Sustainability in principle
The 1992 National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development was adopted by all States and the Commonwealth. The architects intended that its guiding principles should become embedded throughout policy and legislation. However, the strategy contained one fatal defect: it elevated the concept of “balance” between the environment, society and the economy. A strategy with “balance” at its core can never be implemented, because every proposal for economic development can be portrayed as “balanced” between pure nature conservation and complete destruction of the environment.
Economic forces will always tend to push environmental protections aside, because by definition, most environmental features are free gifts of Nature or in economic language, are public goods and not adequately costed in markets.
This utopian concept of balance has appeared in numerous Acts of legislation and has acted as a significant brake on efforts to transition Australian mainland society toward sustainability.
There are many worthy reports outlining the meaning of sustainability and sounding cautions about unsustainable practices, yet implementation repeatedly falls short. Two worthy reports are:
Sustainable island businesses: A case study of Norfolk Island. ISA Research Report 07/03. By Manfred Lenzen for the Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis, The University of Sydney. The background to this study is explained on the Integrated Sustainability Analysis website.
Island on the Brink: A Conservation Strategy for Norfolk Island. 2001. By J.G. Mosley for the Norfolk Island Conservation Society. ISBN 0-646-44213-9.
EcoNorfolk Foundation has generated some insightful materials and has run some valuable events. See for example the Sustainable Island Program 2015.
The website of the Local2030 Islands Network offers an introduction to work by many small islands elsewhere that face challenges similar to Norfolk. It is focused on achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The virtual organisation Island Innovation also disseminates information about transitioning island societies to sustainability; and also offers a commercial consulting service.