional practices – in all spheres. Interactions between modern science and traditional knowledge have led to economic and other advantages.

The ‘cultural industries’ of 2009 are now mainstream. The global transitional years of food and water shortages, resource wars, and climate change led to widespread recognition of human inter-dependency, respect for ‘the commons’, and our universal needs. Based on this experience, New Zealanders opted for strength in diversity rather than survival of the strongest.

People freely express their own customs and practices. More of us earn our living from our cultural knowledge. Our people have diverse beliefs about many matters but we are united in adherence to our framework of common values and beliefs relating to sustainability. This enables us to operate confidently in both the collective and our individual dimensions. For example, people no longer feel compromised ‘fitting in’ or ‘being themselves’. Both are now seen as strengths.

Table of contents

Contributors and reviewers
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The principles of strong sustainability
2.1 Models and definitions
2.2 The required shift in societal ethics and values
2.3 The essential conditions for a sustainable New Zealand
2.4 The requirement to change New Zealand’s approach to economics
2.5 The global drivers of change that New Zealand must be prepared for
Part 3: A scenario of a transition to strong sustainability
Part 4: A scenario of a strongly sustainable New Zealand
4.1 Governance and leadership
4.2 The economy, population, infrastructure and industry
4.3 Built environment, communities, and cultures
Recommended reading

Definition of strong sustainability

From page 10 and the back cover:

  1. Strong sustainability is the prerequisite and foundation of any human development, whether social, economic or technological.
  2. Strong sustainability means the preservation of the integrity of all ecological systems in the biosphere.
  3. Ecological integrity means the ability of an ecosystem to recover from disturbance and re-establish its stability, diversity and resilience.
  4. A strongly sustainable human society lives and develops as an integral part of ecosystems that have ecological integrity.
  5. Ethics, values and ‘word views’ directly support strong sustainability because people know that they are integral to the ecological systems of the biosphere. Therefore, people desire the integrity of those systems.


(In alphabetical order)
Dr Jane Adams
Prof Klaus Bosselmann
Dr Wayne Cartwright (editor)
Mr Peter Davis
Mr Simon Hertnon
Dr Robert Howell
Dr Maggie Lawton
Dr John Peet
Ms Wendy Reid
Dr Jim Salinger
Mr Kevin Trerise
Mr Rex Verity

More information about the booklet

See also: Phase2 The strong sustainability think tank

Phase 2 is dedicated to the advancement and adoption of science- and ethics-based (strong) sustainability through leadership and engagement.

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